A brand platform is a powerful asset for a company. Like a business plan or yearly forecasting report, it should be a foundational document that guides your business forward.
But is it?
Too often, brand platforms are left on the shelf when critical business decisions are being made. Let’s explore why this happens by understanding:
One could assume a brand platform is another name for a brand guide. It’s not.
A brand guide is how your brand’s story is told.
A brand platform is your brand’s story.
The two work in combination but serve distinct purposes. Among the most significant points of difference is the user.
Too often, brand platforms are left on the shelf when critical business decisions are being made.
Brand guides are tools for in-house marketing departments, sales teams, human resource staff, and outside creative partners such as advertising agencies—basically, anyone who produces branded materials.
A brand platform should be read by everyone in a company and brought into most business discussions. It encapsulates everything about the brand, from its reason for being, to essential details about the audience.
Agencies and brand strategists all have their own unique format and definitions for a brand platform. At Olive & Company, our brand platform entails:
What a brand stands for, the unwavering attributes that define what matters to it. Planted both in current and aspirational objectives, brand values should be easily identified and validated, proven, and supported through organizational efforts.
The characteristics that shape the tone and personality of a brand. These encompass human traits such as trustworthiness, confidence, modesty, a sense of humor, etc. The brand personality should be easily identifiable by the audience. It’s important to define brand characteristics clearly. “Friendly,” for example, can be someone who engages in conversation easily. It can also be a person who is kind, but keeps to themself and stays out of other people’s business. Which “friendly” is your brand? Don’t make users guess. Add clarity when presenting brand characteristics. The brand personality will work in conjunction with the brand’s Tone of Voice. They do not have to mirror each other, but they should work hand in hand.
Characteristics and directives that shape how a brand’s messages are written and presented. Does the tone help the audience learn, feel supported, make them laugh, etc.? The Tone of Voice commonly consists of human traits such as intelligent, detailed, concise, informative, accurate. Brand Tone of Voice works in conjunction with Personality. They do not have to mirror each other, but they should work hand in hand.
Critical, top-line concepts that differentiate a brand from competitors. Key themes speak directly to customer needs and wishes in a compelling manner. Often these are three to four words that convey what each brand touchpoint should strive to convey and make the audience feel/experience. Like characteristics, context is needed to build understanding. If a brand theme is “innovation,” include how the brand is innovative or achieves innovation. For example, 3M famously allows employees to use 15% of their paid time to chase new ideas. This program is how Post-It® Notes were invented. Providing brand themes as words is not enough. Include a story or example behind the theme. Provide reasons to believe so users can use them properly.
The purpose is the brand’s reason for existing. It is the ultimate culmination of the products/services a brand offers. While best rooted in plausible goals, in some cases, the purpose can be an aspirational/culture-shaping idea such as curing a disease or solving an environmental issue.
A brand’s introduction to the audience. A positioning statement shapes perception and understanding by answering who the product is for, what category it fits into, what it does, and how it delivers on its promise.
Answers the question, why your brand? A Unique Value Proposition declares how a product/service distinguishes itself from other options the audience may consider.
The ultimate goal of the brand’s journey. It should have enough truth and emotional pull to act as a rallying cry that inspires people to engage as clients, partners, or employees.
What do you understand about the decision-maker? Audience personas are a compilation of their needs, motivations, challenges, and influences that can be addressed to sway interest, foster adoption, build preference, and earn ongoing advocacy.
It’s an enlightening process that causes many organizations to contemplate core issues for the first time.
A brand platform can take a few weeks to many months to create, depending on the complexity of the organization, the depth of research, and other factors. It’s an enlightening process that causes many organizations to contemplate core issues for the first time.
When a company invests this much effort into creating a brand platform, it makes sense to extract the most value out of it.
Let’s find out how they can put their brand platform to work.
A brand platform is most effective when shared throughout an organization. After completing a brand platform, the first task is getting employees to read, understand, and internalize it.
There are several ways of introducing a brand platform to current employees. It could be through a special event, training sessions, company meetings, an intranet, a learning system, or other processes that fit your organization.
It’s strongly suggested that the brand platform is accessible to everyone. It’s also recommended that the brand platform be stored with complimenting resources, including the brand guide, logos, fonts, and other assets that creators will use.
Olive often hosts a training session for clients upon completion of a brand platform project. We’ll guide key people through it, discuss what each component means, answer questions, ensure understanding, and demonstrate how it can be applied to specific situations.
Introducing a brand platform to employees can also be a responsibility of a human resources department. We propose reviewing the brand platform as part of the onboarding process. It doesn’t take long and often leads to valuable discussions. Additionally, new hires appreciate having a defined vision—and that’s what a brand platform provides. Each component within the brand platform establishes what employees should strive to achieve and deliver.
How are decisions made at your company? If you’re like many organizations, decisions big and small might be made in a vacuum.
In that scenario, a decision-maker bases their choice on an immediate need or concern. That could be budget, time, convenience, mood, etc. Without referencing a brand platform for guidance, important business decisions will become inconsistent.
Conversely, using a brand platform builds a unified effort with decisions that support each other. It keeps the entire organization working toward the same experience, vision, and objectives.
Using a brand platform will accelerate decisions. It makes a choice easier and more on-brand than going with your gut.
Say you need to acquire a widget for your company’s offering. You might be tempted to pick the lowest-cost option. Ask, would that choice align with the brand positioning statement? It will depend if the positioning statement identifies your company as a low-cost or a high-quality option.
That’s just one example of how a brand platform can shape a decision, and there are many others.
The vision statement, values, and even audience personas can add further layers of consideration to your decision-making process.
This may seem like a complicated process to arrive at a simple decision. Don’t worry; it’s not. We promise you will not get bogged down in endless and potentially conflicting considerations.
Using a brand platform will accelerate decisions. It makes a choice easier and more on-brand than going with your gut. The brand platform also helps you avoid costly bad decisions. The more you consider the brand platform in decisions, the more seamless its implementation becomes.
For starters, keep using a brand platform simple. As you confront decisions, consider how each choice might:
These considerations go a long way in creating decisions that support your brand and ultimately help achieve its goals.
As things change, the brand platform may need to change, too. Factors such as new leadership, evolving product lines, or changing social climate could impact what a brand platform contains.
A brand platform is not a stagnant document. It should be reviewed periodically to confirm it is relevant, accurate, and actionable. We will add one note of caution. Be sure any changes are the result of a thoughtful process. It’s wise to involve outside perspectives in the process, such as a strategic branding partner. A brand platform sets a standard for your company. Even seemingly simple changes can have unexpected consequences that alter that standard in unintended ways.
We hope you see how powerful a brand platform can be for your company. We also want you to understand it is not a brand guide. It’s a tool that impacts every facet of your organization. It’s as foundational to success as your products or services. With this newfound understanding, you may also have some questions about your brand platform. Things like:
Each of these questions is a fantastic conversation starter. So let’s talk. Olive & Company is an expert at brand platform strategy. We help organizations big and small create, implement, use, and revise brand platforms. We can discuss our brand platform process, provide advice, and help you get every bit of value possible.
Let’s connect and do great things with your brand platform.