Why purpose and guardianship make a difference to your brand

When we talk about ‘brand’ at Pixeldot, we’re talking about more than just a logo or a colour palette. To us, brand is the organising principle behind a business, it’s the thread that holds the company narrative together and helps answer questions for your team and your clients. A good brand should be a rallying force empowering your team with a clear objective, whether that’s Honda’s The Power of Dreams or Apple’s Think Different. Brand underpins how we approach our work, and how others approach us. We expect to receive a car that has been born out of the imaginations of Honda’s engineers, and to experience something alternative in the market from Apple with their myriad products. When we encounter experiences of a brand that misalign with the core message of that business, it’s both jarring and disappointing.

Businesses have always been criticised for dubious practises or incongruent behaviour, but as we head into a post-fact era - spurred on by a growing sense of political and social divisiveness at home and abroad and the readiness of social media - integrity and authenticity are now commodities for brands to value. For example, Airbnb’s brand slogan is Belong Anywhere — a phrase centred around creating an authentic sense of belonging, community and unity around the world — but in early 2017 they found themselves under close scrutiny for a string of tax concessions that seemed to only work to the benefit of Airbnb’s commercial rental operations, rather than the communities behind them.

Airbnb logo development — putting their values at the core of their identity
Cash-strapped cities often agree to the concessions because Airbnb offers a carrot in the form of a big check, and because they lack the resources to conduct long-running investigations into the company and its software. — Jeff Roberts writes in Fortune.

The hard work Airbnb have put in empowering and scaling a grassroots community of home-sharers; through curated neighbourhood guides to ‘experiences’ and even their logo, now is at risk of being sabotaged through the poor management, or press relations around the ethical principles of its service. Brought to the fore by the tax concession fiasco that opens new legislative holes for other businesses to exploit, Airbnb’s service is now being questioned on all fronts. They have now been criticised for driving up rent prices in Toronto, up-selling accommodation meant to be affordable social housing, and creating an emerging culture for transient, nuisance neighbours. The flood gates are open, and sadly it might be coming ahead of a recently tipped 2018 IPO (watch this space).

The reality is that if you’re investing in your brand, you need to invest in its brand guardianship.

Whilst guardianship of your brand should be a behavioural knee-jerk of your C-Suite, it’s often the day-to-day responsibility of your whole team. From ensuring bid documents leave the office with the correct brand application, to making clear, decisive calls on how to react to a social event (e.g Nordstrom dropping the Ivanka Trump brand) or even implementing new internal software or processes.

A few years ago, I came across a buildings merchant who, in the comfortable warmth of their management offices, preached ‘trust’ as one of the core values of their business; yet across the carpark in the warehouse, staff who had been with the company over two decades were still subjected to random frisk searches. When we discussed the huge conflict in how the brand spoke about itself and the actions that it took, the company realised that they had been inhibiting their own growth. By presenting a disconnected experience of the brand to their own staff, they’d built an “us and them” culture that blocked the majority of their workforce from truly engaging with the company. It had led to a resentment from the head office that those in the warehouse were only there for the money and didn’t ‘care’ about the brand. By stepping in and unplugging those behaviours that had broken the sense of trust between the company and its’ employees, they could open the opportunity to create brand ambassadors. Staff who could become more willing to contribute to the growth of the company.

We often see companies employ huge teams of marketers and designers, but not a single Brand Guardian.

If you work in a big organisation, how many inconsistent presentations of the brand can you think of? Chances are, quite a few; from cultural, to micro-sites, to values and documents. The kicker is, if you’re a client or consumer looking at engaging with another business, it only takes a quick Google or Twitter search to unearth those holes in a brand…

About Pixeldot

At Pixeldot, we’re working with our clients to eliminate the holes in their brand thread by building strong brand principles that unite the company and its outputs. If you want to talk to us about creating, or discovering your brand thread, or our brand guardianship services then come and book an office hours session with us for a chat.

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