Releasing the power of the tribe

Branding, the human way

There’s a lot of tosh talked about branding. For the uninitiated (ie most people in the world), it can be a minefield of acronyms, mind-bending diagrams and incomprehensible jargon. But when you dig down beneath the smoke and mirrors surface, the bottom line is that good branding is the bottom line. And at the heart of every bottom line are human beings.

As Forbes Inc President and CEO Steve Forbes said, ‘Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.’ Not surprisingly, we agree with him. And we couldn’t agree more with Wally Olins, who believed that branding is ‘fundamental to the human condition’; that effectively it symbolises the community you create in the world of business.

Branding is about belonging and being seen to belong – Wally Olins, Wollf Olins

We have learned and lived the truth of this belief through our branding and communications work with clients for more than two decades. We reckon that’s a good 7,000 days, day in day out, of helping human beings to connect with other human beings. All from an obvious but often overlooked standpoint that every business is about people – a truth which applies whether those people are customers, employees, or business clients.

By the same token, a brand is not a logo. Brand is a tribe. Your brand is who you are as people. It’s how you are with people. It’s your purpose, your strategy, your customer service, the way you answer the phone, the clothes you wear to work, all the different ways you communicate with people. And it’s your name and your logo.

As Jeff Bezos said, ‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.’ We agree with him too. Your brand is your shared voice, there to stand up for you when you’re not around to stand up for yourself. Your brand is your collective beating heart.

Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room – Jeff Bezos, Amazon

This is why our approach to branding revolves around two key things: humanity and clarity. It’s important that your brand speaks for you in a way other humans can relate to. It’s also important your brand speaks about you in a way other humans can understand.

To help make sure a brand does these two all-important things, our priority is to get to know the people who make the business what it is. We start by listening. A lot. We listen to people from across the company to find out what they think works, what could be better, how they talk about the business, which brands they admire, what books they read, their favourite food/music/colour, what they think their brand should look and feel and talk like.

Your brand is your collective beating heart – Janet and Terry, Human.London

We extract the bones of wisdom from all this insight and bring them back to the brand team to assemble the skeleton, aka the brand strategy. Only then do we start putting the creative flesh on the bones.

We’re not eureka merchants; we don’t go into a six-month huddle then unveil the beautiful monster we’ve created with a “Ta-da!” We work with our clients, sharing thoughts, concepts and ownership at every stage, to get what’s in their heads and hearts out into the world.

We do this because in our experience it gets the best results. Not only from a design perspective, but also from a human perspective. By creating the brand together, people have invested in it together. It’s not a label that’s been slapped on them. It’s something they can belong to, something they’re proud to be seen to belong to.

We used this approach to help Marks & Spencer become M&S (our recommendation, because that’s what people call it), and to create their trailblazing Plan A campaign. We used it to help BP bring humanity to their code of conduct, to help British Airways and Comic Relief make the most of their global partnership, to help transition from a niche Kenyan charity into an international one. We’re currently using it to help clients including Temple Spa, Egremont Group and Atlas Titan speak to the world with the same integrity and passion they speak with as people.

We’d love to help you too. Call us, any time – Terry on 07973 387512 or Janet on 07624 470941.