The essence of who we are. When we talk about branding, I like to compare a brand to a person. This comparison is as common as the use of the term DNA in connection with companies and brands.
The essential base
When we know who we are, we can act, move forward and not have to compete. In her book “Story driven”, Bernadette Jiwa has defined 4 essentials for a company that is, as she calls it, story driven. Story driven companies are essentially companies that are focused on their customers rather than be focused on competition and competing. It is the short term versus the long term match.
So the 4 essentials she defined are Backstory, Values, Purpose, Vision and Strategy. Those essentials for story driven companies can also be seen as the DNA. The core of the brand that defines who they are, where they came from and where they want to go.
What is the story of a company? What is its origin?
What are the company´s guiding beliefs?
What is the company’s reason to exist?
Where is the company headed and why? What does the company strive for?
The plan of how to pursue the vision by staying true to the purpose and sticking to the values.
So what is a DNA good for?
A company’s DNA is important for a few things. As I will state i a second.
First, we must clarify a few terms as seen in this graphic.
The company is what it is and the brand is the perceived version of the company in the head of the consumer. The ultimate goal is to align who you really are with who the people think you are. This is basically the process of branding.
When we brand a company we use attributes such as the DNA, the heart, the brain and many others. Those help us to clarify the company itself. We so to speak create an artificial human on paper. When everybody is on the same page, and everything the company does aligns with what is written on that paper, the customer perceives the company in the planned manner and thereby creates the desired brand.
The DNA is one steppingstone towards that goal. By reframing the “Story driven framework” by Bernadette Jiwa into the picture of the DNA, it fits into the context we need in order to use the other building blocks.
But why the image of the DNA and not anything else? This is fairly simple. The DNA does not change. It stays the same our whole life. The attributes mentioned are attributes that should never change, or at least are so important that one should only alter them very carefully.
The strategy attribute should thereby not be a full-on strategy. It rather should be the base strategy of how you want to do things you need to do in order to fulfil your vision. This basic approach should be consistent in all your strategies. Your base strategy might be to reach your vision of making phones more affordable by not exploiting workers in developing countries. Then your values might be that everyone should earn enough to fulfil their basic life needs and not be exploited by companies for profit. This then applies to the customer who can buy a good phone for little money and to the worker. A basic strategy such as in the example should never change because it not only has a positive impact on the culture of your company and strengthens the identification of the employees with such, but it also is a great selling proposition. Once this basic strategy gets broken, the customer will see the company in a different light and the company’s culture alters for the worse.
The company’s DNA is good in order to clarify the most important and basic characteristics. This helps everyone in that company to align their values and beliefs. Therefore the customer has an easier time connecting to your brand. This is important because out in the market, every second the consumer needs to understand what the company is and what it stands for, is a second the consumer can be lost to the competition.