A What And A How Story

"Not all brand strategy work is successful or ends up working."

Not long ago, we had a client who had done a brand audit with another firm. The client thought it was good work, but for some reason, the ideas were never  implemented. None of their staff or creative vendors seemed eager to champion the messaging because it was hard to see how it would play out. The report, like most reports, didn’t come with specific instructions.

Now, we admit, since we often do audits and brand strategy work ourselves, we can be skeptical. Not all brand strategy work is successful or ends up working. Sometimes, we look at those documents and think, meh. (And sometimes they are meh, no question.)

But in this case, for this college, the branding work was, in fact, terrific. It was authentic. It was aspirational. It was genius. The what was all there, in spades—the missing piece was the how.

Here’s the thing: You can’t jump directly from brand messaging into actual communications. Key messages are important foundation work. They help people get on the same page. They build consistency. They build momentum. They’re functional—they’re essential. But they’re not the how.

The how is the creative. The how takes time to develop. Creative makes it possible for brand strategy and key messages to make their way into your audience’s hearts and minds. Creative is the point of contact with the outside world. It’s not functional. It’s personal.

We figured out the how for our client’s what. We showed our client that this what was excellent and worth building on. We developed guidelines for how to use that what. We built a few pieces around the what that could be used as models and touchstones for others—pieces that would get people feeling excited about the themes and eager to put that what into action. We basically flipped the switch.

Moral of the story? Maybe there’s gold in your branding documents. Let us help you find it.

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