SMART BUSINESS

The 6 Statements — Old and New — That Make Up Your Brand’s DNA

You and your brand have been raised — as we all have — on the three cardinal company policies every legit business needs. Well, they aren’t necessarily policies so much as they are statements: mission, vision, and values. These parts of this trusted triangle aren’t just marketing fluff. They make up the first primary sequence in the DNA of your brand. From corporation to coffee-shop freelancer, we all need a framework to develop in; they create that. Ideally, all other policies and practices flow and grow from them.

Admit it, you have probably paid (maybe even multiple times) a highly over-priced consultant, or at least a good copywriter, to craft each of them, after whisking away your team on a day-long “retreat” to brainstorm about them — an often mind-numbing group activity fueled by mimosas and donuts and led by a Facilitator (yes, capital F) with a very expensive invoice. I have been that guy. Thank you for the check.

For those new to the world of The Brand, let’s review the “old ones.” And then we’ll get to the “new ones.” When I say “old,” I don’t mean outdated. I mean these three statements are the OG. They have been around for a very long time. They are the cornerstones of brand-building. (That said, it never hurts to update them and make sure they reflect the current product and that the current product reflects them.)

Your mission is about those you serve: your customers. This is a 1–2 sentence statement that captures your purpose. Every word matters, so make each one count. Some questions to ponder: Why do you exist in the world? What do you offer the people who are paying for your product or service? What problem are you solving for your customers? What is the point of your brand? Make sure your product and your business model back up your mission, or it is pointless.

Your vision is about you. Who do you, the brand, want to be in the world? In your industry? What’s it all look like in five years, ten years, or when the potential of the brand is fully manifest? Mission and vision get confused constantly, but they are distinct: the former is about your customer base, the latter is about your company. They obviously work together, but they serve different purposes. In tandem, they propel you forward with purpose and goals.

Your values are the 3–5 beliefs or behaviors you embrace — and commit to honoring — in order to fulfill both the mission and the vision. What is important to you in the culture of the organization? How should your team behave? What do you value that drives the creativity and/or consistency of your brand? You can’t value everything or you wind up valuing nothing, so be specific and focused when choosing your values.

That’s all Brand 101 and par for the course. But it’s time to refresh. It’s 2021. The world has changed. Capitalism shut down, and it is creaking back open. In the new world that is emerging, there are three more statements your brand now needs. Your DNA just morphed, and there is a new sequence. Meet The New Three. Yes, you will have to develop these, write them, then prominently display them on your website and brand materials. But you’ll also have to live them in your company policies and on-the-ground day-to-day practices. If you’re the hiring type, call the Facilitator. If you’d rather do it yourself, here is a helpful guide:

Your Safety Statement • Your Safety Statement or Care Commitment is your brand’s declaration that you will — and how you will — care for your workers, your vendors, and your customers. In a modern world ravaged by disease and mysterious “aerosols,” how will you protect those who interact with your brand? How will you protect the planet, too? This statement should either be flexible and updated quarterly, or future-proof with a more ever-green commitment to safety, wellness, and protection for all.

You can break your statement down by circles of concern (customers, employees, office folk, etc.), but I would recommend generally telling your safety story in three clean and clear beats: (1) what have you done, (2) what will you do, and (3) how is your concern for all threaded through all parts of your brand experience? Customers want to know that you’re addressing this moment, and the Next Normal, and the one after that.

Your Inclusion Statement • Your Diversity and Inclusion Statement (or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; a.k.a. “DEI”) is probably in its third draft on your desk at this point, but it’s important to remember these three make-or-break needs: (1) it needs to be public, very public; (2) it cannot just be a new “value;” that’s lazy; and (3) it needs to be truly lived by the brand in all ways inside and outside of the organization. There is no hiding anymore. Are you or are you not making the world a better place? Get on board.

Points to ponder: how will your brand honor and include everyone? What are you doing in all parts of your business to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion? (They’re all very different.) This statement should make you part of the national conversation, not as an observer or bystander but as an active agent for institutional change.

Your Data Statement • Your Data Statement is no longer a technical doc relegated to the “Terms of Use” button on your website. Sorry, those days are over. Customers — especially those paying attention and paying cash — want to know three things: (1) What data are you collecting? (2) What are you doing with that data? and (3) Who are you selling that data to? This statement should go well beyond just a quick note about the customer’s name and email. They know you are following their every move. And if that data is valuable to you — it is — they want to know how you’re using it to ultimately benefit them in return.

Those are the six, old and new. Key to all of them is this: it is a disservice to you, your brand, and your customers if you are only penning and posting. You have to live each of these inside the halls and walls — digital and physical — of your organization and your brand. If you aren’t, it’s very, very obvious. Customers are savvy, and they are paying attention. If your words and actions are not in-sync, you can have a PR problem on your hands very quickly. It also makes for good business. Well developed statements for mission, vision, values, safety, inclusion, and data can create clarity and efficiency in your organization. Dare we say it: you might even make more money.

Capitalism has morphed. Developing, displaying, and living these six statements with authenticity will make your brand relevant to the world that emerges next.

Julio Vincent Gambuto is a writer/director, based in New York City. He wrote that Medium essay about the pandemic that went around the world to 21M readers. Follow on Twitter for small thoughts, or here for Medium ones, or his website for large ones.

“Giulio” (It’s Italian.) Writer/Director based in NYC. Outspoken so I can help you make sense of this modern world. www.juliovincent.com

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