Karl Schweikart & Susan Hopp, both of 45 Degrees/Minneapolis

One of the ways we help clients articulate a clear, focused brand strategy for their companies is to first look at their organizational identity. Based on the groundbreaking work of Albert & Whetten in the 1980’s, OI is defined as those values and attributes that an organization has that are central, distinct and enduring. When marketing types talk about “Brand DNA” this is what they’re talking about. Those attributes that lie at the heart of what the organization stands for, that are unique and differentiate it from its competition, and last over time through changes in leadership or varying market conditions.

One key to this approach is to look for descriptive attributes that have an emotional component. If you think of the company as having a personality, then these attributes are like personality traits. Think adjectives, like “passionate” or “savvy” or “insightful.” Just as people are drawn to others with attractive personality traits, customers will be drawn to brands that have attributes and strengths they emotionally find attractive. Human beings are the common denominator.

But be sure that these attributes are authentic and real. Realize we’re all sixteen underneath – nothing turns us off so much as someone being a “poser” or a “fake.” We love our friends because they’re real – they’re just being themselves. And it makes us feel good to be with them. Gather enough friends together and you have a community, and building a community around your brand is the goal.

Customer engagement is a term we hear often. It simply means that when customers find a company and its products and services attractive and believable (because the brand is authentic), they’ll want more interaction. Brand is all about expectations, and branding is about managing those expectations over time. Customer engagement ends when customer expectations are unmet. We’re fickle enough creatures that being disappointed can lead us to reconsider a friendship. Don’t say one thing and do something else.

Understanding your company’s OI and promoting it internally also empowers employees and aligns them with your company’s brand. They are your best brand ambassadors so make sure they are all on board. The goal is to get everyone from the top down on the same page and moving the same direction with confidence and pride.

When well defined, organizational identity is the foundation that an effective brand strategy for the company is built on.