Companies that care about creating a powerful brand work hard to stand for something in the customer’s mind. It’s critical that it’s something bigger and broader than the product or service being offered. This is, after all, why brands exist—to help people differentiate between similar offerings.
There are lots of ways for a company to live its truth today, and many companies are busy doing exactly that. Earlier this week, I came across an Austin company that has well-conceived and perfectly articulated values. The company, Skills Fund, is not shy at all about laying them all out for the world to see.
Skills Fund is a team of higher ed, consumer protection, and student loan professionals, committed to revolutionizing higher education. If you want to join the company, the first thing they ask you to do is read their Skills Code and Talent Enhancement Philosophy. This is how their Skills Code begins:
Own the Truth
We confront reality head on – both the good and the brutal facts about our company and our own performance. We pay attention to our instincts and conduct disciplined, fact-based analyses to verify those instincts. We ask questions to create clarity. We speak up when we’ve earned the right to do so and marshal evidence to support our opinions. We debate with an open mind until we identify root causes and drivers.
“We ask questions to create clarity.” I’m spellbound.
As someone who has spent two decades plus asking the hard questions of clients, I can relate, and I support the need to affirm this value in print. Tough or persistent questions tend to put people on their heels. And a client on his or her heels is not a client who feels the love from the agency or consulting partner. In other words, it’s a problem in need of an instant remedy.
Ideally, the agency-client relationship is one where coordinated dance partners move gracefully across the floor. To do this dance requires everyone to be on their toes, not their heels. There’s no other way to keep time.
Manifesto Maker Reporting for Duty
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to write two different brand manifestos—one for a political candidate and the other for the Oracle Careers brand.
The Oracle manifesto was part of a consulting engagement that came through Point B in Seattle. Therefore, I can’t share any of the deliverables, but I will share this whiteboard concept that didn’t make it into the final presentation. It’s all about the candidate’s journey and how it’s the brand’s job to assist at every touchpoint along the way.
The other brand manifesto that I wrote this spring is for Marque Snow, president of the Omaha Public School board and candidate for Nebraska State Legislature in 2020. Marque is just now rolling out his campaign materials, which I will begin to share in this space in the coming days.
Here’s a small slice of his developing “Marquifesto” for your consideration:
Send me to Lincoln and I will be accountable to you and to my own high standards for public servants. The “Good Life” that our parents and grandparents enjoyed is fast fading to memory, but we can restore this real-life dream. Help me heal the rifts, cross the divides, and make things right again. I know how to do this. Progress comes through immense and coordinated effort. Right now, I’m asking you to push hard with me so we can make real and lasting progress.
With a candidate for public office, the language can be lofty and believable at the same time. Corporate manifestos are a different beast. In both cases, the recipient or reader will likely be reticent to believe and slow to buy, unless, like Skills Fund and other manifesto-first brands, the ideas that are forwarded are truly rich in nutrients and naturally intoxicating upon discovery.
Step 1: Make Me A Believer
I let clients and prospective clients know that I need to believe in what they’re doing. It’s easy enough to convince me. All it takes is proof that the product or service is beneficial to mankind.
Once I’m a believer, then I become a powerful advocate.
As a brand advocate, my job is to enter into the heart and soul of the brand community by “walking a mile in the customer’s shoes.” In other words, I need to take my own journey of discovery on my client’s behalf. When this works as planned, I return from “the wilderness” with findings that we can all learn from and begin to work into the company’s brand communications.
For Oracle, we began to add definition and dimension to their candidate personas. For Marque Snow for A New Nebraska, Cathy Solarana and I are talking to people in the district to hear what matters most to them.
We want Marque to win and we hope to see him gain momentum for his progressive policies. We are thus invested at the right level as business partners because we believe.