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Make Better Brand Decisions: 5 Guidelines for Brand Filters

Brand_Strategy_Digital_Design_Toronto_LA_New_YorkHow does your brand behave? What values influence or inform its actions? How do we make decisions that are “on brand”, and how do we communicate consistently?

Employees at all levels make decisions everyday in their ongoing efforts to do their jobs. Everyone wants to perform well and make the best decisions possible, but what might be a good decision for one doesn’t seem to be the right decision for another—does this sound familiar? Not to mention whether it is the right decision for your brand. So the question becomes: How are you arming yourself, your staff, and your entire organization to make intelligent, enlightened decisions?

On any given day we help our clients make business and creative decisions that fundamentally shape their brands and take their businesses into new directions entirely. We use what we call brand filters to help teams build consensus, make strategic choices, and ultimately communicate more thoughtfully and effectively.

Think about how brand filters can help inform a company’s behaviour: Despite your best intentions to remain objective, decisions are often made based on certain degrees of subjectivity. Compiled upon each other, subjective decisions can lead to inconsistencies in positioning and messaging which will affect how you are building your brand. An objective criteria set, or brand filters is essential.

Brand filters are a series of key words—no more than three or four— that describe the essence of your brand, your personality, your beliefs and values. They represent what you stand for.

The example I like to give is Apple. Two of their brand filters are “simple” and “innovative.” Although you wouldn’t see either of these words in their advertising or marketing materials, you can see how everything (from copywriting to product design) is informed by these ideals, these filters.

Too often we see good thinking and creative options discarded because a decision maker is not onside or because they are afraid to take a “risk” so they say. When you have clear brand filters in place, you can vet against them, and evaluate the level to which one option or the other will play into your goals and advance your brand.

The hard part is then not making the decision itself, but rather nailing down the brand filters. Remember, as with the Apple example, brand filters shouldn’t be confused with words that you put in front of your audience; instead, they are internal, “behind-the-scenes” filters for making better, objective decisions and communicating consistently as a team.

Choosing your brand filters: Here are five guidelines for selecting brand filters:

1 – Clarity
Pick words that are easily understood for everyone and leave no room for confusion or interpretation. Get specific.

2 – Selectivity
When narrowing down to those few keywords, “few” is the cue: less is more in this case. We all have a tendency to want to do and be more than we should; trying to communicate too much can actually work against you and confuse your message.

3 – Derived from your positioning
All the words should be derived from your organization’s raison d’être especially with respect to how you behave as an organization. But do keep one word that describes your focus or industry so that decisions can be vetted against what that might represent as well. For example, you can see how “natural, educational, pertaining to childbirth” for “The College of Midwives” versus “natural, educational, pertaining to forests” for “The Park Ecological Centre”, would lead you to make different decisions.

4 – Value-driven
The words you select should describe your organization’s personality as they will affect and inform the business decisions you make and the tone of your materials (both visually and in the use of language). An organization that is “fun and easy-going” speaks in a very different tone than one who is “compassionate”.

5 – Demonstrable
Most importantly, your brand filters need to be demonstrable. Don’t say “innovation;” demonstrate it. They have to be true. You need to reflect those ideals through your behaviors, your actions, your materials, your engagement with your supporters, etc.

Carefully selected brand filters, like your vision and mission will serve you a long time. The key, after all, to making good decisions is to eliminate the “bad” options by removing them entirely and leave yourself with only good options to choose from!



image source: Flickr – Creative Commons: Unevolved Brands by Graham Smith –