high school basketball team

Brand Strategy: Internal Branding

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Avoid misplaced brand aspiration: embrace what makes you unique and strong.

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My high school basketball career is memorable for all the wrong reasons.  As much as I loved to play and envisioned flashes of greatness that electrified the crowd, it was simply not meant to be. Let’s just say that my basketball aspirations were not aligned with my athletic realities.

Like people, brands are each attributed with a unique set of strengths, values, passions, and personality traits. A brand represents the essence of a product or service – where it excels and where it falls short. This underscores an important principle when developing your brand strategy: great brands have a clear, accurate understanding of themselves. They are built from the inside-out.

Misplaced Brand Aspiration

When internal brand clarity is missing from your company culture, detrimental elements can creep in and create all kinds of brand crazy. Like my short-lived basketball career, I call this misplaced aspiration.

Misplaced aspiration can happen to any brand. Let’s face it, the trends and trappings of every day life and business can be a huge temptation. Sometimes it begins in the form of discovered inspiration:

“Did you see Huge Brand’s new website? Wow. We should be leveraging RumbleHop on our home page to engage rural millennials!”

Or maybe, it’s this week’s competitive Eureka! moment:

“Disruptive Competitor just launched their new Acme XLT. We’d better retool our Widget 1000 to compete with the XLT!”  

Feel familiar? I’m not saying that these types of questions aren’t legitimate. But how do you strategically manage the parade of opportunities that march through your inbox? Once you start chasing things that take you outside of your brand position and vision, things can go from proactive to reactive in a hurry.

Inside-Out Brands

This is where a rock-solid brand strategy can help separate the important trends from distracting trappings. Your brand, clearly understood and embraced as part of your organization’s cultural fabric, will serve as your strategic North Star. The best ideas will be elevated because they contribute to the brand, while less valuable options will be more quickly set aside.

Getting Started

If your brand needs to be shored up from the inside-out, start by articulating your brand for your internal audiences. Document it so it can be shared and socialized thoughout the organization. Here are four key building blocks to guide your efforts:

Company History. You company’s origin story is a rich source for understanding what sets you apart. Identify the core values and customer needs that have been a constant force since day one. Look past the timeline dates and find the connecting points.

Mission-Vision. Usually relegated to obscure web pages and new hire materials, corporate Mission and Vision statements must be in sync with your brand positioning. Clear purpose drives the internal engagement that powers your brand.

Core Strengths. Articulate your top three strengths from a customer point of view. Celebrate and embrace your advantages with unwavering commitment – even at the expense of other things that are further down the list.

Personality. Obsessive, joyful, relentless, insightful, hard core, principled. Like people, brands have a small handful of defining personality traits. Identify your brand’s distinguishing attributes like it’s a person. Look for the distinctive, not the general.

The Freedom to Thrive

It’s unforgettable when you encounter someone who understands what they are wired for, and pursues it with a sense of abandon and adventure. No one would pay to hear Stephen Curry sing, or Simone Biles dunk a basketball, or Bono stick a balance beam dismount. But the world wouldn’t be the same if these three individuals were distracted from their true callings.

The same is true for brands. Build yours from the inside-out. No other brand or organization can do exactly what your brand does – embrace what makes you unique and strong and watch it transform your business.

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