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What is Brand Alignment? (And Why It’s Essential for Your Business)

Blog / May 19, 2021

What is Brand Alignment? (And Why It’s Essential for Your Business)

Chris Kubbernus
CEO - Kubbco

Index

Brand alignment insetWhat comes to mind when you hear the word “aligned”?

Order, balance, clarity, direction, cohesion – probably things like that, right?

Those same concepts apply to brand alignment. If a brand isn’t aligned, the overall vibe becomes confused, misdirected, and unclear.

But customers don’t think in terms of a brand’s alignment. They only see inauthentic messages and countless reasons not to trust you. It’s that dire: 86% of customers say authenticity is critical for deciding which brands to support.

And most brands? Not authentic. 57% of customers say over half of brands do send an authentic message in their content.

These figures make the trust situation seem hopeless, but in reality, it lays out the solution. Brands can build trust through authentic messages in content – if the brand is aligned.

Brand alignment must happen internally first and externally second. Here’s why alignment is so important, what it looks like, and how to get there.

Why is Brand Alignment Important?

Brand alignment starts with a clear and well-defined brand message and company culture. Everyone internally, from stakeholders to employees, lives out the same message. Brands then leverage this internal alignment to express a consistent identity externally.

From the outside, it looks effortless and totally authentic. People see the brand and know right away whether it fits their values or not. That’s the dream, right?

Organisation-Wide Grasp of the Brand’s Mission

In the U.S., less than a quarter of employees say they can apply their brand’s values to their daily work effectively. Meanwhile, only 27% genuinely believe in their company’s values and culture.

These stats might only reflect American workplaces, but brand alignment isn’t an isolated problem – it’s global.

How can employees in every department maintain a united front if they aren’t invested in the mission – or even know what it is? It’s impossible.

Aligned brands know a consistent message starts internally. They develop a clear mission based on their values and outline a vision for the future. They’re aware of their impact on society too.

Everyone at every level understands how they fit into the mission and the brand’s impact.

Well-Defined and Tangible Brand Culture

A well-defined culture creates an internal brand identity. Culture brings personification to the mission and what the brand represents.

Brand missions can seem long-term and irrelevant to day-to-day life. But culture? It explains how your brand lives out its values and mission.

Culture supplies examples for everyone to understand what they’re supposed to emulate – and if they fit at all. Culture adds focus and direction to brand alignment.

Everyone Understands the Brand Goals and Where They Fit

Brand alignment isn’t only about warm and fuzzy values. It also involves data, metrics, and delegating.

People at aligned brands are focused on the goals and know what they need to do to get there. They understand:

  • Long-term brand growth goals
  • Department quarterly and annual goals
  • Their monthly/weekly/daily goals

If you’re worried your brand is behind others, don’t be. One survey found that employees spend about 60% of their time talking, reading, or planning their work instead of actually working.

Aligned brands don’t have this problem. And employees aren’t at fault either. They need direction so they can act to reach their individual goals as they fit into the company.

Customers Receive Consistent and Authentic Brand Messages

Aligned brands don’t have mediocre mass appeal. They have a serious connection with specific types of people. People who fit the brand’s values and culture absolutely love them.

These customers rave to their friends about the brand’s products. They talk about how happy they are that the brand cares about the same causes they do. They say they hope the brand stays in business forever.

How do you achieve this kind of brand alignment? A consistent authentic message. Every piece of content expresses the same identity.

Clear Expression of How Your Brand Differs from Competitors

A strong identity involves knowing who you are and what you represent. But there’s another part: brands with a strong identity also know what they aren’t.

They can point to qualities and values to say, “that’s not us.”

It’s not about doing the opposite of what your competitors do. It’s about creating a unique identity and expressing it – independent of what anyone else does.

You can only get to this point through proactive brand alignment.

5 Strategies and Examples to Build Your Brand Alignment Model

Aligned brands didn’t get there on pure luck. They created a brand alignment model by grasping for things under their control.

Brand alignment is proactive and intentional. Use these strategies to make your brand’s message look effortless.

1. Define Your Brand’s Mission and Culture

You can’t expect anyone to express a cohesive identity if it doesn’t exist.

This is where a lot of brands go wrong. They assume the culture builds itself through the team’s growth. This strategy works for humans with a lifetime to figure themselves out – but not brands.

Brands need a clearly defined mission and culture from the get-go. Now, this culture doesn’t need top-down dictating. In fact, the whole team should help create the culture to an extent. But it should feel authoritative.

What makes an outstanding culture? Between 84% and 94% of employees agree it must include:

  • Positive work environment
  • Managers who care about them as human beings
  • Excitement coming to work every day
  • Fair compensation for work
  • Leaders who listen and adapt to retain employees

HubSpot ranks among the top workplaces for culture. Over 95% of HubSpot employees say they feel proud to work there, motivated by the mission, and invested in the goals.

HubSpot

2. Encourage Internal Brand Alignment

Internal brand alignment hinges on meeting those elements in the point above: a positive environment where leaders respect employees. But how?

You can make conscious changes to your leadership style, but you can’t force people to get excited about coming to work. That wouldn’t make a very happy workplace even if you could.

There’s no single solution here. Figure out your own strategy with some tactics:

  • Survey employees about their honest complaints, fears, and problems.
  • Include survey questions about their ideal workplace.
  • Create a mission and culture around those shared values.
  • Make sure leadership reflects the values employees deserve.
  • Create cultural onboarding materials for the workplace.
  • Offer a respectable severance to anyone who isn’t committed.
  • Vet future applicants for values and culture.
  • Offer everyone a voice in shaping the culture and mission.

Late Zappos CEO Hsieh offered everyone at least three month’s severance pay to boost the transition to self-management. 18% took it – but 82% stayed and Zappos had the breathing room to double down on one of the most successful cultures.

Zappos

3. Build Your Ideal Audience Personas

Once you have internal brand alignment, you need to figure out what kind of customers will appreciate your values and identity. Otherwise, you’re just shouting into the internet void.

Take inspiration from the employees who helped craft the culture. Research market segments and dig deep into their values. Understand who customers are as human beings:

  • How they spend their weekends
  • Their biggest hopes, dreams, and fears
  • What TV shows and movies they love/hate
  • Whether they prefer online creators and which ones

Just like employees are more than productivity machines, customers are more than pain points to solve. An authentic message acknowledges their humanity.

4. Create Comprehensive Brand Guidelines

Your brand guidelines are the necessary link for taking your internal brand alignment externally.

Think of them as your brand’s identity manifesto. They should be concise enough for people to absorb but detailed enough to avoid confusion. Visual examples of right/wrong expressions can help.

Adobe has finely tuned personality traits for how the brand should represent itself everywhere: clean, captivating, community, forward, and inspiring.

Adobe

But Adobe takes it a step further too. Their guidelines provide a relevant quote, different angles, visual tips, and verbal tips for embodying each tenet. It’s a perfect example of brand alignment.

Adobe

5. Audit Your Brand’s Existing Content and Online Presence

Why wait for someone to contact your sales or customer service team? Jump into content to express your identity and encourage full brand alignment.

Take old content down if you must and start fresh or audit what you’ve got. Take risks and get creative. Look for unique ways to interact with your customers in unusual places.

Barilla Italia took it to another level with their Spotify account – and it earned the pasta company over 175k followers on the streaming app.

Spotify

Each playlist is filled with songs perfectly timed to cook each type of pasta!

Spotify

It’s strange. It’s risky. But it works.

On-Point Brand Alignment Doesn’t Happen Passively

Successful brands make alignment look effortless – but that’s the point. They create a well-defined and cohesive culture across the organisation. Once everyone is on board and aligned internally, they can spread the message externally.

Aligned brands know exactly who to target, who not to target, what to say, what not to say. They know who they are. They have an identity.

Is your brand’s online identity feeling a little stale? Check out our work with virtual influencers, augmented reality, video campaigns, and more for inspiration.

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