by Roger Sametz
The world has changed. It’s not about creating one-way, company-to-customer impressions anymore—if it ever was. Sure, you still project your desired identity and messages into the marketplace. But now customers and commentators put their experiences and expectations there, too. It all works together to create what we’ve come to agree is a “brand.”
In today’s multi-modal, tweeting world, your challenge is to build a brand that is compelling and cohesive at an institutional level and meaningful to different people, differently—, by making the most of those communications you can control—and by influencing, and providing context for, those you can’t.
How? By creating and arranging a mosaic of inputs and ideas—both organization- and crowd-generated—each tile carefully positioned relative to one another to form a brand mural that people can understand and believe in—and, importantly, care enough about to pay for and tell their friends about.
By creating and arranging a mosaic of inputs and ideas—both organization- and crowd-generated—each tile carefully positioned relative to one another to form a brand mural that people can understand and believe in—and, importantly, care enough about to pay for and tell their friends about.
Hone your vision
With so much information (and noise) out there, it’s more important than ever that you have a clear vision for your enterprise—what it stands for, promises, and delivers—a vision that will help you to arrange and manage the different tiles of your mosaic with intent, help you to make necessary choices, and provide context for the tiles you, or others, place. Distilling this vision to its irreducible core also makes it easier for others to remember it, and pass it on.
Build for different points of view
Some constituents will stand back from your mosaic to see the big picture; others will be looking, up close, at individual tiles, at specific aspects of your brand. Understand through quantitative and qualitative research—and from feedback in different forms—what the different “ways in” to your enterprise are—and make sure you provide these points of entry and resonance.
Since conversations among consumers and commentators are happening anyway (and affect your brand), you can’t create your mosaic without them. You can either use them to add detail to your identity (via user experiences, feedback, and recommendations), or risk having them scrawled across your carefully constructed brand (via negative blog posts, tweets, or YouTube videos). While you can’t directly control what’s said, you can determine the context of how it’s heard—and show yourself open to dialogue.
Match expression to meaning
Two mosaics with the same subject can look very different based on the materials chosen and how they’re deployed: highly-glazed, brightly colored, rectilinear tiles will have a very different affect than will matte, muted, randomly-chipped tiles. How you approach language, design, color, imagery—and customer engagement—can help differentiate you from your competitors and reinforce the brand meaning you want out there. Project light—and dark. We don’t typically talk about both the “light” and “dark” of our companies. And, of course, we all want to focus on what’s great—and ignore (or more dangerously, hide) what isn’t. But transparency is no longer a choice. Your only choice is whether you embrace active or passive transparency: whether you want to determine how to address the light and dark or leave it up to your “viewers” to bring the dark to light.
Plan and proceed
It takes time to build your mosaic; you can’t do it all at once, or alone. So you’ve a choice as to which tiles you select and insert, and when—and how you incorporate the contributions of others—expected and otherwise. How you create and reveal your mural—and how you replace damaged or mis-placed tiles—can reinforce (or not) the brand you’re trying to advance.
Thinking of your brand as a mosaic—probably one always in process—might change how you think of your role. You may have focused only on what you could control: your logo, tagline, brochures, ads, website, events. But as the planner and facilitator of your brand mosaic, you have the opportunity to anticipate and arrange inputs and impressions that might previously have just been scary. Thinking differently, you can create a compelling, of-today identity that will be durable and meaningful—to all those whose interest and support are important to your success.