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Walk It Out: The Other Side of Brand No One Talks About

If you’ve interacted with me for more than five minutes, you know that I have two great loves in life:

1. White Castle.


(Oh, and somewhere in the conversation I mention my wife and two girls). 

And, if you have ever had the fortunate pleasure of participating in one of the workshops I’ve designed for the National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP), you also know that I have a passion for teaching the strategies, best practices, and tools for building successful brands: including what brand is (or is not), what makes up an effective brand, and why branding is so important for all arts and cultural organizations to commit to, regardless if you’re working in a swanky downtown office with 100 employees or if you’re an independent artist working out of your momma’s kitchen—Brand. Matters.

I often talk about the importance of defining a Brand. I wax poetic on how brand must extend beyond visual elements, such as logo, color scheme, typeface, and imagery. Rather, your brand should be reflective of what you represent in the hearts and minds of the customers and audiences you wish to “win.” Your brand is made up of a collection of perceptions that people have, which ultimately shapes their experience and dictates how your customers interact with your brand. 

In short, your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what others say it is.

But there’s another side to branding: the actual living of it. Internal Brand Engagement  means asking: “if this is what we say we are, then how do we act like it?”

To illustrate this point, let’s look at this quote:

“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” —Socrates

When it comes to marketing and branding, most organizations and individuals tend to focus on how they “desire to appear” to their customers and audiences, but they fail to consider what they should “endeavor to be.”  A brand is often defined by what it does, by what services and products it offers, or by what it produces. This is because moving toward a new definition of your brand—one that reflects what you want your brand to be—can feel existential and anthropomorphic for some (I’ve been waiting like six years to use “anthropomorphic” in a sentence. No lie.) But re-framing your brand definition by thinking about what your organization endeavors to be is critical; it creates the opportunity for arts and cultural organizations to truly live their brand, walking it internally as they talk it externally.

One of the first places to start is by creating an organizational culture that is focused on aligning how you work with the ultimate brand experience that you seek to deliver on a day-to-day basis.

I’ve outlined Six Essential Elements for Creating a Brand Learning Environment:

  1. Commit yourself to learning and self-improvement. (Namaste homies. Namaste.)
  2. Commit to practicing and improving brand behaviors to the development of a Brand intelligence. 
  3. Agree on the Brand outcomes you are working towards.
  4. Connect your business horizontally with agreed upon benchmarks of success so that all staff can be successful: from your Executive Director to your intern, both individually and collectively.
  5. Identify and agree upon what is important for a Brand experience.
  6. Develop and utilize a collaborative and inclusive method for resolving differences of opinion and approach to creating a Brand experience.

Applying these elements to your work will enable you to get on the road to that sweet “bye and bye.” It’s that place where the brand experience your audiences receive is a direct extension of what your employees are practicing and living everyday.

“Nothing seems more obvious to me that a product or service only becomes and brand when it is imbued with profound values that translate into fact and feeling that employees can project and customers can embrace.” —Sir Richard Branson

It’s real out here in these Branding streets, so you gotta be real in there with your branding activities.

Want to bring a NAMP Branding Workshop to your community or organization? Contact us.

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