How to communicate your brand story internally, by turning your “Big Idea” into a Brand Credo

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Does your brand have a brand credo? How do you communicate your brand story internally?

With most brands I meet up with, I ask “what is the big idea behind your brand?” Slide12-2
and I rarely get a great answer. When I stand in front of the bigger brand team and ask that question, with the best brands I get one answer, and with struggling brands, I can guarantee I’ll get multiple conflicting answers. That’s not healthy. I always say that brands should be able to explain themselves in 7 seconds, 60 seconds and 30 minutes, all laddering up to the same message. There are too many Brands where what gets said inside the corporate office is completely different than what gets said in the marketplace. Moreover, there are brands that only view “messaging” as something Brand does in TV ads or through logos. How do you communicate what your brand stands for when you’re with R&D, HR, or finance? I recommend you create your own Brand Credo, which should come directly from your brand’s Big Idea. Here’s how:

Start with finding the Big Idea of your Brand

I’ve always heard how Brand is the hub of the organization and everything should revolve around the Brand. While it makes sense, it’s just talk unless you are managing your business based on your brand’s Big Idea throughout every inch of your organization. Everyone connected to the brand, should fully understand the brand’s Big Idea. And when I say “everyone”, I’m talking about everyone in the entire organization, including Sales, Finance, Production, R&D, HR and Marketing, as well as everyone outside the organization including agencies or employees at your retailers.

We’ve explained the Big Idea tool a few times, but here’s a refresher. The Brand’s Big Idea (some call it the Brand Essence) is the most concise and inspiring definition of the Brand. For Volvo, it’s “Safety”, while BMW might be “Performance” and Mercedes is “Luxury”. Volvo has stood for safety for almost 60 years, long before safety even registered with consumers. Here is the Tool I use to figure out a Brand’s Big Idea.  The model revolves around four quadrants that surround and yet help to define the Brand:

  1. Brand’s personality: human descriptors that express the brand’s style, tone and attitude.
  2. Products and Services: features, attributes, and functional characteristics that are embedded in what we sell.
  3. Internal Beacons: the internal views or purpose of the brand, why people believe their brand can win, what inspires, motivates and challenges.
  4. Consumer Views: honest assessment of how the consumer sees the brand, the good and bad.  

big ideaHow this tool works best with a team is that we normally brainstorm 3-4 words in each of the four quadrants and then try to form those words into a sentence for each quadrant. After all 4 quadrants are filled, we then looking collectively and begin to frame the brand’s Big Idea with a phrase that embodies the entirety of the brand. As I facilitate sessions using this tool, it’s almost magical as we see the brand really come to life. You have to have a bit of faith that the work around the big circle provides you with an inspiration for what the big idea really is. Executives love this exercise and it works.  This is the Big Idea completed for my own brand: Beloved Brands.Slide1


Simplify your Brand’s Big Idea into a Credo that motivates and steers everyone

Slide1Having spent time at Johnson and Johnson, the Credo document is an essential part of the culture of the organization. Not only does it permeate throughout the company, you will likely find it quoted in meetings on a daily basis. It’s a beautifully written document and ahead of its time. The original author was General Robert Wood Johnson in 1943. What is most fascinating from a brand vantage is that the first responsibility is to the healthcare professionals and consumers who rely on the J&J products. He understood their importance above and beyond anything else. The second and third tenants were to employees and the community with the final tenant being the stockholders. Yes, business must make a profit. But as the document suggests there is a belief that if you cover off the first three, the shareholder should benefit–but should never be placed ahead. Keep in mind, this was written when there was only one shareholder–Mr Johnson himself–but he knew that the company would be going public the next year. He wanted to use this Credo document to steer the culture based on his values.

Like any company these days, J&J has veered off course either through business decisions or ethics. But having that document allows them to take action.

If you have the energy to write such a document go for it. But Ritz-Carlton has created a much simpler Credo example they use to steer their brand experience through their people. Recognizing that any great brand has to be better, different or cheaper to win, Ritz ritzcredo1Carlton focuses their attention on impeccable service standards to separate themselves from other Hotels.  What Ritz Carlton has done so well is operationalize it so that culture and brand are one. 

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Ritz Carlton Training session, and as a Brand Leader, the thing that struck me was the idea of meeting the “unexpressed” needs of guests.  As highly paid Marketers, even with mounds of research, we still struggle to figure out what our consumers want, yet Ritz Carlton has created a culture where bartenders, bellhops and front desk clerks instinctively meet these “unexpressed needs”.  Employees carry around note pads and record the expressed and unexpressed needs of every guest and then they use their instincts to try to surprise and delight these guests.

Employees are fully empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.  Unique means doing something that helps to separate Ritz Carlton from other hotels, memorable forces the staff to do something that truly stands out.   And personal is defined as people doing things for other people. The Ritz-Carlton Credo does a nice job articulating who they are and provides some support for their Big Idea, but does not go far enough. 

Slide1Looking at the Beloved Brands Credo example, we believe that a well-articulated credo should answer:

  • What is you brand’s big idea? What is the one thing that you do better, different or cheaper than anyone else?
  • What are the two ways you can bring that big idea to life (proof points, values, beliefs, tone) that helps to separate your brand from the pack?

The Beloved Brands Credo leads off with the big idea of making brands and brand leaders better. While a lot of consultants can claim that, we think our belief about brands that helps separate us. We link the passion of the work to the love of your brand which can then be harnessed for growth and profits. What also separates us is how we challenge brand leaders, not just in our tone but with new ideas, models and systems that are all linked to fundamentally helping brands and brand leaders unleash their full potential.

To read more click on this hyper link:  Tools to help you describe your brand in 7 seconds, 60 seconds and 30 minutes

Communicating your brand story internally is as crucial as any external communication to the market

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911Slide1

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