5 Questions for Healthy Brands

Mark Minelli

What does your company or organization do?

Business owners and leaders of non-profit organizations answer this common question regularly and most have a practiced answer that describes a core product, service or mission. Being able to describe what you do is critical, but is it enough?

If you are a business or non-profit leader striving to build market share and loyalty, what else do you need to know. What if there was a series of simple questions that tested brand strength. What would you learn, how might the answers guide brand and business strategy?

While there is nothing magic about these five questions, people who work at organizations with strong brands can answer them as easily as ‘what does your company do?’ and not just at the senior level, everyone who works for the company can answer them. And the answers are consistent.

Who are the people who are important to our future?

Identifying everyone the brand needs to reach is the first step towards positioning and expression, and is instrumental in tapping into the diversity of the organization.

What do we want them to know?

The most successful brands are those whose messaging and behavior truly reflect their core purpose, the single most important idea they want audiences to know. In fact, the methodologies of brand development provide a powerful lens on the ways in which a brand is perceived (both internally and externally) by highlighting the inconsistent, confusing or inadvertent messages that have developed over time in the pursuit of activities not aligned with the core purpose.

Is it something they care about?

You could argue that the only challenge that should concern marketers today is getting consumers to connect with and rally around a shared purpose. This is especially true for nonprofits since the only thing they sell is their purpose. Simply communicating a clearly defined mission is not enough in the era of hyper connectivity and “co-creation”. Brand relevance today can only be achieved by providing opportunities for audience participation.

How will we know they care?

Helping organizations build internal alignment and understand their true value lays the foundation for a more powerful connection to the people they want to reach. It also offers the means to measure, evaluate and report the effectiveness of the brand and the tools to make adjustments.

How will we ensure what we say about ourselves is true?

A critical and under-utilized aspect of branding is staff training, which can include a variety of activities, from role-playing to peer reviews. These workshops help staff understand how the spirit of the brand relates to their role and how they can carry out the organization’s core purpose in their day to day routines.

Knowing the answers to these questions is not only the result of a strong brand, the questions also shape the brand strategy process. Using interviews, surveys and research, a brand strategy process captures what is unique about a company or organization and distills it into a clear and compelling brand idea. Understanding audiences and their motivation is critical to being able to communicate a brand idea effectively. And, because a brand is a promise, being able to deliver on the promise and demonstrating success is equally important. Staying true to the brand builds loyalty and loyal audiences are the holy grail…and more powerful than any marketing initiative.

It’s also common wisdom that things evolve. The economy changes, consumer interests change, generations grow up and new ones are born. Brands evolve too. Coca-Cola has evolved, Ford has evolved, Apple is constantly evolving. Non-profits and cultural organizations are no exception. the Metropolitan Museum in New York has changed significantly since its founding in 1870. The Peabody Essex Museum (now PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts is another example. When they built a new museum and reorganized their collection, rebranding played a critical role in shaping the ‘new’ museum and helped increase attendance 300% and membership 200%. Read more about Minelli, Inc.’s work with PEM here.

The process works. Want help answering questions, contact me at mark@minelli.com.