Brand Building – Lead With A Unifying Brand Idea
Trajectory exists to unlock the potential for health and wellness brands to leave their mark – on people, business and planet. To realize this impact requires brand building that leads with a unifying brand idea. It’s a central idea that guides, inspires and threads everything the business does together – internally and externally, across its words and actions, products and services, design and experience, marketing and communications.
This idea serves as the destination that the brand wants to reach to fulfill its destiny. And it does this by unifying the brand’s inside and outside audiences to reach their personal potential. The idea is a north star for the brand to look, speak and act as one. And the more unified the brand, the more powerful it can be in leaving its mark.
Building Brand Identity
Building a brand with this kind of magnetic pull – with the power to leave its mark on people, business and planet – starts long before elements of color, type, design and imagery are on the table. It begins with a foundational strategy and identity that requires a combination of soul searching and discovery.
This search and discovery requires looking at your business inside and out, and people inside and out (what inspires them, motivates them, drives them) to unearth insights that will help reveal the unique reason why customers should choose you. Why and how your business fits into their life and solves a problem in some kind of heretofore underserved way. In short, why they should care. In finding your why, the consumer need and the brand idea then become two sides of the same coin.
Making this connection is only achieved when a brand taps into a customer need that’s rooted in both function and feeling. Function is easier of the two to spot (e.g. saving time, simplifying, reducing cost). But feeling is below the surface (e.g. reducing anxiety, providing hope, personally rewarding). It requires exploration beyond the obvious. But dig deep enough and you will unearth an emotion, discover the need that makes people care and put you on a path to being able to leave your mark.
Modern Consumer Expectations
Today’s consumers are judging and choosing brands based on a more expansive and proactive agenda, beyond what they say and sell. Message and story are still important, but they’re no longer enough. Reasons are twofold.
First, thanks to the internet and the megaphone of social media, consumers have access to a vast amount of information about any business and the people who lead it. They know and care about how companies operate, source materials, produce products, treat their employees and value other consumers like them. And not only are they empowered with access, they have audiences to whom they can evangelize the brands they believe in and take to the mat and hold accountable the brands that fall short.
Second, consumers seek purpose from the brands they support. Brands have always played a role in shaping consumer identity – the car you drive, the clothes you wear, the personal care items on your bathroom counter, for better or worse, say something about you.
But today, that identity factor goes far beyond the superficial. Exacerbated even further by the trifecta of medical, political and social events of the past year, consumers prefer to purchase products and services that allow them to act on their own values and beliefs. They want to live purposefully and they’re demanding that the brands they buy from not only tackle these issues directly but enable them to become agents of social change too. Reference this blog post: Wellness Branding: Building A Brand That Rises Above.
Here are a few examples of brands that are doing it right and living by their unifying brand ideas:
Patagonia. Every time they engage with the consumer, they make it clear who they are, what they stand for and what they won’t stand for – build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. And they live those beliefs in everything they do, including donating at least 1% of its sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups around the world. For Patagonia, being good is good business.
Red Bull. Gives wings to people and ideas. Though a manufacturer of soft drinks, the company does so much more in terms of improving lives. It’s known for the support that it gives to a wide range of sporting activities and teams globally. By sponsoring these events, Red Bull contributes to the growth and development of societies as these sports are economically and socially beneficial.
Wegman’s. Exists to “help you live a healthier, better life through food.” Beyond selling its ingredients and food items, Wegmans offers interactive tools that support healthy eating routines. They enable a shopper to stay a step ahead through meal plans that inform their shopping, so they don’t have to wing it. The healthy meals emphasis and healthy eating guidelines by are precisely what every family and individuals need to live happier and healthier.
Yeti. Treat all its clients to the ideal outdoor experiences that they long for. Yeti “Stories From The Wild” reinforce the durability of their items across multiple environments, and the company has specialized tools for any wild experiences that one would wish for. Its team of experts/brand ambassadors ensures that products are tested to leave customers confident and free to pursue their adventures.
Lush. We Believe is an ethos that the company still lives and breathes nearly three decades after its founding, and one that will (according to its founders) continue to guide it well into the future. While freshest ingredients put their founders on a path to success, the company incorporates other principles such as naked packaging and handmade items free of animal testing elements. It also actively supports Diversity and Collective Consciousness. Lush believes it’s their responsibility to advocate for the environment, animals and people in need, as well as giving back to organizations locally and around the world. They do this through their Charity Pot program, ethical campaigns and people.
Warby Parker was founded with a fighting spirit and an ambitious goal to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses. By bypassing traditional channels, designing glasses in-house, and engaging with customers directly, they provide high-quality prescription eyewear at a fraction of the typical retail price. They also believe that everyone has the right to see. Almost one billion people worldwide lack access to glasses, which means that 15% of the world’s population cannot effectively learn or work. To help address this problem, Warby Parker partners with non-profits like VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need.
In a world where consumers are relating to brands at a much deeper level, skin-deep, claim-driven relationships no longer hold weight. Now, “brand actions” speak louder than “brand words.” A brand must have the power to impact more than marketing expression — it must drive business behavior. It must become the North Star – starting with its big energizing idea – that guides business decisions across every department, discipline and function.
Creating A Unifying Brand Idea
In our experience, the following are some invaluable elements of strategic branding that aren’t bound by size of company, brand or budget. What isn’t on the table however, is the disciplined process of what it takes to build a brand – starting with your unifying brand idea. Just because you build it, does not mean people will come.
- The Right Mindset. Marketing tactics will always change. But branding is constant. You can only pour a foundation once. A brand and its unifying brand idea is the business’s most important building block, most valuable asset and most worthy investment. It’s too risky to run past or worse, get wrong. This foundation informs the road map for your marketing and the foundation for your business’s future. As Emily Howard writes in her book Obsessed – “in order to drive success in today’s consumer landscape, brand can’t be a layer that sits on top, it has to be baked into the business itself.”
- Big Dig. Every great brand starts with a big dig. Obsessing over the nuances of the business yet seeing a brand through a very different lens — the consumers’. Starting with consumers – and the problem you are solving for them – is paramount because the consumer has never had more power or more say. You need to ask the hard questions, push past assumptions and challenge what’s accepted so that a brand can break new ground and inspire a one-of-a-kind connection.
- Let your “why” guide your playbook. When brands share their compelling “Why?” with the world, they position themselves to connect with employees and consumers at an emotional level based on shared beliefs. Reference the brands above. Experience has taught us that every time a brand engages a customer or prospect, there’s a way (and a need) to share its belief. All of the characteristics and behaviors that make a brand strong – enlightened employees, emotional connection, symbolism, surprise and delight, removing friction, et al. – should be informed by your unifying brand idea.
To be successful in a marketplace that demands more of businesses and brands, brand marketing leaders need to be the catalysts for teasing out the inner truth of a company (its unifying brand idea), guiding the brand on how to actively participate in the world, and establishing a new kind of value creation framework for stakeholders.
As specialists in health and wellness dating back to 1999, Trajectory combines deep expertise with a proven, systematic approach to brand-building that helps clients build better brand-led businesses. Central to our wellness branding work is the creation of a big energizing idea. Reach out for a no-obligation consultation.