Learning to be your own brand consultant

One of the rules of thumb we share in the DIY Brand Camp: “Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what your customer says it is.”* So it is especially rewarding to check in with graduates of the camp and learn that they are employing the pedagogy as we hoped they would.  Better, they are finding the value we hoped they’d discover

This happened this week when Todd and I hosted a 90-minute webinar as a follow-up to the September 28 brand camp. Six campers representing a community-centered payment system, an honors college within a university, a community foundation, a creative consultancy and a core movement integration practice gathered around the virtual campfire of shared screens and a conference bridge.

Three questions. A lot of commonality in the answers

Our questions were simple:

In the three weeks since the workshop, how do you notice your approach to your own brand has changed?

What, if anything, continues to challenge or confuse you?

What do you see as your current learning edges?

Branding isn’t about you. It’a about those you serve

During check-in we asked each participant to share one sentence about their very new experience of thinking like a brand consultant.

“It is really mind opening to think more about the customer and his or her needs than about our organization.”

“I’ve been thinking a lot about our brand promise, about how we help those we serve.”

“The elevator speech is such a valuable frame: How do we actually help those we want to be involved with our brand?”.

“It’s really helpful to pay attention to the difference between features and benefits. It’s so helpful to explain how we help rather than what we do.”

“We are revisiting our strategic goals and value statement and it helps so much to consider the audiences we serve first.”

Notice how, to a person, DIY Campers are learning to consider their audiences and their needs first? Sigh. Makes a papa proud.

Who do you serve?

Because audience definition is so primary and essential we spent a lot of time sharing observations about camper’s experience of identifying best fit customers. Workshop participants will remember that in the context of a one-day seminar we focused only on your ideal customer. After working with the teaching in the field for a few weeks these burgeoning brand thinkers are noticing that every brand has multiple audiences.

“This work is helping me recognize how important the administrators in our college are to our brand. If they don’t understand why we exist, who we serve and how we help, then the story stops right there.” Another shared that she was aware of how different the people her non-profit serves are from those who fund it, and how different they are from at least two more audiences. “Do I need to develop four separate brands?” she asked.

The answer to this question sounds like yes but it is actually no. Yes, you should be aware of how different the needs are of individual audience segments. But most likely you can address these different needs with messaging focused on each segment. “However,” I noted. “There is likely a master brand positioning statement that sits on the top of your whole brand architecture. There is one core brand promise that is relevant and meaningful to all of your audiences.”

Audience segmentation and persona development is a topic that is addressed in the DIY Brand Camp Graduate Seminar. In the meantime, I suggested Googling “persona development”. (And by the way, when searching for information like this, always start with Hubspot.  They produce reams of great content on best practice inbound and relationship marketing.) Here’s a great place to start: The Beginners Guide to Segmentation and Buyer Personas. 

Still to learn

When we asked about learning edges three primary themes emerged.

1. It’s challenging but essential to engage other leaders in your company in the work of core brand identity. Without the context of the brand camp to enroll them it’s a hard job, but the rewards justify the effort.

2. This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. As we said during the camp, you are building a cathedral, there are hundreds of people involved and you may never see it finished. Our coaching? Relax and enjoy the process. Listening to each other and to those you serve, about why you exist and how you help, brings great value to everything your company does.

3. When in doubt, go back to the basics:

Why do you exist?
Who do you serve?
How do you help?

Thank you to a great class of tomorrow’s brand strategists. We are honored to help.

* Thanks to Marty Neumeier 

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