Like it or not, branding isn’t a short process and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Your brand is comprised of every single customer touch point that your customer has, meaning your entire team needs to be bought into the same brand vision if you want to have any consistency in your brand experience.
Getting everyone on the same page is a lot easier said than done. Your marketing director probably wants everyone to treat the brand guidelines as law, but that’s not realistic for any organization, let alone an organization with a large number of employees, high turnover, or a loose onboarding structure.
So how can you get everyone on your team to buy into the brand and provide the right experience to their co-workers, clients, and vendors alike? Branding exercises can be extremely helpful at getting new employees to understand the brand, refreshing old employees’ memories, and helping your team pivot with the company.
What Are Branding Exercises?
Branding exercises are games or activities designed to teach and reinforce your brand with your employees. Some are fun while others are more serious. Some involve very strenuous thought experiments while others are designed to be light and easy.
The main purpose of a branding exercise depends a lot on the role of the team that is participating. Here are some examples of common objectives for branding exercises by team:
- Sales: This is likely the first interaction a prospective customer will have with your brand. You want to ensure that your sales team understands what your brand stands for and how your brand speaks in order to ensure consistency across the entire customer experience. These exercises should be light and conversational.
- Marketing: This team is usually the most brand-conscious, so ensure that they understand all the finer details of the brand and its various applications. These should be the most intensive exercises that you do with your team.
- Product Development: Your product development team is constantly innovating within your field. Make sure they have a robust understanding of where your brand fits in the competitive marketplace. These exercises should relate more to brand positioning and less to brand voice or visual identity.
- Operations: Typically, your operations staff is responsible for ongoing maintenance of accounts, meaning their client-facing roles are limited. This doesn’t exempt them from the branding process, however. You want them to be walking billboards for recruiting and culture purposes. These exercises should focus more on high-level branding and corporate personality than practical application of the brand.
Make sure your team is doing a branding exercise that is relevant to their day-to-day tasks. If the exercise isn’t relevant and relatable, your team will shut out the activity and, in the process, shut out the brand.
How Can You Incorporate Branding Exercises Into Your Department?
The first thing you need to do is establish the need for branding exercises with the team. Communicate with them in your preferred channel (meeting, email, Slack, etc.) that you want to do some exercises to get everyone on the same page and find a time that works for everyone. Make sure that the tone of this meeting matches what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re looking to do fun, light activities, have snacks or beer available. If your exercises will be buttoned down and formal, make sure to take the meeting seriously.
Next, choose your branding exercise. Here are some suggestions based on objective:
If you want to work on brand voice...
- Start with an overview of the brand’s voice, including language you like to use and language you don’t like to use. Make sure your team knows how the brand is supposed to sound.
- Ask employees to bring YouTube clips that represent various brand personality traits. If your brand is carefree, maybe they bring in a Taylor Swift video. If your brand is buttoned up and serious, it may be Glengarry Glen Ross.
- Have employees do impromptu “pitches” in the brand’s voice. These can be for actual products and services, recruiting new employees, or for made up products that you don’t offer.
If you want to work on visual identity...
- Start by reviewing your brand’s visual identity and providing a solid understanding of what your brand looks like.
- Have your team come in with alternate marks or icons that they’ve designed that represent an aspect of your brand. These can be designed for actual use or conceptual art that they think represents the company as a whole.
- Pull up random designs from other companies or pop culture icons. Go around the room and talk about whether the piece matches your brand or not. Ask why. Try to find elements in every piece that match your brand, whether it’s photography, typeface, or color palette.
If you want to work on culture...
- Ask each employee to describe what the company/brand means to them. Why is that the case? Does that match your idea of the brand?
- Ask each employee to tell one story that matches one of your brand’s characteristics or personality traits.
- Ask each employee why they like working there as well as what struggles they face.
If you’re working on brand positioning...
- Have each member of your team create a positioning map and review it with the group. What did they put on the X-Axis? Y-Axis? Why?
- Have each member of your team describe one competitor that is cheaper, one that is more expensive, and one that is similarly priced. How do your products/services compare? What makes you different?
If you’re onboarding a new employee...
If you’re training a new hire, you may want to mix and match all of the above. Start by sharing your brand guidelines and take it from there.