So far on our journey, we’ve explained the value of a brand plan and what a brand actually is. Then we explored how to discover your purpose, manage perceptions with positioning, keep a compelling promise and craft a winning personality.
Now we arrive at a central brand element – the Brand DNA.
Our purpose, promise, reasons to believe, positioning and personality are distilled into the Brand DNA – defined as the core idea a brand seeks to be associated with in the mind of an observer. It’s the essence of your offering.
Identifying an effective Brand DNA is one of the most difficult challenges of brand building.
Brand building blocks
Real DNA carries your genetic information for how you look, behave and what makes you different. It’s the essence of you.
Brand DNA is similar. Your brand’s components (purpose, promise, positioning, etc) are the vital building blocks forming the logic of your DNA. However, the result must be relevant, expressive and effective to resonate well with your audience.
Script an effective DNA
A call to action, a challenge, an unyielding commitment, a battle cry… We evaluate the potential of a Brand DNA against our STEP checklist:
Will it last? A Brand DNA must be deep and enduring, and aligned with audience needs and long-term business strategy. Don’t treat the Brand DNA like a marketing campaign tagline, whose objectives are shallower and transitory. DNA is a long-term investment.
Is it real? If your DNA doesn’t honestly represent your business and brand, your audience won’t believe in it. The Brand DNA must be based in fact, or at least reflect what your organisation wants to achieve. Fake, inaccurate DNAs weaken trust and disappoint audiences. Have the nerve to tell your own truth.
Can we own it? Your Brand DNA should be uniquely yours. And uniquely compelling in your sector. It must never be mistaken for your competitor’s, or generic, messaging. The right DNA becomes synonymous with your offering. It cuts through clutter and gets remembered. It is an essential part of your identity.
Will it work for ongoing creative campaigns? A DNA needs impact. It’s got to attract, persuade, influence, inspire. We’ve understood from years of developing Brand DNAs that you shouldn’t dismiss a potential DNA if it doesn’t immediately grab you. Often its effect comes with a little time, and in context with other messages. It’s less about whether you like it personally, but whether it fulfils the goal of creating positive change.
...the Brand DNA is the strategic message and core idea that guides your brand’s expression. It’s the essence of your offering.
Inward versus outward
Sometimes Brand DNA is only a guiding concept for internal use. Other times, your audience will explicitly see your DNA, usually expressed as a positioning phrase.
The global conglomerate Swire uses esse quam videri (Latin for be rather than seem to be) as its motto. The phrase aligns the team behind the leader to galvanise and guide its actions. But these words aren’t an explicit, client-facing part of its brand identity. Whereas Nike’s phrase Just do it simply is Nike, used inside and out.
At Stepworks, our Brand DNA is one word — Wholehearted. You’ll see its meaning expressed in our approach to our work. When we help clients solve problems. How we come together as a team. In our logo, stationery and seasonal gifts. We even named our methodology Wholehearted Brand Building — it describes our unique holistic approach that aims to balance and align the needs of multiple stakeholders.
Wholehearted guides our decision-making and recruitment. We aim to be wholehearted in everything we say, do and make.
Don’t treat the Brand DNA like a marketing campaign tagline, whose objectives are shallower and transitory. DNA is a long-term investment.
Your brand’s destiny
Brand DNA has other similarities to real DNA. Both are designed to survive and spread as efficiently as possible. Both capture where you’ve come from and equip you for the future. Real DNA is unique and found in every living cell of your being, like Brand DNA, which differentiates your organisation and manifests at every touchpoint.
The endgame of your strategic brand plan is distilling everything into a compelling DNA. It establishes the north star that guides you to go far, to stand out from competition and attract valuable audiences. DNA is your brand’s destiny.
Identifying an effective Brand DNA is one of the most difficult challenges of brand building. Working with an external agency often makes sense for this. The objectivity and artistry of an experienced outsider gives the brand owner a fresh perspective that can unlock real value. If you do choose to work with outsiders to develop a Brand DNA, they will need a creative brief. You can easily develop a creative brief here...