In branding we talk a lot about tone¬—the tone of the words and visuals. We focus on tone because it’s the best way we have to reinforce the essence of what a brand stands for. While we can say all day long what we stand for in words, the words are not nearly as effective at conveying what a brand stands for as tone.
The challenge with tone is that often times not everyone agrees as to what it should be—even when we may have a very well defined list of core values, a killer mission statement, or a memorable tagline.
As important as core values, mission statements and taglines are, they mean nothing if the tone is not genuine. And if we’re not on the same page with the tone, the tone we wind up conveying is conflicting and inconsistent, which can do more harm than good.
If an actor reads lines without conveying emotional content, we say this actor is not believable. If a company conveys a tone that is not consistent with the stated values of the company, then we have a hard time trusting the company.
Taking the time to align ourselves around a tone for a brand means that we have to feel our way into a brand. And there’s that scary word again: feel. No matter how much we may think that the world of business and commerce is an intellectual, scientifically based medium, the reality is that in order to succeed through creativity and innovation we have to move beyond a reliance on our thinking minds alone, and venture into our inner soul.
The truly disruptive brands in the world are the ones we feel viscerally—we can say that we “get” them. Apple is a brand we feel, so too with Southwest Airlines, Red Bull, Tesla, Google, Ben & Jerry’s, and so many others.
Becoming a brand that people feel, means that we need to venture to a deeper place, personally and professionally. It means that we come together as a tribe to explore and envision what we’re about as a company.
And this process is not all a bed of roses. It can mean that we need to hash things out, even argue and debate, but at the end of the day we agree that we stand for something of meaning—something that extends beyond mere financial performance.
In this way we “intentionally” design a personality of a brand, and once we live that personality, together, and in alignment with the values of the brand, we achieve what Simon Sinek refers to as the “Golden Circle,” which is the place where WHAT we do is in alignment with WHY we do it.
This process is also equally as important on the individual level. The difference is that for the individual, the personal level, the process looks like soul searching and courage building—searching our inner soul for those things that truly drive us in life, and building the courage to actually live the life we were meant to live.
Stay tuned for my next post on “The Inner Soul of Personal Branding” where we’ll explore personal side of branding further.