Diving deeper into your organization's story can give you the perspective and renewed sense of purpose to drive sustainable growth.
Your customers and donors are placing a premium on authenticity, now more than ever. Most of us want to know that what we're buying, supporting, or following is real - and that the internal aspects of the brand have an impact beyond the bottom line.
By contrast, many of us as leaders find it tempting to focus on the external aspects of growth - more customers, more revenue, or more followers. Or put another way, we take the outside-in approach. But what if there was a way to grow your brand from the inside-out?
At CiV Digital, this inside-out journey of brand depth is at the core of all we do and it's one of the things we most love doing with our clients and partners.
What is your brand's story? What are its values? How do you want to connect your mission to your operations and impact the world or your local community beyond 'giving back?'
This 5-step guide will help you uncover your brand’s hidden growth potential through diving deeper into your own story. Let's get started!
Table of Contents
1. Defining brand depth
Let's start by defining what we, at CiV Digital, mean by brand depth. In a nutshell, brand depth is a strategic process businesses & non-profits use to learn more about the values & practices that sets them apart in the marketplace.
Engaging in brand depth is an opportunity to take a step back and to understand what makes your brand tick - what drives its success. It enables you to discover the power of having a reinvigorated sense of purpose and how staying true to your deepest-held values can be a catalyst for growth.
There are many ways to measure brand depth, but we like to think of it in terms of four key components of a brand’s formation: history, identity, mobility, and impact. To have depth, your brand must have a strong sense of all four. And the exciting part is finding creative ways to connect these core values to your business practices.
Over time, the need to compete and win in the market can overwhelm our best intentions as leaders and teams. We lose ourselves in the burnout or the disappointment of failed initiatives. It doesn’t have to be that way. The pursuit of brand depth doesn't require a crisis, but it does require a desire to get back to the deeper things that fuel our daily work.
2. Cultivating curiosity as a mindset.
The first step in pursuing your brand's depth is to ask the question, "How well do we know ourselves as an organization?". This involves being curious about who you are and what you're doing now in light of who you say you want to be and want to accomplish in the future. And it involves being open to pursuing all of the questions that flow from the first one. As a mentor of mine once said, "If the question you're asking doesn't lead to more questions, you're not asking the right question!"
Any brand depth exercise begins with gaining a better understanding of (or re-acquainting yourself with) your history, mission, and values - the core elements that make you who you are. It's only by understanding these foundational aspects of your brand that allows you to tell your story in a way that resonates with your team, your customers or donors.
"The first step in uncovering your brand's depth is to ask the question "how well do we know ourselves?" as an organization. This involves being curious about who you are and what you're doing now in light of who you say you want to be and want to accomplish."
3. Start at the beginning.
Your brand's history is the foundation upon which everything else is built. It's the origin story of how your business or non-profit came to be, and it shapes the way you see yourselves (and how others see you). To connect with your customers on a deeper level, it's important to be able to articulate this history and identity in a way that is both meaningful & relatable.
Share the 'Eureka!' moment One way to do this is to unpack the story of your founding - what problem were you solving in the world that led you to start this organization? What was the 'eureka!' moment that set everything in motion?
Highlight the decisions or circumstances that have shaped you Another approach is to focus on key moments or decisions in your history that have defined who you are today. Maybe for you, there was a time you made a tough call that went against the grain. Or maybe there was a time you took an unpopular stand for something you believed in. Even a misstep has its place in helping your audience understand how your brand has grown and evolved. These are the stories that show customers & donors who you are and how your values have impacted the way you have made decisions. Organizations are shaped by the decisions they make and help mold your sense of yourself and reinforce the values you hold most dear.
Celebrate the people on the journey with you And finally, don't forget to include the people who have been part of your journey. Customers, employees, donors, and other supporters all play a role in shaping your brand's identity. When you can connect with them on a personal level, it creates a deeper sense of loyalty and connection to your organization.
Some questions to consider:
What are the most important events in your organization's history?
What do they say about who you are as a brand?
How have they shaped the way you operate today?
Who are the people that have been most instrumental in your journey?
Have you collected and curated these stories?
4. Remind yourself who you are.
Your brand's identity is what makes you different - it's what sets you apart from the competition. It's how you see yourselves, and how you want to be seen by the world. Your brand can express its identity in many ways.
Once you have a greater understanding of your organization's identity, it's time to start telling your story. This doesn't mean simply listing off facts & figures, but rather painting a picture of who you are and what you stand for using language & imagery that captures the essence of your brand.
Some questions to consider:
What are the core values that guide your organization?
How do you want to be perceived by the world? By your own teams?
What kind of language & imagery best represents your brand?
How can you infuse these elements into your marketing & communications materials?
5. Bring the who, what and why closer together. (Repeat.)
Think about some of the most iconic brands in the world. What sets them apart? In many cases, the difference is found in how a brand's identity evolves into tighter connections between what they do and why they do it. This leads to brand experiences that are both aspirational and inspirational, and help change the game in their industry or even the world at large.
Case Study: Patagonia 'Don't Buy this Jacket' Campaign
One of the things that makes Patagonia so unique, for example, is its dedication to the environment. Historically, the topic of the environment in the U.S. has been a politically-charged one. It was against this backdrop that Patagonia began in 1973 as principally a niche clothing manufacturer for climbing.throughout their history, the company has been committed to producing the highest quality outdoor gear while minimizing its impact on the planet. This ethos extends to Patagonia’s messaging around their products, which are designed to be durable and to last for years, reducing the need to produce new clothing.
The company's 'Don't buy our jacket' ads in the New York Times (see image below) generated buzz and goodwill for Patagonia (and sales, too; some customers inevitably bought the jacket!) while raising awareness of the company's Common Threads Initiative. In this way, Patagonia's commitment to the environment – including their founder, Yvon Chouinard, literally giving the company away in 2022 to fight climate change – is not just a marketing gimmick but is woven into every aspect of its business.
Over to you: Benefits of Brand Depth process
Over the past decade, we've conducted numerous brand depth & discovery engagements for leading business, startup & nonprofit clients for the past decade.
Here are a few of the many benefits that come along with committing to a brand depth process:
A greater understanding of your organization's identity & how it has evolved over time
A stronger connection to your core values & what sets you apart from the competition
The ability to infuse your brand identity into every aspect of your business, from onboarding to marketing & communications to product design
Greater authenticity & transparency, which can build trust & loyalty among your stakeholders
A framework for making decisions about the future direction of your organization
Based on our experience, here are five core business practices that help maximize the value of the brand depth process.
Prioritize the process. Establish the brand depth process as a priority for the organization. This includes the sponsorship of key leaders and reinforcing the connections between the brand depth efforts and the core work of the organization.
Engage your team. In the rush to collect customer feedback and donor input, don't miss the opportunity to engage your internal teams & stakeholders,
Make space for digging deep. Creating space for the in-depth exploration required for meaningful discovery,
Design plans to do something with what you learn. Create coordinated plans to apply what's been learned across teams and departments, and
Keep connecting the dots to create a meaningful legacy. The tighter the connections between your mission, identity, storytelling, and operations the more you set your organization up for a meaningful legacy. It requires a long-term commitment to revisit 'open' questions often, and to develop the tools you need to assess your alignment.
Next step: Take a Selfie service / Impact strategy
If you're interested in exploring the brand depth process for your organization, we offer a Take a Selfie service that can help you get started. Take a Selfie is a novel approach to brand growth that creates a snapshot of who you are and where you are as an organization -- your identity, mission, history, and goals. As we like to say, 'we'll take a step back to make a leap forward.'
Our team of brand & performance marketing experts will work with you to uncover the potential within your brand's story and develop a impact strategy for infusing it into every aspect of your business. Click here to Contact Us.