The unimagined potential of your B2B brand: How it can help you prepare for a strong and sure return
Of 1000 concerns you may have for your business these days, your brand may not even make the list. But consider: what is more collaborative, inclusive or generous than a brand?
What better forges relationships through trust, truth and promises delivered? So what needs to be more fully ship-shape, strong and sure, than your brand for when you return? Imagine the lost potential for a clear path forward for your business if it is not.
B2B companies that fully embrace their brands have always entered a different world. They see their businesses in wholly new dimensions and come to expect, even demand, far more from their brands as a result. Why? Arguably, because the effect of a brand on a business should be transporting, transformative, and thrilling; it should be comparable to the aesthetic effect Walter Pater believed art and beauty should have on human experience, arguably never more important than now:
A brand should rouse, startle and shape new thinking, attitudes and behaviors. It should ignite your enterprise internally with the power of your ethos and courage. It should stir new external audiences to sharper, more eager engagement because of your convictions. It should help shape the markets and cultures you operate in and make a statement about the human potential you impact.
How is this possible? What do you mean?
A brand consists of nine elements: all are intangible; all are continual sources of richness, renewal and abundance. Together, they capture a business’s Why? How? What? and What Next?
- Vision: where you want to be in 3-5 to 10 years; your NorthStar, where everyone in the company is headed
- Mission: what everyone in the company needs to do to help make the Vision a reality
- Promises: the guarantees you make to your audiences, and why they should believe you
- Personality: as if a person, who is your company?
- Target Audiences: the range of people who need to know you, choose you, prefer and refer you to others
- Total Offering: in one to two sentences, what anyone gets if they knock on your front door; can everyone in the company convey this message?
- Core Values: your ethos, the “glue” of the organisation
- Name: is it clear, differentiating and memorable?
- Positioning: your difference, your reason for being, why anyone should care?
This is not just a random list. You don’t get to select two or three elements or skip the hard ones. There’s an underlying, highly significant structure to the ordering, alignment and integration of all nine elements, and it is an Octagon:
The timeless, universal power of an octagon
An Octagon, in and of itself, is a powerful, universal, timeless symbol variously signifying regeneration, totality, infinity, rebirth, transition and renewal. In Tao philosophy, an Octagon is used to capture the totality, integration and completeness of man and nature. For Christianity, an Octagon is used to capture renewal and rebirth in baptism and the sacraments. In branding, an Octagon captures completeness and renewal, wholeness and regeneration, at once a total system, integrating all the elements of a well-run organisation: business, marketing, communications and culture.
How does a Brand Octagon capture a company on one page?
Start from the top, 12:00 to 6:00. Keep Positioning, your differentiation and reason for being, at the center holding all the elements together:
- The combination of vision, mission and positioning is the basis of a company’s business plan.
- From 2:00 to 8:00, the combination of targets, total offering and positioning is the basis of a company’s marketing plan.
- From 3:00 to 9:00, the combination of promises, personality and positioning is the basis of a company’s communications plan.
- From 5:00 to 11:00, core values, positioning and name, the combination is the basis of a company’s internal corporate culture.
In less than 300 words, a Brand Octagon captures the organisation itself, its culture, strategies and purpose, and provides the organisation with a blueprint for its future. No silos, no lost efforts; only clarity, purpose, and unity for integrated strategies and cross-functional success.
Wondering how you can use the time now to prepare your brand and use your brand for a stronger, surer re-entry? We hope so.
This view of brand, and its role in a business, elevates and equates the brand to the business. It goes way beyond most views of brand, especially in B2B, because it is based on the power, comprehensiveness and integration of all nine Octagon elements. We’re not just talking logos here! We’re talking pure business strategy, brought to you by your brand.
How do you achieve this for your business? For your brand?
- On the one hand, be prepared to tackle some hard questions concerning your business --why you exist, why anyone should care, what impact you want to make. Chances are very likely your company currently has few responses to these questions; chances are your imminent Brand Octagon lacks critical content.
- On the other, there is a clear path forward. We have already provided some critical thought-exercises to help you and your team (don’t attempt this alone!) to unpack, explore or revise your company’s Vision and Mission, Brand Personality, Target Audiences, and Core Values:
- In subsequent blogs, we will continue to provide further thought-exercises for how to generate or revise your Promises and Positioning. We will also provide guidance for how to implement your Brand Octagon and bring it alive, internally and externally: What next?
The good news:
With a completed Octagon™ for your business, you’ll be able to fully articulate the impact your organisation collectively wants to make on all your audiences, all markets, and realize the avenues vs. competition that this offers. Differentiation and leadership are never far behind a truly transformative branding process-- especially in these challenging times!
Much may be new; much may need to change; so be it. (We predict, e.g., that your current website will show just how outdated the “old” vs. the “new” is.)
- Take inspiration from Walter Pater: believe it or not, your b2b organisation’s courage and convictions will help shape markets and impact human potential, even as it helps you return with strength and security.
- Take guidance from the “tried and trues”—think Nike, Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft. It’s not just their products that compel, it’s their brand stories that continue to startle, rouse, ignite, and thrill.
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