After college, I worked in DC as a Congressional staffer and lobbyist. In the government affairs arena, the difference between success and failure often comes down to consistent communication. Successful advocacy in government depends on an organization’s ability to articulate its values through repeated messaging. At that time, I believed the key to an organization’s success was a brand rooted in the “why.” I was half right.
In 6th grade, I started a lawn service with my best friend. We ran it on the weekends with middling success (for middle schoolers) until we got to high school. Realizing we needed a little more firepower than my dad’s red Toro mower, we wrote a business plan, got a $500 loan from our parents, and planted the seeds of what would become a successful company. We had a few years of experience. But it was the plan that made the business grow.
In the four years since I joined Bullhorn, I’ve learned one lesson repeatedly: the thing that separates a successful organization from a sluggish one is planning.
If you can’t, won’t, or don’t plan, all the passion and luck in the world don’t matter a bit. We’ve seen this in our business, and we’ve seen this in our clients’ respective organizations. (Though it’s a broad term, “organization” is the best word here. Our clients are businesses, associations, nonprofits, startups, and civic groups.) Organizations with leaders or boards that plan and execute with predictable regularity aren’t boring. They’re successful.
So what does this have to do with branding? The answer to this question and to “what is a brand” is the same: everything. Brands are how the world meets your organization. Your logo, business cards, signs, website, photography, and videos are easy examples of branding. We encourage our clients to dig deeper. Language – how your organization is described – that’s your brand. So, too, are crucial initiatives (sales, marketing, recruitment, advertising) and subtle touches (onboarding, culture and morale, retention).
The internet made brands omnipresent. Skeptics simultaneously examine your website and social media while hearing your pitch. Dissonance between what’s said and what’s read creates distrust and confusion. The only way to manage the moving various parts comprehensively? Plan.
Consider your current, upcoming, and long-term issues. Examine areas you may be unwittingly creating and fomenting distrust or confusion. Take the broadest view of your brand possible. Take the time to step back and consider the whole, not just the parts that are most annoying today.
Branding, or at least our version of it, solves strategic business problems. We take apart our clients’ issues, immersing ourselves in their cultures until we can offer intuitive solutions rooted in research and strategy. Our process (more on this to come) gives equal weight to language and design. And it yields intuitive answers to longstanding organizational blindspots, common start-up challenges, major transitions (think: acquisitions or generational turnover).
Creative agency work isn’t commonly considered to be plan-based. I’ve heard the “so what’s next? Everyone sits around, gets high, and creativity happens?” joke more times than I can count. That sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. Our clients rely on us to help guide their organizations at crucial moments. We cherish that trust, aiming to return it through every interaction, presentation, and recommendation.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll explain what we do, why, and how. The same process that creates Space Tango helps Kentucky Eagle and builds a national campaign for hemp. Branding is both more boring than you’d think, and more complicated than you’d ever imagine. It’s not a long, strange trip and it certainly isn’t TPS reports. Branding is everything. When planned and executed well, it’s the most effective indicator of an organization’s future success.