How To Visualise Your Brand And Make It Twinkle
Putting your brand at the centre of your universe
2014 was a big year for me. I turned 40, had major brain surgery and set myself on a journey to grow EllisJames into a ‘real’ business.
I wanted my work to mean more. And I wanted to feel I’d made a difference.
Up until then I’d worked alone, often in isolation, for the best part of 12 years. I was aware it wasn’t great for my mental health, but I was also having something of an existential crisis because I wanted to know what it was that I was striving for. That’s not to say it had been a bad experience – I had a lovely bunch of clients and consistent work, all the while being able to take my boys off to nursery, then infants, and then junior school. But I wanted my work to mean more. And I wanted to feel I’d made a difference.
‘Sell from the Why not the What’ has become part of the global business lexicon since, but it was the first time I’d seen mention of ‘Purpose’ in relation to business. Hell, in relation to anything beyond the functionality of an object.
I’ve mentioned Rob Hook before – that’s because he’s a great bloke and has been absolutely instrumental in helping me to develop the business. Back then in 2015 or so, he urged me to work out what it was that I wanted to be known for. I was stumped.
Of course, I was aware of Mission statements. Even Vision statements and corporate values. But a lot of the terminology seemed to be used interchangeably by different businesses, or worse, within the same company. It wasn’t clear what was what, and crucially, how they related to each other. So how could anyone follow that, let alone be inspired by it?
Then, Rob brought Simon Sinek to my attention, with his empassioned charm and rather ropey quality Ted Talk video, in which he introduces his concept of the Golden Circle (see below). ‘Sell from the why not the what’ has become part of the global business lexicon since, but it was the first time I’d seen mention of ‘Purpose’ in relation to business. Hell, in relation to anything beyond the functionality of an object.
My Value set to that point had consisted of: don’t do work in your pyjamas and, you know, do design stuff, be good to your customers etc etc.
Now I had Mission, Vision, Values, Behaviours and – Purpose? And this guy, Sinek, is telling us to sell from the why, not the what, and oh, by the way, in between is how. That’s a lot of ground to cover. My Value Set to that point had consisted of: don’t do work in your pyjamas and, you know, do design stuff, be good to your customers etc etc.
The more I looked into it, the more I realised ‘Purpose’ was what I’d been struggling to articulate – to me, primarily, not just my customers. But I needed to be able to put that in some sort of useful context that made sense to me and that I felt confident enough to share with my team (when I got one) and my customers.
And so here it is. How to visualise your brand. I hope you find it useful too. I call it Brand Planetology.
Your brand is a planet
Let’s visualise your brand as a planet. There are numerous benefits to visualising your brand in this way. Firstly, it makes it feel tangible and permanent. Brand isn’t something you can switch on and off when it suits, because it is being perceived somewhere by someone all the time, even if that means it’s being perceived, subconsciously, by you or your staff.
Secondly, it de-personalises your brand. What I mean is, it makes your brand everyone’s responsibility, both in good moments and bad. Everyone is accountable and creditable. A big and common problem in business cultures is the blame-mindset; one group pointing fingers at another group or individual and handing on a problem like a really lousy game of Pass-the-Parcel. We do this because it means we don’t need to assess our own behaviours. We can kid ourselves that if it wasn’t for that person or group of people, mistakes like those wouldn’t happen.
Exists, a problem does. Within us all, the answer lies. Hm?
Picture the scene towards the end of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, where they’re all stood around a projection of the Death Star and the ‘Forest Moon Endor’, hearing the briefing from Admiral Ackbar. When you’ve got an issue, I want you to notionally put your brand in the middle, and get everyone gathered round it. Only when a problem lies in front of us, and not within, can everyone see it clearly, objectively, and as solvable. Or in Yoda parlance: “Exists, a problem does. Within us all, the answer lies. Hm?”
Your planet’s core
At the centre of our planet is a big lump of iron, apparently. But I’m putting ‘Purpose’ at the centre of your brand. That’s because our Purpose is permanent. It’s not likely to change during the lifetime of your brand, and because of that it should be the datum from which all brand decisions are measured against. Purpose is the nuclear reaction spreading energy and motivation throughout your Brand Planet.
Purpose is the reason your brand exists. It is an inspiration. An idea. A belief. A commitment.
Golden cultures are aligned and powerful, inspiring and fulfilling; toxic cultures are nasty, no fun and herald the demise of a brand.
As with the earth, your brand has a molten, swirling layer just beneath the surface – its mantel. For the earth, that’s molten rock – magma – but for your brand it’s Culture. It’s the culmination of the behaviours and interactions that your brand’s people generates and thrives or withers upon. Golden cultures are aligned and powerful, inspiring and fulfilling; toxic cultures are nasty, no fun, and herald the demise of a brand.
The interaction of earth’s core and mantel creates its magnetic field. This is critical to life on earth, because it deflects harmful solar rays. In a similar way, an aligned culture will help to protect your brand, with a multitude of advocates and exemplars. Your culture is also what will attract like-minded and similarly aligned people to it; that’s ideal customers and ideal new members of your team.
Think of it as your brand’s unique twinkle.
Hopefully, you’ve now got a clear visualisation of your brand as a really cool planet, floating out there in a galaxy of millions of other brands; drawing like-minded souls into its orbit with its unique twinkle. Now let’s put that into context with some more traditional terms.
If Purpose is the reason your brand exists, your Vision is the way the world looks when you’ve achieved that Purpose. It is aspirational, it is idealistic, and it speaks to the human difference your brand is committed to making. Articulations of Vision can sometimes sound a bit dream-like, unreal or implausible. But that’s why we build tangible stepping stones between Purpose and Vision – we call that Mission.
Your Mission is what you need to be doing right now, to move you closer to achieving your Vision most effectively, while upholding your brand values (this is really important because where there are decent ways to forge ahead, there will also be nefarious ways to achieve the same goal). It is all about actionable activities. It is about intent, focus and structure. Your Mission will, and should, change periodically as the circumstances of your journey evolve.
At EllisJames, our Mission is broken down into quarterly steps. We find that most useful because it’s a short period of time to maintain specific focus, and we can set achievable targets within that time. But others may find it more useful to have a 12-month Mission or longer.
Values and behaviours
Your Values define how you can align and maintain your Culture. They determine how your people should behave collectively in order for them to work most productively together, and with your customers. You can see our values here.
In terms of your Brand Planet, see it like your tractor beam, drawing those contacts into your Brand Planet’s orbit. The stronger your cultural alignment, the stronger the attracting force.
In the age of Social Selling, I prefer to use the term ‘Engagement funnel’ rather than ‘sales funnel’. Whatever you call it, the funnel defines the stages of progress to identify, connect with, engage and progress potential customers into actual customers; and the activities you need to undertake at each stage to support that progression.
In terms of your Brand Planet, see it like your tractor beam, attracting those contacts into your Brand Planet’s orbit. The stronger your cultural alignment, the stronger the attracting force.
So, there you have it – how to visualise your brand, its composition and what each bit does. Getting to a state of good brand organisation and understanding is crucial for the effectiveness, both in time and success, of your engagement strategy.
Can you articulate your Purpose, Vision and current Mission in this way? If you’d like to discuss more on how to visualise your brand, please do get in touch, and please let me know your thoughts on this approach!
Otherwise, I hope you found this useful. Thanks for reading!
Oh, and please Like and Share.
Original illustrations by Ally at EllisJames