Build trust among your target customers with the Brand Layers
As a technology marketer, your challenge is to build a brand that stands out and garners trust. But tech is an extremely competitive and fast-moving industry. And every tech company seems to be saying the same thing.
To build a strong reputation among your target customers, your marketing must tell a consistent story that aligns your organization’s purpose with how your products help.
Taking a high-level look at your brand might seem overwhelming in the face of your many competing priorities, but it’s worth it. When you have one set of brand guidelines to work from that tie together all your marketing efforts, your story is consistent across every channel. The way you look, sound, and act are aligned over time.
In this webinar, we introduce you to a simple framework we’ve developed to help you build a powerful brand. We call it the Brand Layers. It shows all the important elements of your brand and how they fit together.
- A framework to align your marketing strategy with your organization’s purpose
- An approach for clarifying your authentic story that helps you stand out
- A technique for crafting visuals that support your brand story
- A method for writing with a consistent brand voice
Watch the webinar recording now:
Alex: Good morning everyone. Thank you so much for joining this new kind of webinar today. Hopefully, you should be able to see our screen. My name is Alex Kimball. I’m the Director of Content Strategy here at New Kind. I’m joined by New Kind CEO and partner Matthew Munoz, as well as President and partner, Johnathan Opp, and today’s webinar is all about building trust through the brand layers.
Alex: So I know that some of the attendees, some people are still dialing in, but we have a lot of ground to cover today, so we’re probably going to get going with some introductions, as people join I’ll catch us up midstream. So again, thank you for joining. Here we are again and what we’re excited to talk to you about today is to introduce you to this new framework that we’ve developed here at New Kind called Brand Layers, and what we want you to come away from as part of today’s discussions are really these three key elements.
Alex: The first is the notion that the strongest brands start with purpose and that’s something that’s fundamental to who we are and the this framework and why we’ve developed it and we hope that you’ll come away with that understanding as a result of this webinar.
Alex: Point number two is that really when it comes to building trust among your target audiences as a marketer in the technology space, what that requires is consistency, so we’ll spend a good bit of time covering that as well. Then we hope you’ll understand by the end also that a cohesive brand is one that moves faster, so your business objectives, your goals, your marketing messages, by taking the time to align all of these pieces under one framework as you’ll see, that actually enables you to move more quickly and achieve your business goals more rapidly.
Alex: So with that in mind, it looks like we’ve got more attendees coming in, so people are still dialing in, but we’re going to go ahead and dive in and I’m going to hand it off to Johnathan Opp, who’ll kick us off.
Jonathan: Great, all right. Thank you, Alex. We’re going to talk today about brands and we’re going to start the conversation today from a little bit different perspective. What we want to talk about today is starting with a quote from Abraham Lincoln as inspiration. Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it, but the tree is the real thing,” and extending that thought one step further, you can’t change the shadow without changing the shape of the tree.
Jonathan: We take this as inspiration because just in the same way, us as people we can own our personality, how we express ourselves to the outside world, what we wear, what we say, what we do. You can’t own what others actually think of it. So we take this inspiration when we look at brands. In the world of branding, your shadow is your reputation, so your company, that’s the reputation that you have and the tree is the brand identity.
Jonathan: So when we talk about brand identity today we’re gonna be talking about a complete brand identity, not just from a visual point of view, not just from a verbal point of view, but how you look, how you act and all built on a foundation of your purpose. So this speaks to our challenge, you can’t entirely control that reputation, you can only control your brand identity and that’s what we’re gonna focus today, because this is a problem. We see so many companies doing it.
Jonathan: So many companies—they try to represent themselves externally with their shadow in ways that don’t authentically align with who they are, and we know that there’s a particular challenge with that. There’s two points of reality and the first one is that you’re going to cast a shadow no matter what. Everything you do as a company communicates your organization, it’s going to express itself, whether you are taking an active top-down, bottom-up look at that, how you actually express yourself or not, you are going to cast a shadow. So the more time you can do that intentionally and the more you can focus on it, the much stronger brand presence and the much stronger reputation that you’re gonna have.
Jonathan: The second reality is that there are a lot of competing trees in the forest. We know that anytime you launch a product, anytime you’re trying to shift perception in your brand, anytime you’re just trying to simply grow as an organization, you know that there are going to be a lot of other organizations that you’re gonna be competing with. So that’s the challenge that we’re setting out to help explore today.
Jonathan: New Kind. We are a brand new agency for technology companies and organizations powered by purpose and so much of our focus on our attention is on helping humanize technology brands. So how do we take some of these same human principles of how people express themselves, how reputations are formed, and how do we translate those into helping companies express and create their brand reputations in much the same way. We take a lot of inspiration as an organization from companies that we work with, not only on the technology side, but also organizations that are powered by purpose and we’re gonna show you a few examples today of both types of companies because especially today, as technology companies continue to grow and shift and they’re attention is focused on different areas, sometimes the push to grow as an organization, you start to lose sight of the principles for why you exist as an organization.
Jonathan: We find the most successful organizations are ones that have a very pure connection with who they are, why they exist, what inspires them, their mission and their values and how that’s aligned to how they work as an organization itself, how they express themselves to the outside world. I’m going to hand it over to Matt Munoz to talk about the model that we use that we call Brand Layers.
Matt: All right, thanks Jonathan. This is Matt. Hello everybody. So the Brand Layers model is really an opportunity and a chance to combine all of the aspects of what make purpose driven companies work well, as well as technology companies, and to create a framework that again, doesn’t just emphasize one dimension or brand, such as the visual look or the verbal tone of voice, but actually creates a framework that we can align and in almost one sheet, put all of the key aspects of the company and the brand identity into one place.
Matt: So here’s the Brand Layers framework. At the very bottom level, we call it the purpose level, the purpose layer. It’s really capturing and really articulating how we think, meaning how we as an organization, so in whatever organization you’re in, New Kind as an example, how New Kind thinks. This is about our purpose. This is about making sure that whether we have a mission statement, a vision statement, a purpose statement, a massively transformative purpose, there’s a lot of different routes and a lot of different ways to talk about it.
Matt: Sometimes it’s sort of a core guiding principle, a reason why a company exists, whatever you call it within your organization, you want to make sure that from a Brand Layers perspective, when you’re building your identity, that you’re clear on those guiding facets of the company. So your mission, your vision, your purpose, your reason you exist, whatever you call it, as well as the values. What do you value as an organization? You’re going past impossibles, the notion of the accessories, like the words that are just on the wall, but what are the truly meaningful attributes and things that you hold dear as a company that guide the decision making process day in and day out for not only yourself as leaders of your companies, but as well as your team members and guide the actions of your engagement with customers and communities in general.
Matt: So mission, vision, values. In addition to that is your story. Now back to how Johnathan said, you’re gonna have a shadow no matter what, so you have a reputation no matter what. Also, companies usually have a story no matter what. The question is whether or not that story really aligns and captures the essence of who you are and really starts to resonate with people.
Matt: So when we first start working with clients and when you’re thinking about your own brand identity for your organization want to take a look at it and say, “Hey we think, is that really well articulated?” Is it all captured? Do we have our mission and vision spelled out. Do we have our values spelled out? Do we have a story? Let’s put all these together.” So that’s the foundation of the brand, that’s the foundation of your identity as you build it out.
Matt: Now as you have those elements, you start to codify them into messaging, which then starts to work into the personality layer. So the personality layer is really about how you look and how you sound and you act. So if the bottom layer is about making sure that your purpose in a big sense is articulated, is perfectly well thought out, then you also want to make sure that it’s expressed through your personality. This is generally the domain of, “Hey, what’s the visual language of the company? What’s the verbal language of the company? What are the brand behaviors that set as apart?” We want to make sure that the purpose is basically expressed through how the organization looks and sounds and acts.
Matt: One way of translating that purpose is through messaging. We work a lot of times with technology organizations or other purpose driven companies and as you know whenever you’re speaking to someone, especially in the technology space, you might talk to them about features, you might talk to them about the reason why your technology is created, you might talk to them about what’s happening within the market, and the same way with a purpose driven company. You might talk about the core audience, who you’re serving and why they matter, why you specialize, why you have a story and connection to them.
Matt: So with messaging you can into a wide variety of places and you might start in the weeds, so to speak, or you might start big picture and with the messaging system you want to make sure that you’re actually articulating covering all the bases and organizing your thoughts so that not only you, but as well as your entire company can express the story, the North Star, the messages in ways that make sense.
Matt: So if we’re starting at the bottom with purposes, we’re expressing through the personality, then your brand identity is essential how you appear and it essentially represents those different layers and often times and in certain environments, your logo is the first element that people will see, and your logo is not meant to say and tell the entire story, but it is meant to tell and give an indication of why you exist and especially over time, you want your story and your logo to be represented by the symbol of who you are, the symbol of your company.
Matt: There’s a variety of approaches to take with logos and identity design, which is a subject for another conversation. What the main takeaway from this is that as opposed to just thinking about brand as just a logo in the cattle branding sense and making sure everything is consistent, you want to think about your brand and your identity as a more holistic sense, it’s multiple dimensions. When you have all the answers to these different areas well aligned, then you’ve got a holistic and dimensional brand identity, which as Alex Kimball pointed out in the very beginning, allows your company to move more cohesively and a bit more quickly but you don’t have to reinvent messages on the fly, you’ve got everybody aligned as to what they are.
Matt: So as we unpack the purpose layer a little bit more, one of the places that we often want to start it is a really great question to ask yourself in organization is, “In a world that’s always changing,” and you can use the movie voice if you want to, but “In a world that’s constantly moving and evolving, what about your organization has always been true?” One of the reasons we start with this question and we always want to figure a compelling answer to it is because this can often point to why the company exists and depending on the duration of time, depending on the market, depending on how quickly the pace of technology is developing in your market or your purpose driven company, you might have lost sight of that in your every day communicate.
Matt: You might feel free like you can admit that, other times it might be hard to admit that, depending on whether you’re a small group and you’re just getting started out and a lot of decisions are happening through company-founders or whether you’ve got a fully established marketing arm and a full established people division, the question is each of you in your organization is going to face different elements and with you can come back to this question, “What about your organization has always been true?” that can also guide the purpose and the reason why you exist.
Matt: Now one element of why we call these layers Brand Layers is based on the Stewart Brand principle, Clock of the Long Now and there’s a quote that really talks about these different layers of the world, so to speak. At the very bottom we have nature and culture and governance in infrastructure and commerce and fashion and if you look at the quote at the right, we’re really looking at the fast layers of what innovate, slow layers stabilize and the whole combines learning with continuity.
Matt: So what that really means for us and why we drawn inspiration from it, is when you’re an organization and the reason why the purpose layer has your mission, vision, values, these are core principles for the group, your organization, your company, these are things that you wouldn’t expect to change very frequently. There are things that are stabilizing forces. So in a world that’s always changing in product releases, in new ways of engaging and impacting communities, everything is changing, but the very core of who you are should be stabilizing.
Matt: So if the top here, fashion commerce, you might be changing your personality layer or your visuals or your tone to take advantage of the latest cultural ways people are communicating or if you’re taking advantage of conversations that are critical for your company right now or if you want to adapt your visuals and your verbal tone as times change, those would all change at more quick rate than your mission, vision and values which are more stabilizing.
Matt: So when you’re thinking about how do you create a story or how do you think about communicating your purpose, this is a framework that has been a staple of the ways that we build out stories and if you’re looking across the top axis, so the top right, you see it’s really on the left-hand column you’re looking at the current brand, on the right-hand column it’s about the future brand. So the current is the hey, where we are today and the future is about where we could go.
Matt: Now if you look on the left side, you’re matching now with, okay, well what is our community of stakeholders or customers, what do they currently believe and then what would they value going into the future? In addition to that, we want to focus on what do we believe and currently say as an organization, as well as what would like the brand to be? What do we want our identity to be? Who do we want to be as an entity? What we want to focus on is balancing each of those four dimension or each of those four sort of flows of information or four perspectives.
Matt: We don’t want to be too heavy handed in one of those, we don’t want to just be reactionary as to what somebody else is looking for, but it’s about balancing, who do we want to be both today and tomorrow with what our customers want us to be today and tomorrow, what they find valuable? So when you’re thinking about who you are and what you care about, why you exist, the story has a foot in each box, it’s a bridge and it begins to answer these questions.
Matt: This is really wrapping up some of the sub-frameworks let’s say or the child frameworks that we use in order to make sure that we’ve got compelling answers for each aspect of the purpose, mission, vision, values, especially here with the story.
Matt: Now how do we begin to express that through messaging or how do we begin to express that through the personality? Well, you’ll notice here we’re going a little bit deeper. We’ve got the visual language, the verbal language and behaviors and these pieces, these three dimension, which have their own principles and their own frameworks, each of them are big aspects of how the company expresses itself and its mission and its purpose in the marketplace, whether that’s through banner ads, whether that’s through T-notes, whether that’s through swag, whether it’s through what you’re putting on T-shirts, your guiding ways of communicating, your motion design. Every type of expression is made better when it’s aligned with a strategy from a visual, verbal and behavioral perspective.
Matt: So let’s dive a little bit deeper. This is all about unpacking a little bit more about how a company looks. So first of all for the graph designers out there, Saul Bass, you’re familiar with his work and his impact and one of his quotes was that, “Logos are a graphic extension of the internal realities of a company.” There are times when a logo is surface or there are times when a logo is created just for a gimmick’s sake or it’s sort of just created and it’s been created without the input of the community, without the input of team members. It’s done by a small group. There’s times when a logo just feels like it’s a surface level engagement. It may look great but there are questions about does it reflect the reality of the company? Does it really, really tie into the purpose? Does it tell a core story of where the company is going? These are the questions that we begin to ask within the visual strategy, visual language component.
Matt: Now we’re all familiar what what’s a part of a visual language, right? You’re probably thinking about standards like logos, colors, fonts, image strategies, photo strategies, patterns, icons, layouts, iconography, UX aspects, behaviors, interactions, et cetera, but one of the key aspects that we noticed that’s really important in today’s world and again when you’re moving so fast, is that it would be great for a company to have a visual organizing principle and these are principles that we create with our clients all the time.
Matt: Now you’re like, “Okay, well what is that?” right? You can see here that this is meant to be an internal dynamic concept, it’s meant to be phrase that’s usually three to five words long that define and express your visual strategy and I’ll give you a couple examples in just a second, but what’s it’s meant to be is whenever you’re either a designer or a communicator or a writer and you’re designing a brand touchpoint, right?
Matt: So put yourself in that place that you’ve got the say, you’ve got to design a homepage or a landing page for a webinar or something within your company. What’s the starting point? How do you make sure that the starting point for that work, whether you’re working with a freelancer or you’re working with somebody that’s worked on the brand for last five years, you want to make sure that they’re occupying the same mindset in the same space, and so this visual organizing principles helps a company do that.
Matt: So just to lead a little bit into the process of how we create that, often times when we’re thinking about, and this is just a generic slide, but whenever you’re thinking about a company, so insert your company here, you probably have a lot of visual aspects of the brand that tell the story, right? These are all elements that, in this case, are part of this and as you do some infinity mapping and some structuring you start to see okay, well there’s actually some buckets, there’s some elements that are all very similar and you start to streamline that even more, you start to narrow it down to attributes or pieces that begin to tell a story and they begin to say, “Hey, these are visually how a company works.”
Matt: So we take that a step further. Now this is a specific example for one of the clients who we’re working with, NGINX out of San Francisco. They’re a technology company. One of the early things we started working on a number of years ago was this notion of NGINX at the time being the fabric of web and might notice a little bit of a connect pattern, dots and lines and this was done a number of years ago and really it starts to do is that whenever somebody is working on the brand, we want them to channel this notion, “the fabric of the modern web,” right?
Matt: So the fabric you’ll notice starts to suggest certain visual decisions over others. We know that fabric is connecting, it’s unifying, it might show parts through the whole and there’s a variety of ways that we can visualize that, the pattern, the background here, is just an example, but this begins to be an internal statement that anybody who’s working on the brand, particularly a designer visually can start to think about the visual elements, always starting from telling that story, being the fabric.
Matt: Another example for a client feel focus on the notion of lifting. You notice that this word is visual in nature, it’s meant to be vivid, it can be seen as abstract to some degree, but focus on how do you show lifting? What are the colors that show lifting? What the mechanism for the visual devices and the way those elements are arranged on the page and within the system that will help do that?
Matt: So we’re gonna dive deeper into an example where we’ll walk through how this plays out into more specific visual choices that we’ve all seen, but when you’re thinking about articulating and expressing your purpose, how you use an organizing principle is a key way to make sure that you have a unique perspective visually on your company. So with that, we’ll hand it over to Johnathan, who will tackle the visual, the verbal aspect.
Jonathan: Great. Okay, so what Matt was just talking about was how to channel a visual sound, visual inspiration that anytime someone in the company is creating something on behalf of the organization, that they’re able to draw from that style really to channel the visual aspects, and what we’re gonna talk about now is how do you channel some of those same aspects anytime you have a writer in the company, anytime someone is communicating on behalf of that organization, how do they talk and how do they speak with a consistent voice?
Jonathan: When we talk about voice, it’s usually a combination of these two areas, it’s the substance, it’s the what you say, it’s the content, the subject matter, it’s the stories you tell and it’s those high-level messages that really capture that essence of who you are as an organization. At the same time on the other side it’s that sense of style, it’s the how you say it. Yes, it’s getting into things like grammar that you’ve learned in the eighth grade that you thought you’d always forget, but those become really important as you start to express this language in a written form.
Jonathan: So a lot of that can come down to just how you structure your sentences, are they long sentences, are they short sentences, is it active or passive voice and the specific language that you use. Now that doesn’t mean that every person in the organization has to speak in exactly the same way with the exact same writer training, but here’s why it’s so important, is that when we’re reading content on the page our brain is essentially translating it for us. So when we read those written words, there’s a process that goes on in our heads that essentially turns that into spoken language and that’s ultimately where voice comes from, it’s as though our minds are reading to us. This can be a really powerful tool for organizations that want to create a very recognizable voice for anything that they’re trying to create.
Jonathan: So you go to your website, your language has a certain rhythm, it has a certain tone to it, it feels like it’s coming from a consistent place because ultimately to the outside world, for the most part, they see your brand as one voice, as one person, but we all know the reality is that what you’re really trying to do is create a chorus of voices. So people are going to come to creating content from very different angles. They might be creating for technology companies, they might be creating content as diverse as a whitepaper, to high-level website content that has to be really simple, to presentation content, where they really might not have many words to work with at all. What you’re trying to do is to create an environment where everyone has the tools to sing from the same songbook and to sing in tune, even though they might be working on a bass part or a soprano part. So you want everyone in the same key.
Jonathan: So how do you provide that level of inspiration? A couple of the tools that we use. We go through a longer process with companies to really help them to develop the voice and develop the principles around it, and we’re gonna show a little bit more about what that looks like, an example that we’re gonna show here in a few minutes, but we want to just show two quick tools that we use.
Jonathan: The first one is finding inspiration from a celebrity spokesperson. The celebrity spokesperson is a hypothetical exercise that we use with companies that if they were to choose any person to branding … your brand budget, just isn’t relevant, if you could choose any single person to represent the voice of your brand and speak for you who would that be? So often it comes down to the conversations that happen as a result. That’s where you really get the value from this exercise.
Jonathan: So if you start to think about what are the certain qualities that a celebrity spokesperson that you have, what kind of qualities do you want the brand voice to channel, what do you want to pick up from that? So examples here, say Patrick Stewart, just showing that strong sense of experienced leadership or Meryl Streep being very respected and being the best in her field and honing her craft. A lot of companies really look at this exercise as a way to start to identify and what are those common traits that they want that brand to have, but one of the really strong advantages of doing an exercise like this is anytime a writer in your company sits down to write on behalf of the brand, they’re almost like writing for a character. So they’re imaging Patrick Stewart in one of his roles and they’re channeling the voice in everything they’re writing, as though they’re writing through his words. It’s almost like a shortcut to creating really simple and really well built content that’s all aligned with a particular voice.
Jonathan: Here’s another example we use. We start to take the same tools that psychologists use and really start to think about what are the personality traits that that company by your organization should have in order to express it in voice. So what we actually do is we create a set of attributes and we would do this in a physical environment. We can do this digitally as well, but in a physical environment what you’re really looking for here is whereas everybody in the group starts to put their dots how they would plot how sincere are we today or how sarcastic are we and where we want to be in the future, what you’re really starting to look for here are the trends and these trends can help communicators in the company really start to steer their content from where their current state is today and where they want that future state to be. So it’s just a few tools, and again we’re gonna show you some examples of how this starts to play out a little bit more.
Jonathan: Now as we jump into act and the set of behaviors, I think traditionally, when it comes to brand builders and marketers, the world of branding has typically been seen as an outside exercise, as how you’re expressing yourself to the outside world, but we are seeing more and more as we’ve developed New Kind over the years, our own past experiences, is the more the internal brand is fluid and the more it aligns to the external brand, the better the company is going to be at hiring and maintaining great talent and creating a consistent cultural experience that really allows that brand to thrive and that’s how you get that very complete Brand Layers environment where you’re building from your mission purpose, values, up into your reputation on the top layer.
Jonathan: So we know this, right? We know that especially when it comes to technology companies, that it’s very competitive environment, technology people can work anywhere. And also going back to that notion of purpose, is that not only do companies want to work with other companies that have that strong sense of purpose and they want to know that they’re helping companies put good into the world, that employees want that as well because employees are investing an incredible amount of their time and their energy in their life toward building something and creating something that’s meaningful.
Jonathan: So the more that we are starting to see these examples of people in HR and cultural roles taking advantage of the similar tools that we use as brand builders to create a consistent and strong story about who the company is and why they exist. This manifests itself into an employer brand or an EVP, employer value proposition.
Jonathan: Heres one example of a company that we work with that we love, a client of ours named ChannelAdvisor, a technology company in the e-commerce space and this is just a high-level snapshot of the brand’s story that we built from an internal brand point of view that includes a mission, that includes principles, all built on internal research about why people love coming to work every day, what do they really love about this company? What do they want to make sure that people who are considering joining the company that they really know about why this company exists and why it’s important.
Jonathan: So this internal brand is very inclusive and it’s very aware of that external brand as well because ultimately when it comes down to it, the people inside your company, they are going to be your best recruiters, they’re are gonna be your best marketers, and they’re gonna be your best brand builders, so how do you equip them with the tools that they need to tell the best story? And when you tell the best story from an external point of view, you can help establish that culture, you can retain those great employees and you can help find more people that align to your culture as well.
Jonathan: In the next section we’re gonna talk about an example where we actually built out using some of these same tools, Brand Layers tools for a client of ours called The Redwoods Group and I’m gonna hand it back over to Matt.
Matt: All right, so before we dive into Redwoods, we’re gonna walk through this example and then we’re gonna sum it up, so we’re getting close to the end, so if you’ve got questions, just begin to start jotting them down, we’re gonna open it up for some questions and answer in just a little bit.
Alex: And just as a reminder for anyone using the GoToWebinar tool, you should see that interface and there is a tab, there’s a little dropdown called questions and I’ll be monitoring those. So send those in when you got them based on any of the content and any of the topics we’ve covered and we’re gonna bring those up at the end.
Matt: Great. Thanks, Alex. So with regards to how do we put all this into practice and how does it all fit, right? Well The Redwoods Group is a specialty insurer, they insure YMCAs, Jewish community centers, Boys and Girls Clubs. They protect children, they protect kids in camps. They’re an amazing company, they’re a purpose driven company that we’ve been working with for a number of years.
Matt: So they’re an example of how do we basically align all of these pieces in order to best communicate? The start of the project was that we were gonna focus on evolving their visual standards, so they’d just gone through a merger and acquisition and now they were looking how do we bring elements going forward? What equity do we have in certain elements, how do we evolve the visual standards, as well as how do we evolve the verbal standards so that we can effectively communicate positioning, strategy and more?
Matt: So we went back to the framework, the Brand Layers and began to fill in the pieces that we knew about and so love, serve, transform was this idea that began to summarize and was part of their core position about how they felt and worked with the communities that they served. Some of the individuals would say, “Oh, love, from a business standpoint, that seems a little bit fictitious,” but they’re a B corporation and their entire model is about serving others and protecting children and they walk the talk. So loving, serving, transforming the communities they were working with and so this becomes a catch phrase or let’s say a mantra or a summary of why they exist, why they’re in business, why they’re there to make impact.
Matt: This is a little bit more detailed about how they think of themselves as changemakers, how they think about the values of the company, how they focused on loving, serving and transforming communities. So this is really occupying the bottom layer, the purpose layer of the company, of the brand identity.
Matt: So through working sessions, facilitations, we start to fill out the rest of pieces. So the framework again and if you’ll notice here, we combined it what that current state on the left and the future state from the story framework. So currently what’s our reputation on the top left, on the personality, how do we currently look, sound, and act and how do we currently talk about our purpose? And on the right, let’s contrast that with the future state, where do we want to go?
Matt: Through our workshops, through our activities, through actual conversations in the moment we began to … these are all coming form Post-Its and new conversations, so you’re used to the materials here, but these are ideas that were battered about, that we’re talked about. Like this is our current reputation, this is the future reputation that we desire. We also streamlined that, we started to figure out, okay, well how do we boil it down in a few less details, what are the pieces that are in the middle that are the bridge between the two? That’s the identity, that’s the reputation, that’s that top layer. We began to think, “Okay, well currently how does Redwoods look and sound and act and from our personality, going into the future, what do we want that to be?” So these are more details, more Post-Its, each bullet point represents that. So we started to streamline those and simplify those into more manageable principles to work from.
Matt: As we dive into the visual element, let’s talk about the brand and how we start to develop that. So the organizing principle for them was impact. Now this is a word that you’ll see in a lot of the materials, but when you’re a designer and you’re thinking about how do I communicate what Redwoods does and how do we serve, the point is that we want to show impact visually. So there’s certain things that we need to communicate, like impact through change making, transforming, looking bold and intentional. I’m sure when we hear that, bold and intentional there’s certain things that we begin to think about.
Matt: Well Redwoods, when you look at it on the left, their logo used to have Redwoods Group, right, so it was a three-word logo, Crum & Forster was the company that they joined, so all of a sudden now they’re elements that we needed to bring together and we began to simplify that typography, we began to simplify the use of the tree and the Redwoods logo tag, not changing it, but to streamline and build on the equity which was recognizable to the customers and we started to look at different version.
Matt: They had used an orange and we started to use the white knockout version a lot more than the orange because it started to show boldness and intentionality and so this orange, as you can see on the left in the color palette was used in the smaller sense and now we’ve just started using it a lot more. From the standards perspective we want people to play up that color because it starts to show boldness, the typography on the right, you can see the certain typeface is that the end it to carry a weight, a tone, and we start to represent that through the image strategy, showing humanness, warmth. Some of these images are taken by the actual individuals that are within the community centers or within the YMCAs and so we try to use those warm and human moments showing individuals of portraits.
Matt: We also try to show progressions of communities and elements when we need to use photography which might have different curves and different visual looks and we need to bring them closer together. So you’ll notice we begin to pick apart the Redwood symbol, those different angles and when unpack those we boil this is an actual image they’ve taken of them building homes and you begin to think about using their own images and making their own by the angle of the logo and we started to bring that in and build on a system that’s based on that mark, based on that symbol, and you can start here how we begin to pull in the pieces. So we’re trying to create a cohesive language where not all the pieces are the same but we begin to have a visual language where we can mix and match elements on in various ways that are all tied back to that notion of impact, that tie back to that core story of who Redwoods is.
Matt: So with that, I’m gonna turn it back over to Johnathan for verbals.
Jonathan: So now we’re gonna talk about how that extends into the verbal brand as well. So again, starting with that core, the message, love, serve, transform and as you saw with a couple of the visual examples that Matt showed, this company is all about serving organizations that themselves have a mission, that their mission is all based on serving children. So they are serving their communities ultimately, so their mission is to help other organizations achieve their mission.
Jonathan: Now one of the unique aspects of what they’re able to do because they’re an insurance organization, because they work with so many organizations around the country, that they’re able to gather data and that data tells them how to keep children safe. So it is very important for them to find ways to use that data to turn that around to help train the people in these organizations to prevent catastrophic events from happening.
Jonathan: So when it comes to translating that voice obviously this organization is very purpose drive from the core, it’s what the care about, it’s who they are and what we had talked about from the start is how do we take that caring voice and how do we translate that into a voice that doesn’t come across as too aggressive.
Jonathan: One of the ways it can come across as too aggressive is that over time at Redwoods, they start to see patterns for how people are potentially getting hurt and for them it’s almost like they’re able to see the future. So they cannot possible not share that information. So when they see change that needs to happen, when they see behavioral shifts that need to take place they feel really strongly about those things because they know they can prevent some really terrible things from happening, but what they don’t want is that to come out in terms of this voice that feels like it’s either accusing or patronizing.
Jonathan: So as we started we looked at ways to quiet that part of their voice today. Again, this is the current state that you saw in a couple of the examples and they’re very specific ways to start to do that, so how do you identify when those things are taking place. On the flip side, what we wanted to do is give them three voices that we should work to amplify instead, so the voice of the empathizer, the voice of the catalyst, the changemaker and the facilitator, that voice of bringing people into the conversation. Again, there are ways to identify that and how to actually put that into practice in the real world.
Jonathan: So we went from there in creating those attributes or those voice to how does that actually translate when someone is getting ready to sit down and to write that webpage, to write that paper or that presentation. So this is when we get into the really specific examples that we translate into going from grammar, stylistic attributes to how do we actually turn those more abstractions into something that’s really easy for anyone to take and to apply. So you’re seeing examples here of how long sentences be, sharpening ideas into soundbites, shining a light on what’s bright, all those specific examples.
Jonathan: If you don’t remember all of the 11 principles, what we really want them to focus on if we were to articulate the verbal brand, we summed it up in a really simple statement that we called caring confidence and it’s the combination of two elements. That caring, it’s that empathizing voice of a partner using love and service to create a safer world and the other side it’s confidence, it’s the bold voice of a leader whose using the data that they are gathering to create impact and it’s really the balance of those two things that really help them articulate that voice and ultimately helps them translate that mission, values, and purpose in verbal brand and how to make sure the verbal brand matches the visual brand as well, ultimately creating that common expression that helps impact their perception over time and their reputation.
Jonathan: So that’s what we wanted to leave you with today. So just a few last points, is that going back to Abraham Lincoln, if you want to change the shadow you have to change the shape of the tree and that comes down to asking really good questions about who you are, why you exist and making sure that you are asking those questions through the people who care about you the most, you’re internal community of your employees, and also community, the people who are your advocates, who are your customers, who have invested in you.
Jonathan: Also, the best brands, they’re built from the inside out. It’s not simply about shifting a logo or changing your verbal personality, those verbal principles. It’s really about looking closely at who you are and why you exist and what your purpose is and how you translate that into how you express yourself.
Jonathan: Number three. We see brands the same way we see people and consistency is important. The same way when you see a person, you meet a person, you have friends in your life, it’s continued interactions with them over time that help build trust and that help craft that reputation of who this person is, how they appear to you and what they mean to you in your life and thinking about brands from that human perspective is often a really good way to make sure that you’re exploring your brand building from a very holistic point of view.
Jonathan: Then last, as you’re thinking about how you’re communicating your brand and how you’re expressing yourself, don’t just focus on what you do and how. We know that’s such a hard challenge sometimes, especially in the world of technology companies, where they always have new tools and new features they want to release into the world, but ultimately that story about who you are and why you exist sells not only one product, but sells the next five and the next ten and it creates a lasting brand position that really help establish your reputation years down the road.
Jonathan: And with that, I think we will open it up for questions.
Alex: Wonderful. Thank you, Matt, thank you, Johnathan. What we might do is actually stop sharing our screen and Matt, thank for the assist … yeah, you tab that one and then tab the camera, so with any luck you should see us pop up on your screen now. All right, we are getting word that we are being seen.
Alex: So we had just a few questions come in, so Matt and Johnathan, I guess where we’d like to start would be first to know … a question that we get many times, which is, “If I have an organization and I have what we might call sub-brands or I have product brands or other offerings that exist within my overall high-level company brand, how would I articulate those using the Brand Layers? How would be able to use this sort of framework that you outlined to kind of collect all those individual pieces and make sure that they’re all aligned as well?”
Jonathan: I love that question. Okay, so maybe I’ll talk about it from like a product, maybe a structure architectural point of view and then maybe Matt can talk about it from a visual brand and making sure all the visual elements are aligned.
Jonathan: So I think this tool actually becomes very helpful because it starts to look at the brand from a holistic point of view. We see this problem and it’s a great problem to have, it’s a natural problem to have, especially for technology companies that are always creating new products. You have, especially for SaaS, software of service companies that are spreading their product lines, it’s really easy to create a new product and to then move that product into multiple directions. This can be some guiding and aligning principles for what are the common connections you want each product to have within that larger brand?
Jonathan: So always go steps deeper in figuring out how closely do you want your product naming to be aligned to that master brand and then how closely do you want all those messages to be aligned? There’s another tool that we use called a High-Level Brand Architecture Messaging Architectures that really align that high-level, that mission, that big brand story with all those sub stories for all your products that really fall within it and that way you make sure that all of those values and attributes that you have invested in to build that high-level brand, you can make sure that even those sub-brands or those products all fall within it.
Jonathan: So I think the question always to ask about sub-brands or products is how close do you want the brand alignment between those products and the high-level brand. Particularly with technology companies it usually makes a lot more sense to have a really strong alignment, almost creating like a master brand strategy, where all of the products, it becomes very easily to see all the associations with that higher level brand, but there are certain situations, especially when it comes to maybe even more of a consumer space, where having less of a connection to that master brand makes a little bit more sense.
Jonathan: So for instance, if you’ve got one product where the attributes of that product do not lift up another product … say in the consumer space, if you’ve got an ice cream brand and a clean supply brand, which only happens in the consumer world, if you don’t really feel like there’s any value in having those two brands be associated with each other, there’s not a lot of reason to have really strong brand connection, but when it comes to a technology company, those attributes for why they should work with you become very clear and you want to make sure those are really aligned. So having a tool like Brand Layers helps you start to formulate that.
Matt: Yeah, just jumping on that too, when you have articulated the story of why your company’s existing and the reason why, when you can build an alignment sight for your target clients and target customers and target community members, between that sub-brand or that product brand to the overall master brand, the company brand, when you have that line of sight, it means you get to put the full weight and heft of your mission and the reason why you exist and the benefit of all in certain ways and attach that meaning to that product brand. And from a visual perspective, yes, it goes back to, as Johnathan’s indicating, if it’s a house of brands or a branded house strategy, there’s a lot of other considerations there, but depending on, from a visual standpoint, what’s the logo strategy for that, what’s the naming strategy? Are you building on one element and then you’re adding or modifying, are you keeping the color the same, are you keeping typography the same, are you keeping visual style or tone the same?
Matt: The visual organizing principle can be helpful with that too because you get to see what elements do I want to bring into this sub-brand versus what elements need to be unique based on the details of the sub-brand, the audience you’re seeking, what that market looks like. So you have a lot of levers at play, but you can start with the brand layers ’cause you can say, “Okay, to what degree to we want and is it desirable to have the company master brand show through? To what degree do we want the corporate brand to be tied to this product brand and visually and what does that need to look like?
Matt: So it starts a little further upstream with, “Okay, what’s the overall strategy for this?” Naming brand architecture wise we have to start there and then a lot of the other visual and verbal naming and discussion all really stem from that decision making process.
Alex: Yeah, great question, keep them coming. For those of you on the call, again make use of that questions tab, send in your questions. We’re getting a lot of good ones.
Alex: The next one here, another one we get quite often, “How often would you recommend that a client that we work with might revisit some of these elements? How often if I’m going to invest the time and the resources try and bring all these pieces under the same framework, we’re really starting to have these conversations, how often do you think it’s worth revisiting those, reconsidering maybe at different layers, how all these pieces need to be updated as you move through it and evolve as an organization?”
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. Well I can start off with that. I think there’s a couple different ways to think about it. Some are in response to external circumstances, things like what’s happening in the marketplace, right? Another could be what, are you having a product release or something else that is demanding a rethinking of where things are going. Often times we work with companies that are invention stage, meaning they’re in startup land, they don’t have a lot of these elements, so we really want to work together to make sure they have solid foundation first.
Matt: Other times you’re looking at a big reinventions where companies have been around for two decades and now it’s time for them to rethink re-present themselves to their customers or to the marketplace. Sometimes they have a new product that they want to release that’s game changing, especially companies that are moving from more of physical infrastructure to now Cloud services and there’s reasons to think through that.
Matt: If we go back to that Steward brand pace layers idea, where the bottom layers are a little bit more stable, they’re slow moving, those mission, vision, values, story, there’s elements of that that generally have a longer shelf life and those are usually opened … kinda like every year people look at them to make sure that they’re still working, but generally they’re still tracking along, unless there’s a leadership change sometimes or a market change or a product change or something culturally that needs to be address.
Matt: That middle layer of the personality, that is more fluid and can change to a certain degree every six months, every year, every year-and-a-half and it’s the degree of couldn’t. So often times logos, corporate voice colors, certain elements of typography, these are assets that you want to invest in that you don’t want to change very often, but if you think about a configuration, if you think about culturally what do we need to present, we generally think in terms of evolution and sort of continually tweaking and checking, unless there’s the rationale to reinvent or make a bolder shift from business as usual or the currency of the business.
Jonathan: One thing I’d add to that too is look internally at how closely it feels like those mission and values are aligned in the organization, especially with a fast growing company. You’re hiring a lot of people into the company and it can become very easily just in the normal pace of the working environment, that people get so focused on either the product they need to build or serving customers or support, all these things that just you get lost in the day-to-day. What you really want to do is revisit a lot of those elements and reinforce them and find new ways to express those.
Jonathan: So even though a lot of those core elements of who the brand is may stay stable, finding new ways to express them and getting them in front of both your internal, external audiences is always a good investment.
Matt: Yeah, and usually when we’re starting too, we tend to think of if you’ve never gone through a Brand Layer process before, if you’ve never put all of these elements on one page and thought about it critically as one entity, then doing this for the first time is much like a capital infrastructure project, right? It’s big, it’s a little bit more substantial, you have to bring in elements of your leadership as well as customer perspectives, you think of that four box and to make sure you know what your leadership and the team internally think now, in the future, as well as your customers now, in the future, factoring in new customers and new prospects at the same time. So if you’ve never done it, it’s generally a bigger process the first time and once you’ve done that capital infrastructure it’s more than … you switch to more of a maintaining perspective over the months and years and quarters unless there’s again, some reason to signify or create a symbol of change that you need to show sometime in the future.
Alex: That’s great and that response actually leads really nicely to our next question where Alicia asks, “On the topic of the value of a project like this, do we as New Kind find it challenging to get our target audience to understand the value of the benefit of undertaking a process like this?” and it’s a conversation we often have I would say helping communicate, helping create understanding around some of what you were just touching in. Can you elaborate a little bit more about how this, taking the time for this capital infrastructure, as you put it, aligning all these pieces, how, if I’m a team member and I need to go to a stakeholder to make the case maybe for investing in these types of projects, what are the ways that I would kind of convey that value?
Matt: Sure. You want to start?
Jonathan: Yeah, so part of the actual measurement of the value comes a lot in things like culture surveys and brand experience surveys and every once in a while you’ll get a really clear example. Say if you were to do like a complete branding project with a company and that company is sold, so that company is actually valued and we’ve had a couple examples like that, where you can very easily translate the value of a brand into what that company is sold for because ultimately you’ve made that company look more mature and look more established than it really is.
Jonathan: Overall, I think people are more attuned and have a more intrinsic knowledge of why focusing on brand is a strategy, why that’s more important than ever. I think there’s so many more common examples than there every have been that people really recognize it’s not really worth focusing on too many of those, but there’s so many technology companies out there right now, that have built a reputation that anytime they launch a new product that that product immediately has traction, they go out and buy it, sometimes before they’re even sure what that product does, but that brand opens the door for that product and you see this happening over and over.
Jonathan: I think there are a lot more tools now to actually measure the value of brand than there ever have been, but ultimately, it just comes down to you see it, you feel it, you know when people are aligned, when it becomes very simple, everything kinda moves in a similar direction, you’re hiring the right people, the right people are staying in your company and people become your biggest advocates externally as well.
Matt: Yeah, just building on that too, when you think about if you’re wanting to say, “Hey, I think this would be useful, how do I convince somebody?” Well, a few places to look for a start, is there something happening at the company where there needs to be number one, a symbol of change. A lot of the companies and the reasons we hear … ’cause we always ask that question, “Why would you want to do this now?”
Matt: We hear the questions like, “We have a master product release that is the game changer, next chapter of the entire company and we need to make sure that everybody, our company’s in multiple offices, or everybody in this one office,” it kinda depends, “We need everybody aligned and we need everybody to occupy the same mindset. We need everybody to have the same messages, we need everybody to understand visually what we’re doing, we need to undergo a process that you know frankly everybody is all over the place,” and you’ve got certain people that want it to be this and communicate this way.
Matt: So when you have a bunch of different perspectives then you have a high stakes moment within the trajectory of your company, your product release or your noticing a crowded marketplace, then often times we’ll see companies that say, “Okay, we need to get everybody on the same page. We need to focus on culturally what are the messages, what’s the mindset, what are the values that will help us essentially do the chorus?” Right? Sing as a chorus, best express and represent ourselves going forward.
Matt: We also hear companies that say, “We’re tired of spending so much time spinning and reinventing everything. The way our digital advertising is clearly different quarter to quarter. We try out so many messages and we’re just throwing them against the refrigerator and see what sticks. We got some hot spots of activity here of things that we hear is working, we’ve got some things that are working over here, we’ve got other things we just don’t know.” So a lot of companies will say, “Okay, we realize that the resource and time that it takes for people to sit down and just simply express and communicate what’s important to the company.”
Matt: It takes so much extra time that it becomes worth making a capital investment to get everybody on the same page at once and then you move faster going forward, right? You can move more quickly because you got a lot of the answers and you’re starting from a really fast-pace already. So a lot of times we think of this in, you have to go slow in order to go fast later.
Alex: That’s fantastic. Well, Matt, Johnathan, thank you so much for your time today and especially a big thank you to everyone who’s joined us for today’s webinar. A couple quick reminders before we sign off, knowing we’re coming up right at the end here at 12:30.
Alex: This webinar has been recorded. So you’ll be getting a recording in few days or shortly after, so you can come back to this content and review and view it again a second time. Another reminder as well is that a lot of this content we have recently, last month, published a whitepaper on the topic of Brand Layers, so visit us at newkind.com/insights where you can find that and download that as another key takeaway and you’ll also find some other content up there about some of the topics that we’ve covered where we dive in a little deeper. There’s a recent post around brand voice, showing some of those exercises that you can use and begin to start practicing, as well as some previous posts on things like employer value propositions and other content that we’ve discussed at a high level today, but you can definitely take away and begin employing and using for your own brands.
Alex: Again, thank you so much for joining. Matthew, Johnathan, any final thoughts?
Matt: Thanks for the questions and appreciate you being with us.
Alex: All right.
Jonathan: That’s great.
Alex: Thank you so much everyone.
Jonathan: All right, bye.
Alex: See you later.