There’s a swath of land in the northeastern parts of our county marked by endless flatness, rows of corn as far as the eye can see, and few landmarks to help you get your bearings. Though I’ve driven these roads thousands of times for most of my life, I sometimes find myself lost. The corn all looks the same, most of the pavement is arranged in straight lines, and I get disoriented if I’m not paying close enough attention. There are few street signs to mark the way, which I suppose doesn’t matter too terribly much as many of the roads can change names at a moment’s notice depending on which family’s farmland you may be passing through.

While perhaps it’s OK to feel lost in this particular setting (eventually you’ll end up at the river or back on the main highway no matter how far you veer off), it’s no way to run your brand. If your audience feels lost or encounters no discernable identifiers, they could be anywhere. There’s nothing telling them that what they’re experiencing is meaningful and uniquely YOU.

Give Direction and Meaning to Your Brand

Just as the roads in the flatlands I’ve described above could benefit from some good old-fashioned street signs and the identification of key landmarks, your brand must provide a roadmap, of sorts, for how you want your audience to experience it. Rather than feeling lost, they feel that they know where and how to travel – whether that is through their in-person encounters, social media interactions, or their feeling that they are a member of your brand’s community.

But, as the old saying goes, your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what “they” say it is. So how can you create the structure you need while allowing your audience the freedom to tell your story in a way that’s authentic to them AND in alignment with your brand? Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Develop your brand pillars

Brand pillars are the structural support for your brand, stating in a succinct and meaningful way what your brand stands for and what you’re not willing to compromise on. By defining these brand pillars, your audience will:

  • Know what to expect when they experience your brand
  • Know how to describe who you are to a friend
  • Self-align with (or self-select out of) your brand based on their own beliefs
  • Build a meaningful connection rather than a transactional mind-set

2. Create messaging around these pillars

This is the storytelling piece, where you get to spin the tale of why who you are is important to your audience. Why should they connect with you on a higher-level, emotional basis? What sense of security, ego, fun or love are you appealing to? This messaging goes on to serve as:

  • The baseline for ad campaigns (traditional or digital)
  • The theme that drives your content strategy (video, podcast, blogs, etc)
  • The type and scope of PR that you’ll pursue
  • The content you’ll post on social media
  • The interactions you’ll have with your audience on social media
  • The thought leadership you’ll engage in

3. Engage and empower your team

The social media director for one of the major airlines once told me about the trust the companies had placed in their team to serve as ambassadors for their brand at all touchpoints – in flight, on the phones, and on social media. This trust is possible because every team member, from top to bottom, has immense clarity on what the brand stands for, are personally aligned with it, and know exactly what it means to represent the brand. While it’s not always perfect (everyone is human and can make mistakes), the good that comes from this brand clarity and trust far outweighs the occasional mishaps.

Strong brands are built on the foundation of the three steps I’ve outlines above. If you’re feeling lost, find that you can’t see any identifiable landmarks anymore, or discover that you never really had this figured out in the first place, that’s OK. Kolbeco has a proven process which includes an impactful series of exercises to help you identify (or find) your brand mojo and put you on the path to operating and engaging in a meaningful, authentic way.