“The more organizations and people who learn to start with WHY, the more people there will be who wake up being fulfilled by the work they do.”Simon Sinek
I’ve waited weeks to start this.
In the first half, Build the Brand will be an intense series for you the reader. It’s for the designer looking to start his or her own agency or freelancing business; the entrepreneur looking to start their business on the right foot; and the client looking to better prepare their organization and get the best results from potential design experts. This series will help shape and build what will be your brand. Your brand is the intangibles—the collection of thoughts, feelings, experiences, memories, and stories. It’s someone’s gut feeling about your company.
- Mission statement
- Vision statement
- Your values
- Your story
- Your truth
And I’ll be helping you to uncover all of those as we lead into the second half of the series, Tailor the Identity.
Where your brand deals with the intangibles, your identity deals with the tangibles. Your identity is your logo, the colors your brand employs, the fonts your company uses, any patterns or icons, your business cards, letterheads, and all other forms of marketing collateral, your website, any brand mascots or characters you might have, and anything else someone can interact with. Your identity is also about creating patterns and systems to build consistency, clarity, and credibility for your organization.
By dealing with your brand first, then your identity, you’ll walk away from this series with a complete brand that you can put into action immediately with an identity to match.
Now that I’ve got you briefed, let’s jump right on in.
Discovering your Why
When my feet hit the floor around 4:30 (or 4:45 after I hit Snooze) almost every morning (I say almost because some days it feels like God himself has to come roll me out of the bed) I know what has to be done before I start my 9-5. Soon after my morning prayer and Bible study I’m at my desk writing or designing to get what I need to get accomplished.
I do this because I have a sense of purpose every morning. I know why I need to get up this early even though I’m the farthest thing from a morning person. Without knowing my Why, I wouldn’t be able to be as intentional and consistent in several areas of my life right now—and I really need to be intentional and consistent where I’m currently at.
So how do you discover your Why?
In his viral TED Talk video, Simon Sinek challenges all of us to Start With Why
“If you don’t know why you do what you do, and people respond to why you do what you do, then how will you ever get people to vote for you, buy something from you, or more importantly, be loyal?”
In the video, Simon goes on to illustrate what he calls the Golden Circle.
As you can see, the circle has three layers:
- Why. This is the core belief of your business. It’s why your business exists.
- How. This is how your business fulfills your core beliefs.
- What. This is what your organization does to fulfill your core beliefs.
According to Simon, most businesses answer these questions from the outside-in: What, How, then Why. In an example, he mentions that Apple starts with Why. And to illustrate his point, he uses the backwards marketing message starting with What.
“We make great computers. They’re user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?”
So what, right?
And if we look at the diagram below, we see that Why doesn’t exist in the example given.
But then he goes on to provide an example of what a marketing message from Apple actually looks like:
“With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”
Now I’m in your face with my wallet in my hand. I’m intrigued. That’s an ideal I personally can stand behind. I can support it. I can protect it. Your Why creates purpose, meaning, and a universal understanding of what it is your organization is about.
What if I told you:
I do brand identity design. My client experience is great, I’m great at what I do, and you’ll love my work.
Snoozeville, right? I wouldn’t hire me either. That doesn’t get much of a conversation going either. And not a lot of people understand what brand identity design is (it’s lumped in their with “logo design” and “branding”). So do I call myself a logo designer? A “brander”? No. I give them a reason to ask what it is after I explain my Why:
I believe in the power of dreams. We all have one. Some of us trade them in, but a select few relentlessly pursue their dreams and passions and never give up. My services are for the ones who didn’t trade theirs in and are looking to make their dreams become a reality; to take the vision in their head and make it absolutely tangible with a memorable, fun, and collaborative experience through brand identity design.
Now you’re ready to ask me what brand identity is. I gave you something to get onboard with. I told a story and possibly even sold you on the pitch without it sounding like marketing speak.
Sidenote: You can find the longer version of this on my About page!
Your Why will be the conduit that powers all other areas of your organization. Just to name a few:
- It forms your core values
- It forms your belief system
- It forms your work culture
- It forms a community around your business
- It allows you to make decisions that are authentic
- It crafts buy-in and market value
- It forms your speech, your marketing copy, and provides a very solid framework for a designer to work with
- Most importantly: it builds trust
Define Your Why
Now it’s your turn.
Your Why will be short and simple. You don’t need to write a dissertation. We’re shooting for clarity and making sure we hit the target. Take out a piece of paper, a pen or pencil, and write your answers to these following questions:
- What do I care about?
- When am I/was I the happiest? What was working?
- How do I enjoy helping others?
- When did I make a difference in someone’s life?
- What feels like play and not work?
- When am I/was I most unhappy? What wasn’t working?
- What do you love about your life? What are you not loving?
- What will wake me up every morning?
- What would allow me to keep pushing even when I’ve got nothing left?
- Is my Why sustainable? Can it power me and my business for 24+ months?
After you’ve finished answering the questions, take a day or two to sit and think on them. Change them if necessary and ensure you’re being honest with yourself. And if it takes more than a few days that’s okay. When you’re finished, construct your answers into a few sentences and see how it sounds out loud. If your Why statement is something not only you can get behind, but others can too, you’ve successfully discovered your Why.
Remember: this is the driving force behind your company. Let your Why be your mantra. Let it guide you. Pour it into every project, meeting, relationship, and task. Work it, Geeks. And let it become the soul of your organization.
Having hangups? Let me know in the comments below. I rarely extend the opportunity to comment on my site, but for this series I want to make sure you’re getting help when you need it. However, for a quicker response, I recommend contacting me via email.
Come back next week as we’ll go into using your Why to shape and define your mission statement. I’ll be covering do’s and don’ts, and why your mission statement should not be 3 pages long. Too many people write out paragraphs and paragraphs of meaningless nonsense when in fact you can employ your mission in a few sentences.
Til next week,
- What’s Your Why – An explosive 3 minute speech. Trust me. You’ll find a reason for what you do what you do after watching.
- Dream – A 6 minute, heart-pounding narrative of speeches from some of the greatest leaders of our time that will put you in the mindset of discovering your uniqueness, your value, and ultimately your Why.
- Simon Sinek’s Full 18-Minute Ted Talk on Starting With Why