How to define and clearly articulate your brand vision

Gary - 8 th June 2017

Each part of your Brand Alignment Approach is fundamental to customer experience success. But to succeed, bust silos, energise employees and break down traditional departmental boundaries, you must hot-wire a compelling vision throughout.

Without it, you’ll face an uphill battle to evoke the positive and powerful transformation your business is after.

Vision to nirvana

What is the value of a brand vision?

When clearly articulated it can power up your business. It channels the enthusiasm and passion of your people, focusing effort on what needs to be done and highlighting what shouldn’t.

Visioning is one of the most pivotal stages of the complete Brand Alignment Approach…

If it’s right - if it aligns to the direction of the market and the business capability and ambition - you’ll be on your way to nirvana.

Establishing what you stand for, and what your values are, gives you a ready-made lens through which you can look at your customer experience and have a clearer view on which activities and resources you can and should prioritise.

But what does a good, empowering brand vision look like?

Remove the pseudo intellectual twaddle

It’s not about having a vision that just looks clever…

The vision should look forwards, illuminating your path ahead.

It should determine what the brand will represent, as well as the values and personality that will guide it through this journey of transformation. It should be clear, easy to understand and inspire everyone across the business to buy into it.

This means binning the complicated terminology, the ‘brand footprints’ and fancy paradoxes. Remove the pseudo intellectual twaddle and give your vision one interpretation that the entire business understands.

Whether it’s a song, a poem, an image or a simple sentence - you can express your vision however you want, as long as it captures exactly where the brand should sit.

Strip it down and keep it real:

  • What is the compelling position in the market that you want to occupy?

  • What values should drive what you do and don’t do?

  • What personality should be driving the way you communicate?

Establish this and you’ll find your entire business will align and work seamlessly to ignite a powerful brand vision.

Building your brand’s armoury

Defining what values should drive what you do and don’t do is an essential part of visioning.

Values can become a cogent part of a brand’s armoury that can be used to compel customers and differentiate the business.

Whether they’re organisation values (the way you work, usually developed by HR or Operations), or brand values (that customers buy into, typically developed by Marketing), or both - they should be powerful, embedded and easy to recognise. They should influence how the brand behaves and reflect an aspect of its point of difference.

It’s easy to write down a set of boring, copy-cat values that extinguish all signs of passion within a business. But to take the realist’s approach - maximising the full potential of brand values - can be a little more complicated. But it’s definitely worth it…

  • Route one: define one set of values that are differentiated and injected with zing to bring them to life. They should guide the way the business works together, in cohesion with what makes you compelling to customers.

  • Route two: it might be time to consider having no values. This might work for businesses that need dramatic cultural change, and have already embedded a set of effective organisational values, or you need to drive corporate culture across several brands. To make this work, approach it with a pragmatic attitude and ensure that the brand is present across the entire customer experience.

Either way, the key brutal truth about making brand values work - keep it simple.

Keeping it practical

Another essential part of the visioning stage is determining what personality your brand should have, and how this is going to impact the way you communicate through the customer experience.

Put simply, your brand personality should determine the way you behave and act. It’s not what your brand does, but rather how you do it. It should be practical - almost obvious - so employees and customers find it easy to recognise your brand.

Don’t be clever for the sake of it.

Choose two or three words that embody the way you want your brand to talk to and capture your distinct tone of voice, and help employees epitomise the brand.

Personality is key. But it should be simple.

Working out the vision

Now you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to work out the vision.

It has to be based on rigorous analysis; macro social and economic projections, data analysis, qualitative and quantitative assessment, and hard financial analysis of what can and can’t be delivered.

No fluff, no faff - just real, in-depth work.

And this requires a visioning workshop…

Customer experience development is transformational. It is focused on customers and the brand, which means responsibility is not down to one department alone.

Engage those at the top of the business - the new brand builders. The Operation Directors, Human Resources Directors, FDs, MDs, and CIDs.

And the burger seller.

They have hunches, long held ideas and knowledge that are all valuable inputs to this process. But they also have personal agendas, outdated ideas and closed minds.

Visioning workshops can tap into their thoughts, bust silos and manage egos. But you have to see people, listen to their ideas, gain their trust, and ensure them that their contribution is going to be critical to the success of the business.

To ensure the workshops are productive, make sure you prep effectively:

  • Nail the objective

  • Bin jargon

  • Forget taglines

  • Use a clear process

  • Encourage involvement

  • Start as you mean to go on

You’ll have a long list of visions to choose from, and now you have to narrow them down - fairly.

Base this on how well they align to the business strategy, how compelling they are customers and how inspiring they are to the team. You should also make sure they are easy to understand, future proof, and actionable.

Keep it rooted in evidence and fact

Once you have your visions, test them.

This allows you to see whether they’re rooted in evidence and fact - as they should be - or whether they’re dangerously leaning towards opinion.

You need to understand why people are responding the way they are and what exactly they are responding too.  

And here are some top line tips:

  • If it sounds like a tagline, don’t research it - if people are going to interpret your vision as a tagline, it could seriously damage the results.

  • Layer the discussion - first explore the general territory, then test a simple, one sentence description, and then go into further detail with examples.

  • Check, and check again - continuously check your interpretation and be prepared to change your approach.

  • Equalise the stimulus - if you use video for one option, make sure you have used it for the others too.

The Brand Alignment Approach: Visioning

You’ll now be well on your way to a defined and clearly articulated brand vision - a pivotal point in the development of your customer experience.

Just keep it clear, purposeful and based on hard facts.

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Gary is the chairman and one of the original founders of Brand Vista. With over 20 years of brand experience both on the client and agency side he loves finding out what customers and consumers are really thinking and turning this knowledge into compelling brand propositions that succeed in the real world.
Find out more about Gary