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Preparing Your Brand for Constant and Rapid Change

A strong foundation lets a brand be flexible but also consistent — and beloved.

If you are part of a visionary organization, your company will be different next year than it is today. Different the year after that. And maybe even unrecognizable 10-20 years from now.

As a brand definition company, you’d think this would cause a contradiction. How can a constantly moving target be defined? How can you accommodate for a future that is uncertain at best? How can you create definition when the very meaning changes?

We don’t see definition and transformation as contradictory. Instead, we see defining your brand’s foundation as essential to understanding what changes and what never will. A strong foundation allows for a brand that is flexible and pliable, but also consistent and beloved.

Think of your brand definition as a Constitution. The tenets that will rarely, if ever, change. And if they do change, it should be through a rigorous process and by virtue of a major shift in macro direction. These never-changing components?

  • Your brand’s values
  • Your brand’s personality
  • Your overall vision
  • Your reason to be

That’s why these exercises have to feel uncomfortably big in scope and structure. They must be elevating, motivating, always transcending what you do and how you do it. It is your why: your reason to be.

A true north is necessary for both internal and external audiences. To recognize that your company is innovative, but that discipline is essential. Strong definition actually allows the freedom to chase the shiny object so long as it fits the brand litmus test in order to create a continuum of reasoning.

How do you go about this? It’s a matter of scale. For example, Apple wants to “make a dent in the universe.” As far as the why goes, that is about as big as it gets. However, it allows them to wildly innovate in many different directions. Their values of user-centered design keep them disciplined as to the approach.

What is your why? How does it affect decisions? How does it set the table for what you promise to your customers? How does it create anticipation for what’s to come?

It needs to be big. It needs to be inspiring. It needs to matter. And make sure it doesn’t just define you today. Make sure it describes your past. And make sure it accommodates the unpredictable nature of the future.

Once your foundation is defined, then you are liberated to reinvent, innovate, and create to anticipate the rapidly changing needs of your customers — without having to constantly reinvent the face of your organization. Just make sure your chosen tenets LEAD those decisions, and they don’t change in the face of them.

Sound simple? It’s not supposed to. But it could be the most important thing your organization ever accomplishes. The rest becomes about consistency and discipline in the foundational decisions, which leads to freedom in how they are expressed.

Some guidelines to creating definition:

  • Don’t let your product or service define your brand
  • Focus on your why — the how and what will inevitably change
  • Make it a promise that must be fulfilled both internally and externally
  • Create it based on your impact on the world
  • As soon as you think you’ve gone big, try to go bigger
Photo of Jim Hume.
Jim Hume

As the principal and founder of Phire Group, Jim works closely with clients to build brands that match an organization’s reason for being with their desire for solutions. Jim started the agency in 2004 with the philosophy of engaging a brand’s community to help shape and recognize its full potential. With more than 20 years in the industry, he’s worked with clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies to startups in consumer goods, healthcare, technology, education, business-to-business, the arts, and more.