May 26, 2014 / BE THE BRAND
May 26, 2014
Sharing a brand’s promise externally is powerful. It helps keep internal teams on-brand and honest by providing an armor of consistency and clarity to consumers about the promise the brand extends to them. For companies who have these guidelines in place, naturally bringing these promises to life throughout the brand is the most important step to allow both colleagues and consumers the opportunity to be unique.
Some brands are quite simple in their approach. Founder James Freeman started the Blue Bottle Coffee brand in 2002, roasting coffee in a converted potting shed in Oakland and selling it at local farmers markets. In his words, “I was just trying to make the kind of coffee I wanted to drink… it baffled some and delighted others.” Today, Blue Bottle now has a master production facility, along with new cafés and kiosks in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.
Rallying people around a clear purpose is one way to allow others to become a part of your brand both internally and externally. Challenged only recently by his store managers for a mission statement, Freeman distilled the brand down to three words: deliciousness, hospitality and sustainability. “It’s simple,” he explained. “Any major decision that comes up is generally easy to answer by appealing to those guiding values.” Blue Bottle is now using its success to drive greater sustainability as well as expand to new markets—delivering consistently against its promise. Whether you are a coffee aficionado or not, when you drink Blue Bottle coffee, you immediately appreciate the deliciousness, as well as the friendly and warm environment the organization has created for its customers—making it simple to be a part of the Blue Bottle family and essentially, the brand.
Next time you walk through a Whole Foods, look closely to see if you can find the company’s core values. This grocer creatively presents them redundantly through big, colorfully designed posters on the store walls. Consumers, however, do not need to look beyond the products on the shelves or the members of the team to truly become the Whole Foods brand and understand two of the six brand promises. Upon entering, shoppers are immediately immersed in the brand’s commitment to “sell the highest quality products available” and to “satisfy, delight and nourish consumers.” Whole Foods does an amazing job in making these guiding principles evident, as consumers are intrinsically motivated to buy as the brand’s values are organically woven through the meticulously merchandised products and the genuine, personable staff who greet and offer assistance to guests while shopping.
No matter if a brand is in its infancy or has decades under its belt, one great way to ensure that its internal teams and consumers are able to truly experience a brand is to articulate what the brand’s values are and to publish, live, breathe and practice them daily. In the case that a brand produces products, these principles must live also in the products themselves, subversively at best.
In 2011, Nike was a company that had experienced over four decades of great success but as they rapidly scaled their business they found themselves at a crossroad. Like most companies with aggressive growth, more employees are added, more product opportunities are presented, more distribution channels arise and essentially more strategies and core values are greatly compromised. Nike made a bold decision at this juncture to strategically craft corporate maxims and share them both internally and externally. First, Nike humanized these new Nike Maxims internally by hand selecting staff members who were practicing many of these values in their specific business disciplines to deliver the newly authored directives. Over the course of a week, 30,000+ employees living in various corners of the globe were engaged in this valuable presentation, face-to-face and elbow-to-elbow with their colleagues. It was a powerful and captivating experience, which truly unified an already inviolable company. While their maxims are specific to Nike, they provide unwavering guiding ethics and serve as a great benchmark for any corporation. The Nike Maxims are now included on the company website, in new employee manuals and on annual reports—and most importantly they are embedded into the minds and hearts of employees who are making key decisions on behalf of the brand on a daily basis. Employees rattle them off like the Ten Commandments and crosscheck against them when making any decision on behalf of the organization to ensure these resolutions are in succinct alignment. In turn, consumers have an unrelenting emotional connection to the brand and (whether they realize it or not) are key recipients of the maxims themselves.
Nike begins with its mission, stating that they will “Bring innovation to every athlete in the world,” noting that “if you have a body, you are an athlete.” Their eleven maxims are evident internally and externally across everything that Nike does—a company that rewards unorthodox thinking, innovation at all costs and the protection of a brand that has done more to help elevate sport and fitness than any other. Of their ethos, the last gives the company permissions that are unique and forgiving. To an outsider, the eleventh maxim “Remember the Man” may mean very little to consumers but delivers incredible intrinsic value to the brand and its products. Bill Bowerman was, and will always be, a powerful catalyst who added incredible rocket fuel for Phil Knight to both incubate and deliver amazing staying power for the brand. Bill and Phil’s pursuit of innovation and eccentricity drives the company in a beautiful way both then and now and helps the company harness its brilliant history, which it masterfully uses as a competitive advantage.
Newbie social enterprise brand, Warby Parker, has exploded onto the scene and states that one of its core values is to “treat others the way you would like to be treated.” Not only was this impetus in the genesis of the business model but it also helps drive decision-making on a daily basis within the company and guides the relationship between the brand and its customers and consumers outside of the organization.
As co-CEO Neil Blumenthal shares, “When building our business platform, we’d walk into stores and there would be a thousand eyewear options to choose from. The glasses would be in a case or against a wall, behind a counter, out of reach. Some person who doubtfully shared your aesthetic sensibilities would emerge to guide you through the process – and throughout each step gives little thought into what the eyewear is or does. For us, the Warby Parker world is very much influenced by our consumers having access to any eyewear they want, trying them on with ease, looking at themselves, sharing with friends and engaging in important feedback. Buying glasses is social and we want to give consumers the opportunity to have that engagement with others, even if they’re trying on options that might look ridiculous. Being the brand is living the business model, as it was created with consumers in mind.”
Bulldog’s Uncommon Sense Tips For Being Yourself
These four uniquely different illustrations offer exemplary snapshots of brands that organically influence their customers by employing their brand promise and values, and extend experiences that both staff and consumers can see, feel and rally behind. If you haven’t taken the time to dig deep into your company’s values similar to these and other organizations, here are three simple steps to help you ease into the process
1. Articulate your organization’s purpose.
Why do you exist? How are you different than others? If it weren’t for you, how would the world be less wonderful? Keep it pithy and to the point.
2. What is your company’s promise?
To itself? To its customers? To its consumers? This promise will always ladder the organization to its purpose.
3. What are your principles?
What do you believe in? What are the values that are core to your livelihood and those that drive every position the company takes and decisions made, from start to finish? Keeping these to less than ten (preferably 5-7) is ideal.
Once you have these in place, it is integral that you offer transparency into them—internally and externally. Be creative and genuine with how you do this and over time they will innately make their way into your organization, your products, your customers and your consumers.