All over the globe today, there are teams of people wondering what kind of crack their senior leadership team is on.

They’re going through a rebrand, they were thinking a nice new colour scheme and a visual identity, right? But no. They’re being shown something called a strategic brand framework. They’re being asked to perform to a new set of values. It makes absolutely fuck all sense. The collective sentiment isn’t inspiration, it’s: I was quite enjoying working here, but what the hell is going on? Do I even fit here any more?

The big buck rebrand

I worked somewhere once where a rebrand by one of the world’s most celebrated agencies amounted to a single letter of the alphabet. The word on the street was that it had cost many multiples of my annual salary, that letter. We weren’t sure if it was a coincidence there were no annual bonuses that year. The whole thing made absolutely no difference – and even less sense – to any of us. We decided the SLT must be morons who didn’t care about us, the worker bees. Instead of re-energising, galvanising and inspiring the organisation, it collectively disenfranchised most of the workforce. We felt we’d been shown how little we were valued – when in fact, it could have taken us to places we hadn’t imagined.

And there’s the thing. A powerful brand isn’t a badge, a visual identity. It’s a spirit that connects and reflects an organisation and the places it’s heading. It’s an invaluable weapon that’s often wielded incorrectly – because no-one’s thought about how best to apply its powers. But it’s simple: engage and explain.

So, what next? 

I work with agencies and with direct clients all over the world. And it’s an eye opener, this perennial weak spot. Agency creative teams – brilliant ideas people – haven’t been pushed to consider how a non-creative person in their client’s organisation might be asked to apply their thinking. And clients end up with a brand that might look pretty sharp – but that’s where it ends. Too often, I get pulled in to mop up after a creatively excellent and well-intended agency has left the client without a ‘brand activation’ life jacket. They aren’t sure how to forge the deep connection required between the brand and the organisation. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Clients: when you’re hiring a creative agency, ask them to show you how they tackle this before you sign anything. And make a nice big plan, so that everyone from shop floor to C-suite is invited to participate, to understand, to get involved and even, God forbid, generate ideas for bringing this collective feeling to life.

Creative agencies: consider the people in your client’s organisation least likely get on board and work with that as your assumption. Your work will come to life. And it’ll work harder, for longer.

A well-executed brand is felt across every touchpoint an organisation has with someone it wants to talk to – start with your people.

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