Over the next 7 weeks, I want to share a different blog post each week pulled from Syrup's framework for brand clarity. I've been really inspired by my team's process to help build great brands. My hope is to inspire both your organization and you as an individual, to better own your brand, the foundation for any future meaningful connection. Some of these steps require some real homework and introspection. There's only so much a blog can really offer. However, I hope it sparks some deeper thoughts and action.
I love Simon Sinek's TED Talk "How Great Leaders Inspire Action." I've probably watched it 5 times, recommended it a dozen more, and even made my teenage children watch it. If you haven't seen it, click the link above. You will be inspired! Along with inspiration from Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin, I've incorporated Sinek's "The Golden Circle" directly into my marketing toolbox.
At Syrup, we call our foundational exercise for brand clarity, "Purpose and Power." During the exercise, we get the company stakeholders talking, and help guide them to a place of clarity around their mission, vision, purpose, culture and values, all of which are foundational to building a strong brand. However, I noticed a slight difference between our framework and Sinek's. Where Sinek "starts with the why," Syrup's process starts with identity, the who.
I asked our creative director, Benj Miller, about the disparity in our approach and Sinek's. Benj replied, "Well, first of all, it's not really a linear process. As we help company's uncover their purpose, their identity is revealed at the same time.
That really resonated with me. When I think about my favorite brands and their leaders, they all seem to have a strong sense of self, and a genuine love for their customers. That's what impressed me most about Taylor Swift. She knows who she is. She's comfortable in her own skin. She knows her audience and genuinely loves them. It took Bono 2 decades, but he finally found peace with who he was and whom he wanted to serve with his platform. He used to advocate for everything, and he was ineffective. Then, he found a laser-focus on whom he would serve, the world's poor, and has been a part of saving millions of lives because of it. Great businesses operate from great cultures, which have at their core dynamic leaders who know themselves and love their customers.
Maybe you're not in the seat to help your entire company go through this kind of introspection, but you can take advantage of the next few moments, and a new year, to do a little personal evaluation on your own.
1. Who Am I? For far too long, I answered that question by what I did. I'm a musician. I'm a marketer. I'm a hard worker. I design merchandise. I'm a husband. I'm a father. I've won this award or that. It's the first line of our LinkedIn bios, the title on our business card, etc. We define ourselves by our trades, our accomplishments, and our relationships. But, that's not who we are. Transitioning from being a full-time musician to the "real world" of business, I've walked through the valley of personal identity. It's been challenging, the hardest year of my life. You'll probably need to walk through some adversity yourself to truly find your identity. Isn't that the theme of every great story from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings to Batman to Tommy Boy? The hero discovers his/her true identity through a journey of adversity. As a person of faith, it's impossible for me to arrive at an answer to a question of identity apart from scripture. But, for practical purposes, I'll give you a simple math equation.
(Your Superpower + Your Greatest Joy) x Your Audience = Identity
What makes you happiest? What brings you the most fulfillment? Dig deeper than what you do to get paid. Dig into the connections that are happening while you're doing it. For me, I thought it was making music, but it wasn't. It was being a part of a team, and helping to create something that inspired our audience, and gave them hope. Music was the vehicle, but I don't need to be a musician to do that. My greatest joys in life have come when I've inspired others. That's why I love coaching youth sports. That's why I loved being part of a faith-based band. That's why I jump at opportunities for public speaking. That's why I love networking. That's why I'm really enjoying blogging here. It does not feel like work to me. It's an opportunity for me to be myself. For some of you, all the things I listed above sound more painful than a root canal. It's not how you're wired. But, you are wired for greatness! What is your superpower? What can you do better than anyone else? Go deep. Go deeper than a job skill. You have a unique gifting, a superpower that can make this world a better place. Your life will be more meaningful and your company will be better when you put it to use.
2. Whom do I serve? This is a question that many of us are afraid to answer. I know in the music space, many artists refuse to engage in this. They want to be generalists who make music for "anybody that will listen." It's a horrible approach. I took the Seth Godin Tribes approach, and it served Third Day well. Our most meaningful seasons as a band and brand came when we were unashamedly focused on the audience we were serving, and trying to add value to their lives. Our most frustrating seasons came when we were chasing growth by focusing outside of the audience we were uniquely suited to serve. I like artists that build success by spillover, not crossover. The best artists make music for a specific audience. The best songs are often written for or about a specific person. The same is true for your business, and for your personal identity. Are you trying to serve everybody? Or, do you take the time to really identify your ideal client persona? Do you know your customers? Do you know their names? Does your company exist to genuinely help make their lives better? You should have a genuine affection for your audience and customers. If you don't, you'll just be faking it, and anything you try and build will be placed upon a less than a solid foundation.