‘It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it.’

– Simon Sinek

When working on a brand, I’ve found the best place to start is to cut though the façade and try to capture the essence of what sits behind an organisation. Or as inspirational optimist Simon Sinek espouses, to look for the ‘why’.

Peeling back the hard exterior of a business to reveal what is beating at its heart often reveals some surprising insights. And it can take the organisation in a totally different direction.

So what techniques can help you uncover what’s driving the brand?

Ask the leader

Understanding the motivations of the leaders of the organisation should be high on your list.

In many cases the business will have an existing business plan. The plan typically sets out the mission, vision and values of the business. This provides us with the ‘head’ of the organisation, but often not the ‘heart’.

But asking questions such as, ‘What gets you up in the morning?’, ‘Why do you do what you do?’, cuts through to the core driver of the leadership team.

The answers can sometimes surprise you:

  • ‘Saving lives’
  • ‘Mistakes – and learning from them’
  • ‘Problem solving’
  • ‘Helping people become better’
  • ‘Creating something new’
  • ‘The deal’
  • ‘Reaching a goal’
  • ‘Simply making a difference’

Armed with these insights, you can start to understand the underlying motivations of the organisation. Next is understanding its DNA. Its personality.

Who are you?

How would you describe the organisation if it was a person? If you bumped into the organisation on the street.

Friendly, arrogant, aloof, innovative, sluggish, funny, clever?

A great way to capture this is to use public personalities or characters that represent a diversity of traits.

When you line up faces such as Bono, Don Bradman, Bart Simpson, Richard Branson, and so on, and ask people to identify the organisation with the personality, it’s amazing what can come out of it.

It’s also a great way to get the leaders enthused in really understanding the make-up of their brand. The discussions and insights that can come out of it can be invaluable. Give it a try.

This simple exercise can pull together an executive management team and help them explain the organisation as it stands now. But importantly, these personas also help shape the future of the brand personality, its values and tone of voice used in communications.

It often exposes the true heart of the organisation – what it believes, how it wants to be seen, and what will drive its future direction.

What this does is get to ‘why’ the brand exists. And it often reveals some surprising and insightful results for the leaders of the organisation.

It also brings it back to answering one simple – yet challenging – question.

What truly sits at the heart of the brand?


Richard Foster
BY Richard Foster ON 15 June 2012
Richard Foster is the head of writing at Melbourne branding agency TANK. Richard’s focus is helping organisations find clarity and meaning in their written and spoken communications. For more information visit tankbranding.com.au