In building your brand, the first of our six-step VISION Process is Visualise, where you start with your big brand aspirations, then the company and customer vision. The second step is what we call the ‘Inner Brand’. Your Inner Brand is the non-visual part, the heart and soul of your brand, or how you make that emotional connection.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” But what about when *nobody* is in the room? Your brand is now more important than ever. It is out there, representing you when you can’t be in front of your clients. And brand values are a core part of that.
2020 changed the way we live forever – and the way business is done has too.
With more time to ourselves, we reassessed our lives, habits and started to think about what really mattered to us. All the uncertainty meant many of us became more mindful of where to spend our money. Values-led brands fared better, especially if they:
- made our lives easier or more pleasant: e.g. Amazon
- excelled on innovation and customer-experience/service: e.g. Ocado Zoom
- provided flexibility: e.g. Milk & More
- truly cared; gave back, went the extra mile or kept us safe e.g. BrewDog
- showed their human side and humanity: e.g. Mindful Chef
- aided/embraced digital community and meaningful connection: e.g. Zoom
- were playful, fun and made us laugh or smile again: e.g. Thortful
Meanwhile, inauthentic brands or ones who didn’t treat their people well were exposed.
You may have been going through some reflection and reinvention in your business and should have taken some time out to consider if your brand is communicating in the right way too.
It may need repositioning, tweaking or a major overhaul to convey the evolution your company has gone through and to communicate its ambition or purpose moving forward.
Increasingly, purpose-based brands and businesses, the ones who live their values and act as a force for good are becoming the ones to watch.
The VISION process (which we go through in detail in my award-winning book Let’s Get Visible!) helps you understand your brand and harness the power of branding to support your business strategy, visions and goals, to create a brand that connects and resonates with your ideal clients.
By increasing your brand clarity and standing out in the right way you can really connect with your audience on a deeper, emotional level, now and into the future. I call this your ‘Inner Brand’.
Your Inner Brand is the non-visual part, the heart and soul of your brand, or how you make that emotional connection. Your Inner Brand is made up of:
Your company’s brand values sit at the core of your business, underpinning everything your brand stands for.
These are the non-negotiable beliefs that drive every single one of your company’s behaviours. Like the roots of a tree, they will influence how your company grows from the ground up.
Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks, said: ‘If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.’
So when times are hard – like, say, when a global pandemic hits – customers are less likely to stop spending with the brands they feel share their own values – that’s brand loyalty.
It is highly unlikely that anyone starts a company with values opposite to their own so maybe start with your own values.
Values are vital as you scale – making sure your hires share the same fundamental values will save you a lot of time and heartache. Aim for three to seven values. They should be easy to remember and follow – a positive set of guidelines, not a restrictive set of rules.
Get input from your team too. For our rebrand, I asked my team and some trusted clients why they loved working for/with us and then defined and anchored our values to what they found valuable.
One of our values is that we are People-Focused. This means we:
- care about our clients’ and each other’s happiness, wellbeing and lives
- have fun, we are kind, we appreciate each other
- say please and thank you
Our company values impact everything we do, even the content we create. We passionately believe in equality and looking after the planet so we create content around those topics too.
If your values are the ‘heartfelt’ core part of your brand, your brand personality is how those values are expressed and come to life.
Think of your brand personality as an imaginary trusted friend advising your ideal customer. What kind of personality would they have so your clients would connect with, like, respect, trust and listen to them?
Note, your brand personality may not share the personality of your ideal clients! If your customers are busy, stressed-out, high-level executives, your brand personality needs to be professional yet calm and reassuring.
Yvonne James, founder of Picture of Happiness, really struggled with this exercise at first. She thought her brand personality might be ‘kooky’ because that was her personality.
I explained that maybe her clients (brides-to-be and their families) are not looking for a ‘kooky’ solution for their big day or event.
What they need is a brand that is calm, reassuring, professional, knowledgeable and reliable.
So if it’s not what your clients are looking for in their supplier, it shouldn’t be a part of your company’s brand personality.
Again, choose no more than five to eight personality traits for your brand. More will be hard to communicate fully in your branding and marketing.
Your brand voice should naturally evolve from and align with your brand values and personality to complete your Inner Brand.
- If your brand was a person talking to your ideal customer, how would they talk?
- What vocabulary would they use?
- What tone would they take?
Consider your target audience. Sleep-deprived new parent? Stressed-out, busy executive woman? Out-of-shape forty-something man? The brand voice, tone and vocabulary will be different for each.
Sarah is founder of The Independent Mamas, an online community for single mothers. Her brand personality is ‘best friend/big sister’, understanding, listening, empathetic, but also practical and no-nonsense. So we used language such as ‘take action’, ‘stop’, ‘start’; and ditched softer, fluffier words more suited to a spa brochure (‘re-energise’, ‘revive’).
Listing the kind of language and tone of voice that you do and do NOT want to use will give you so much more clarity for your content. And of course, as you scale, it’s especially important for any copywriters or social media specialists who work with you.
Once you’ve got your brand voice established, check out our blog for a few more tips on writing kick-ass copy.
My best-selling book ‘Let’s Get Visible!’ goes into more depth on the Inner Brand and guides you through the whole VISION process, to get brand clarity, stand out in your industry and supercharge your business growth. Buy it here.
If you want to create a brand your customers will truly connect with, book a free 30-minute VISION call with me and let’s see what we can do…