To establish brand positioning from the inside out, think like a conductor

In an earlier post, I highlighted one of the key concepts behind the ad-free brand approach: building your brand from the inside out, starting with the folks who are likely to know and care most about the brand—the employees.

When building the brand from the inside out, the goal is to embed the core positioning deeply within the mind and actions of each employee of the organization so that it comes out consciously and even unconsciously in their interactions with the external brand community.

This is very hard.

You can’t force people into “living the brand.” No one likes to be told what to do. I certainly don’t.

Ad-free brands work from the core principle that those who are not invited on the journey will usually reject the destination. So, broad participation in the brand-building process is often a prerequisite for the brand positioning to really take off. Unfortunately, the larger the organization, the harder it is to achieve consistency in the way the brand positioning is rolled out.

I like approaching the internal rollout of brand positioning by channeling the mindset of the conductor of an orchestra. An orchestra conductor is able to create amazing, complex, and beautiful music just by using a tiny baton.

The conductor’s role is to organize, motivate, and inspire a group of people to make music together. The conductor chooses the piece of music, interprets the piece, gives every person in the orchestra a part to play, and helps each musician rise to the level of his or her talent or experience.

An orchestra in which every musician plays the same notes would be boring, to say the least. In an orchestra, the diversity of instruments—woodwinds, percussion, strings, and brass—allows for the complex and beautiful expression of music. Yet many organizations attempt to roll out their brand positioning by expecting everyone to toe an explicit company line, sticking to a rehearsed speech.

This kind of approach does not play well for ad-free brands.

To me, the rehearsed expression of the brand positioning comes off as canned, corporate BS that most people will ignore. To be effective, ad-free brands take advantage of the talent and voice of each employee, allowing each person to utilize his or her own strengths, interests, and passions to explain or begin to live the brand positioning.

The goal is not getting everyone to play the same notes—it’s getting everyone to play in the same key.

Different people prefer the sounds of different instruments and types of music. One of the benefits of having many people playing in your orchestra is that you are likely to create music that appeals to all types of people, which will in turn attract even more people. When you create a situation where many people are communicating and living the positioning in their own ways, you increase the chance that other people will begin to hear, understand, value, and live it themselves.

And that’s when the brand has a chance to really shine.

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