You often think you need something when in reality, there is an underlying need beneath that. And another beneath the first. Like nesting dolls, they continue down until you reach the heart of the issue.
One of the most common concerns of companies is that their brand isn’t working for them. They think the brand “looks bad, outdated, like vomit on a page.”
These are commendable observations, and sometimes they’re correct. There are always ways to make a brand better. But too often, these reasons are falling short of getting at the real issue — the underlying problems. A brand is far more than window dressing, but if the building’s foundation isn’t solid, does it matter what color paint you use on the outside?
Companies who are worried their brand is holding them back from success should consider:
- What if what you need is more than just a new brand?
- What if what you need is to solve something more profound about the company?
- What if digging deeper unearths a clear idea of what you need your brand to do for you?
With a little work, you can get to the root of what’s going on and have a clearer picture of what’s ailing your company. If the determination finds that the brand is holding you back, you can be confident that what goes into creating your new brand is based on substantial evidence and rigorous analysis.
The Five Whys
The Five Whys is an oldie-but-goodie technique used to explore cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The method was initially developed by Sakichi Toyoda and used within the Toyota Motor Corporation to evolve its manufacturing methodologies.
You apply the technique to determine the root cause of a problem by repeating the question “Why?”. Each answer forms the basis of the next question. “Five” represents the number of repetitions often needed to get to the root cause of any problem.
In this hypothetical example, we’re exploring a SaaS company that reaches its mature phase, pursuing ever-bigger clients and answering to an increasingly impatient board of directors.
“We need a new brand! Our branding is terrible.”
Why is the brand terrible?
It looks dated; I think it was last updated in 2012.
Why has it been neglected for so long?
The Founder’s cousin created it. At the time, it worked ok, and they mostly hired engineers for the past ten years. The brand was just never a high priority.
Why is it a priority now?
Now we’ve reached sort of a critical mass; user growth is way up, and we’re pursuing more enterprise-level accounts. Our head of sales complains that the brand doesn’t fit and it’s hard to close deals.
Why is it so hard to close deals?
Our product is complicated, and we’ve never really hashed out our story in a compelling way. The enterprise customer is very sophisticated and has specific needs that our current decks are not speaking to.
Why don’t we speak to these needs?
Our ideal customer is a CMO searching for a new ad-tech platform. First off, they need to know that the network is reliable. Second, brand safety is of utmost importance. Third, they want to know that actual people are clicking on their ads. And finally, when we think about it, they want to realize a massive return on their investment and report their success to the board to move closer to IPO and all retire on yachts.
And there it is. That’s the power of the five whys – you go from “we need a new brand” to “we need to go to IPO, and buy the house (boat) of our dreams” — now that’s something we can work with!
And seriously, while massive exits are fun to dream about, you can see how The Five Whys helps identify core problems back here in the real world. By the 5th Why, we’ve identified some key issues plaguing the brand and company in its current expression. We’ve understood that the story needs to be told better and told with the enterprise audience in mind. In short, you don’t need just a pretty logo; you need a strategic solution to a sales problem.
Building a Strong Foundation
This is why the tenets of company and brand building are crucial to long-term business success. As a young or changing company defines (or redefines) itself, it cannot skip steps, paper over or ignore core inadequacies. Every company must clearly define:
Its Purpose: Why does the company exist (outside of the apparent reason of making money)? The most successful companies and brands today have a deep connection with their audience, and that connection is built on shared values.
Its Values: How does the company view the world? Does the company see the world the same way as its target audience? Does the company believe in the same things as they do?
Its Differentiation: Why should consumers choose this company instead of all the others?
These foundational elements aren’t things that you decide in your founding days and set aside to collect dust. Companies, especially startups, evolve quickly. Purpose, Values, and Differentiation are all living, breathing aspects of your company that can and should adapt as your business grows. That’s how you prove yourself irreplaceable to your audience.
If there are any cracks in these building blocks, the Five Whys can help you find them. If they appear, you’ll know that a new brand that doesn’t tie into your business strategy isn’t going to solve your core problem. Answer these questions first; then, you can move on to your brand refresh. And the company and brand will both be better off in the long run.
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