But, in our experience, when you start getting into the nitty-gritty of understanding how a vision becomes your North Star, it can get very messy, very fast. And that ends up with a generic vision. The outcome of this, rather than a vision that lives at the heart of your business, ends up living at the back of a drawer.
I thought it might be helpful to share some work we did on ourselves here at Good to reach our vision. We haven’t plastered it all over our site, but you can feel its influence throughout.
During the pandemic we decided to make sure we came out of it stronger than when we went in. One part of that was tightening our brand to be the business we wanted to be, not the business we currently were. So, we started to look at Good's brand.
We started as we always do, with our brand definition framework. It's a framework for organising the essential information on a brand or business and can be used as the source for all brand marketing comms. There are many ways to think about brand. This is ours, and we ensure we can create one for every client we work with.
The pyramid is made up of three aspects:
We always start at the top of the pyramid, looking at the business's vision. The vision should be a statement that you can continually aspire to and work towards. It can be a long-term goal, one that you can review on a year-on-year basis to ensure that you're still stretching.
A vision must also be inspiring for your customers and your team. There are far too many 'Buzz Lightyear' visions out there that promise 'to infinity and beyond' but are practically useless because no one understands what they mean.
Defining your vision
Your vision can take some time, and some thought to get to. We may have been describing ourselves as 'brand consultants', but to focus our vision on what that meant, we knew we would have to make some sacrifices to lean into the specialism.
This evolution came down to two key things:
- Taking the right type of work
- Defining our point of view
That evolution sounds simple but takes courage and commitment. To us, 'brand consultancy' meant sticking to our guns about our work and who we do it for. We knew we wanted to work with senior clients interested in the meaningful outcomes of their investment in the brand. If the task at hand essentially netted down to a design project in a self-contained silo without senior sponsorship or measurable impact; then we had to be strong and admit to ourselves and the client that it wasn't for us. That's hard. It's sacrifice. And it's still not perfect, but we're a lot better than we were.
With every opportunity, we look for a quick and early qualification to see if it meets our criteria. I find this a very healthy practice as we're able to differentiate ourselves early in the buying process by saying, "we need to know if this is a good fit for us". And it can come as a bit of a surprise to some enquirers as they usually expect the agency to be willing from the start.
Defining our Point of View
In the world of brands there are lots of opinions and ideas, but it's not governed by a set of rules that says A + B = C. That's what makes it so susceptible to snake oil salespeople and peddlers of the next, great shiny new marketing thing.
We'd been doing this long enough to build up an invaluable bank of experience and knowledge about what success, failure and distraction look like. We've always felt that a strong brand meant a strong business, and if more businesses took their brand seriously, we'd be able to do some great work that resulted in better business outcomes.
To that point – we also tend to produce better work with clients who shared our point of view. The more respected brand was inside an organisation; the better our work was and the better the business results were.
Our vision ended up as:
To make brands and branding better understood, respected and valued.
We like it because it's accessible, actionable, and true to us.
It also mirrors the previous point about taking on the right kind of work. If the opportunities we're presented with don't offer us the chance to further our vision (i.e., they're simply siloed design tasks without defined outcomes), then they're not a good fit for us. As I said, it comes down to sacrifice.
We talk about sacrifice a lot when we work with brands. It's only by truly getting to grips with the things you're prepared to give up can you sharpen up the things you want to do. It separates the signal from the noise.
This focus allowed us to create a clear aspirational vision that's grand enough to be slightly out of reach but wrapped tightly enough around the brand to help give context to and drive what we do every day. This is what the vision of your brand is meant to do.
But when crafting your vision, that tip of the spear, turns out there is a solid formula: Analysis + Sacrifice = Clarity.
If you found Creating the Vision for your Brand useful, you might also like How to Create a Brand, a run-through of the brand definition process that we use to help brands tell their story, internally and externally.