Tim DeTellis

Go make a difference.

Branding 101

Name the top five brands that come to mind. For me, they are Nike, Apple, McDonald's, Starbucks and Walmart. What is fascinating to me is how visual these brands are. If I can sneak in another brand, it would be Coke.

In this post, I want to answer three foundational questions about branding. 

1. What is a brand?

2. Why do we remember a brand?

3. Who makes a brand?

My questions are the result of a four-year journey I have been on with the organization where I serve as President. Four years ago this September, I accepted the role as President of New Missions and made two commitments to myself. One was a “do not” and the other was a “must do.” The first was “do not” lead the organization from a personality position. My goal was to be the king-maker, not the king. My driving mission to accomplish this objective was to focus on setting people up to win. By investing in others, I would not be the sole individual representing the organization. The second reason was to retain communication as my top priority. Staying in front of people is important, however, communication is a privilege. In other words, to not communicate is often more powerful than always sending out messages. Plus, the communication needed to make a branding process successful is what gives all messaging a common identity. This unity of communication will help lead our organization to a greater effectiveness in reaching our audience and to becoming better listeners. I then began my journey working through the above questions to help me navigate a then-23-year-old organization through a process of what I called “brand succession.” I'll discuss this more in a later post; today, let's focus on the four questions.

1. What is a brand? 

A brand is a promise. I did not make (that — delete) this up; it comes from Stan Richards, founder of The Richards Group based in Dallas, Texas. I have toured their corporate headquarters and have great respect for Richards’ wisdom and experience when it comes to branding. In his book, The Peaceable Kingdom, Richards reveals the answer to the big question, “So what is a brand, really?” A brand is a promise, and it stays a promise based on the power of consistency. 

2. Why do we remember a brand?

We remember a brand from an experience, either good or bad. The question is, if a brand is a promise based on consistency, then why do we remember anything about the brand? The experience, the interaction and the connection with the brand gives us a context, a memory that delivers the brand-awareness factor.

3. Who makes a brand?

The people, products  and service make the brand. These three groups make the brand live out its personality. The people working and serving within the organization, the products they deliver and the services they give all go in to creating an impactful brand. At New Missions, I do not make the brand, I contribute to the brand. I can also help or hurt it. The graphic designer does not make a brand, he contributes to it. A brand is not a logo, but something more tangible. It is an emotion, personality and, in a unique way, we — the people, products and services — are the channels through which the brand comes to life. This is why hiring people that fit the culture matters. They represent the brand that lives out of a core group of values reflected by the people. 

The journey continues and I still ask myself these three questions. My common practice is what I call "time pacing," when I sit down quarterly and review whether or not I’m on track with my objectives. During that review time, I look at the two goals I started with as well as the branding promise. For many years, I believed that consistency was a greater challenge than creativity. I may not have all the answers, but I will certainly keep asking myself and others challenging questions. Creativity with consistency is what sets people apart. I want to be on the track of consistency with creativity while making a positive impact on the lives of others.

Today, I ask you how are you contributing to your brand promise?