What is a Brand Collaborative? It’s Intrinzic’s way to a better brand

Wendy Vonderhaar


Friday, February 16, 2018

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It’s been nearly 20 years since I started Intrinzic and embarked on the exciting journey of managing a brand and marketing firm. During that time, we have worked with many clients on a variety of marketing challenges and have probably rebranded more than 100 companies. You could say we’ve had some time to perfect our craft and master what works the best along the way. In all those years, the end game hasn’t changed: develop a brand that captures the spirit and essence of an organization and find alignment between a company’s culture and their customer’s needs and aspirations. What has changed is how we achieve that end result.

That how is rooted in what we call a “brand collaborative” and we believe it results in better brands. Let’s start with the obvious: it’s more collaborative. But when we dig deeper, it really is a state-of-mind that infiltrates how we approach our work, how we interact with each other as well as our clients, and how we embrace the core concept that better ideas come from many, not one.

Most importantly, however, this “collaborative” concept is what we seek to achieve for our clients. In this context, we define a collaborative as a strategic mindset that fully aligns the interests of brands and their customers. A collaborative requires a different way of thinking, not just about your brand, but more importantly about your organization and the culture that drives it. Customers aren’t buying your brand—they buy your company, your people, your reputation, your experience. These do not come from elaborate ad campaigns or beautiful logos, but rather through inherent connections you forge with your audience.

So, just how does a brand collaborative build better brands and these inherent connections?

A brand collaborative is culture-focused.

First and foremost, the origin of a brand must come from within. To be authentic, credible and sustainable, a brand must be rooted in, and a reflection of, an organization’s culture. Your culture and your people are your competitive advantage. They are what will propel you forward or hold you back. They cannot be copied, stolen, or matched. The more you know about what makes your organization and its people tick, the greater your ability to inspire, motivate and empower them.

At Intrinzic we build brands from the inside out, not the outside in. If you can’t consistently deliver on your brand promise, you quite simply, will not be successful. Your culture is what will deliver that consistency and, thus, must be the origin of your brand.

A brand collaborative values depth over breadth.

Understanding a little about a lot is not enough anymore. That applies to both your employees as well as your customers. In order to connect and align your culture with your customers, you must go deep—peel the onion as I like to say—to understand behaviors, motivators and what really makes the individuals tick. It is in the nuances, not statistics, that we find the revelations and opportunities. We have to identify how to make that connection on a profound level and we do this by going deeper on a handful of powerful insights, not statistically analyzing a little about a lot.

Collaboratives inspire better tools & hands-on workshops.

Years ago, we did lots of surveys and focus groups and then magically came back with a new, shiny positioning statement and brand. But, the days of the “black box” are over. Do we still have a process that clearly outlines the steps and our approach to branding? Of course, it’s the roadmap for the journey, but the secret is really in our tools and how we apply them. Designed to be utilized in a workshop environment to facilitate spirited discussion and debate, our goal is to listen to an organization’s leaders and employees to uncover subtle differences of opinion and drill down to illuminate kernels of truth. Then we can identify the core attributes that universally define motivation, ethic, relevance and value for the company, its people and its culture. We do this collaboratively with each client and arrive at our conclusions together.

It’s grounded in messaging and positioning.

Back in the day, rebranding was largely about delivering a new “look and feel” for a brand. Yes, positioning and messaging were part of the mix, but the focus was on the visual transformation. No doubt, we live in an increasingly visually driven world, and it isn’t easy for brands to identify their voice, tone and key messages by audience. But as humans, we still use language to create understanding. It’s the backbone of our relationships and it should be the backbone of brands, too.

Oddly, marketing often overlooks the subtleties and nuances of language and it’s used only as a means to convey details without context or meaning. There is intense power in brand messaging that expresses the intent of an organization and it can become a major advantage for companies that think about not just what they say, but exactly how to say it in ways that inspire employees, customers and the marketplace.

It begins with a good story.

Let’s face it, people remember stories, they don’t remember product features or benefits. The brand story is one of the biggest benefits in our collaborative process. Reading a brand story to a client for the first time is my favorite part of any branding project. It seamlessly ties the past, present and future of an organization into one narrative that clearly articulates the organization’s purpose and vision. It inspires not only the leadership of an organization but also the front line team. 9 times out of 10 the leader of the organization, says, “That’s what I’ve been trying to say!” While we start by creating a story that is internal facing, it is a powerful tool that aligns and inspires the entire organization and serves as a foundation for the external messaging.

It’s supported by a comprehensive brand toolbox.

We recognize that a brand’s story, messaging, positioning and identity are just the beginning. But, the reality is that how you implement and use the brand consistently every day is what really makes the difference. Our goal is to provide a robust, tangible toolbox—both verbal and visual—that will provide you with tools that can be applied in a variety of ways. While we strive to have ongoing partnerships with our clients, we also recognize that not all clients can afford and want to have an agency implement every aspect of their internal and external communication efforts. Our toolbox represents our collaborative process at its finest —it’s the result of a team working together to successfully launch and maintain a brand.

The end result: a brand you and your audience will love as much as you do

The heart of collaboration is really beginning with the end in mind. For a brand, that means ensuring the organization and it’s leaders can truly embrace the brand’s position and point of view, are proud to it brand their own, and truly live it each day. No matter how much of our expertise and creativity we put into creating the brand, at the end of the day, it’s our clients to own and nurture. It is their brand not ours.

Herein lies the final gift of a brand collaborative. After embarking on the journey together—digging deep, uncovering truths, mining insights—what we’ve worked so hard to create comes to life naturally. Our clients have a brand they’re inspired to use and proud to display because it was built to do the hard work of winning over their audiences every day.

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