Samantha Johnson | Strategy Director
Most brand managers worry about staying ahead of their competition or hopping on the latest TikTok trend — but it’s important to remember that chasing relevance without a strong sense of brand will end up just watering down the brand you’ve worked so hard to build.
We can all think of a brand or two that stepped outside their swim lane and had to backpedal, make a public apology, or suffer revenue loss before they could rebuild their reputation. Just Google “worst corporate blunders” and you’ll have reading material for days.
So, how do you make sure your brand doesn’t end up on one of those lists?
I like to think of brands as people — people change and conduct themselves differently in different situations, but they’re still the same person. If your brand went to its neighborhood block party, they would have many conversations and change their vibe (or conversation topics) to better relate to whomever they are interacting with, and that makes them more engaging.
Your brand doesn’t have to show up the exact same way in every situation, but it’s important to stay true to your brand’s core in those varied interactions to create consistent meaning for your audiences.
How do you find your brand’s core?
What is your brand known for?
What signals to others that it’s your brand? This could be a philosophy, a color, an icon, a sound or a graphic. Dig deep and think back to the beginning. Why was the brand started? What did the founders set out to do? No matter how long a brand has been around, there are things about it that signal who it is to other people. If you are developing a brand, you get to decide what you want these signals to be.
Our client, Ziegler was founded more than 100 years ago on the following principle: “Sell the best equipment, provide the best service.” Their brand still stands for that today — ask any of their employees or customers. They pride themselves on selling the highest quality equipment and going above and beyond with service. It’s really saying something considering the original equipment they sold was pulled by horses, and now they’ve expanded into not only construction, mining and forestry equipment, but also alternative energy and EV (electric vehicle) commercial trucks.
Many brand managers ask for consumer input on where their brand should or could go, but it can be hard for people to project how they might feel about something — especially people who don’t think about brands all day. The foundational elements of your brand should be a part of whatever you do even though they may shift or adjust (as you move from selling equipment powered by horses to selling larger-than-life bulldozers)
What is your brand’s personality?
Which traits does your brand have? How do you want your brand to come across? What do you want your brand to evoke in your target audience?
For our Good Foods client, we want the brand to come across as positive, fun and cheery — and you can see that personality come through on their social channels in content like a playful “Zo-dip-ac Signs” Instagram post to a short video on emojis we wish existed. The whole body of work is designed to resonate with our target audience in a unique and playful way.
I did my capstone project in graduate school on brand archetypes — an approach that takes brand personality a step further. Brand archetypes use the archetypes we experience in storytelling (the innocent, the sage, the hero, etc.) to create meaning and connect with audiences. You can see it used consistently among some of the most iconic brands.
How do you want others to experience your brand?
When your brand is at its best, how do you want customers or prospective customers to feel when they interact with you? Why are your customers loyal to your brand? What keeps them coming back?
With long-standing agriculture experience, broadhead deeply understands the farming audience and through our work with Ziegler Ag Equipment, we were able to lean on this expertise. Farmers often feel like they need to be close to their dealership, but with Ziegler Ag Equipment’s service offering, proximity doesn’t matter (they have fully equipped trucks and technicians with the skills to fix machinery right in the field). This capability is especially important because Ziegler Ag doesn’t have as many dealership locations as its competitors. Therefore, two of Ziegler Ag’s experience principles are ‘partnership’ and ‘connected’. We want farmers to know that we’ll be there for them (and reduce curse words by up to 80%) and we want them to feel like we are part of their community (and share the excitement of our young fans 😊).
How does a brand come to life?
At broadhead, we capture these elements in what we call a “brand brief” — a tool for the team to help evaluate and guide ideas — whether it’s how the brand may respond to a TikTok trend or engage with a new audience.
The big deal here is capturing your brand elements and sticking to them. If you make a decision that contradicts your brand brief, do so consciously and with intention. For example, as your business grows, maybe you need to adjust parts of what your brand is known for to stay relevant (think modernizing it, removing outdated images, etc.).
Our purpose at broadhead is to relentlessly pursue greater opportunities for our people + our clients through creativity, innovation, and the pursuit of what’s next. Brand briefs allow our team and client partners to tackle this purpose and push the envelope for client brands, while staying true to what is at their brand’s core.
If you need help discovering the core of your brand, we’re ready to chat. Seriously, our brand strategy team geeks out about this stuff. Contact us here.