Recently an associate of mine passed along an article to me from one of my favorite thought leaders – Jim Collins, of Good to Great fame. In this Harvard business review article titled Building Your Company’s Vision (which he co-authored with Jerry Porras back in Sept. 1996), the authors describe the two components of any lasting vision: core ideology and an envisioned future. They state that “enduring companies have clear plans for how they will advance into an uncertain future”. The article put forth a profound insight that “while a company’s practices and strategies should change continually, its core ideology should not”. Collins and Porras define core ideology as “a company’s timeless character – the glue that holds the enterprise together when everything else is up for grabs”. They go on to share that “core ideology is something you discover — by looking inside. It’s not something you can invent.” (Those of us who are brand strategists certified through the Brand Establishment wholeheartedly echo this truth. We call looking inside “Turning the Telescope™”).
Core purpose is defined by the authors as “an organization’s most fundamental reason for being”. Simon Sinek, renown TedTalk speaker (The Golden Circle) and author of Start with Why, refers to this fundamental reason for being as a company’s “WHY”… its purpose, its cause, its reason to exist. He reveals that people don’t buy (or buy into) what we do or how we do it; they buy into why we do it and what we believe. If you haven’t yet viewed Simon’s TedTalk or read his book, I consider them a must-see and a must-read, and highly recommend that you do so.
In my experience as a consulting brand strategist, working with companies of all shapes and sizes, I find that most, if not all, entrepreneurs, business owners, and company leaders truly want to develop a vision that will stand the test of time and make a significant difference. It comes with being a leader, because for those who lead, status quo is unacceptable, intolerable, unimaginable, and…. well, you get the point. Leadership is about leading your organization to a higher, loftier, and better place. This journey begins with a strong and compelling vision – one that can be painted verbally and visually.
In Collin’s article, he states: “Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. While many company leaders readily embrace the need to build their company’s vision, they struggle in the science of how to do it. They have been challenged in taking their organizations to an inspiring place, a place that will rally the troops, drive and sustain their behavior, and garnish their whole-heartedly given blood, sweat and tears to complete the journey.”
As I absorbed the insights of this article, I was struck by the obvious and essential relationship that exists between developing an organization’s Master Brand and the development of the company’s envisioned future. Your Master Brand is the essential ingredient necessary to develop the right lasting vision to carry the company forward towards sustained success. Your Master Brand is your organization’s DNA. It’s how you roll – what you stand for – and who you are. It’s the heart and sole of your organization and definitely includes your core ideology and core purpose, as well as your unique value propositions and your “why”. It is defined as your competitive evidence of distinction.
Let’s look at some elements that make up your master brand.
- Your why
- Your company’s evidence of distinction – revealed and built from the inside out
- The powerful and crystalline articulation of your distinction and its associated promises
- Your internal audiences (employees, managers, C-suite leadership, and stakeholders) now emotionally hardwired into the brand in heart, mind and behavior
- Your external audiences (customers, prospects, your marketplace and community) adopting and embracing your brand and its promise
A classic example is the United States Marine Corps; their Master brand is voiced in their tagline: “THE FEW… THE PROUD… THE MARINES.” Their famous brand is steadfast and never changing. It embodies their organization’s core ideals and core purpose, coupled with their evidence of distinction. Who they were and who they remain today came before their tagline was developed. Finally, their brand charts the direction for whatever vision they set for themselves to drive and ensure their continued success and esprit de corps.
I’ll close with one last insight from Collins and Porras: “Vision provides guidance about what core to preserve and what future to stimulate progress toward”. As your Master Brand remains steadfast and fixed, your strategies can and will change and evolve as situations and times dictate – but now your strategies will be on point and rooted in something that empowers and compels – Your Brand! Definitely something to consider developing as you work to build your own company’s lasting and compelling vision.
Let’s go Fire Up our brands!
Richard Gripp is a member of the Brand Establishment and is the only certified brand strategist in Northeast Indiana. He is a recognized expert on building brands that sustain and elevate companies, a keynote speaker on the subject, and is founding president of Ignite, LLC, a brand consultancy group.