Brand Discovery 2022: Tressa McLaughlin on Branding: Ideas into Action

Date Posted: May 12, 2022


Obviously I'm Tressa McLaughlin, president and CEO of SOLV. We are an organization of problem solving experts, collectively finding solutions for our customers. It's what we do. But through intentionality, we really try to be purposeful and help each of our customers with their own mission, vision values.

You've heard from three amazing leaders in our community. Tracey, Karianne and Jessica. Tracey talked about the importance of social capital and showing your brand and your community. Karianne spoke about how intentionality is key to aligning your brand from employees to board members, to customers, and Jessica showcased the importance of unity amongst leadership and employees.

My purpose for asking these three women leaders in our community to come talk about branding is how passionate each of them are about branding, but they have a little bit of different message, but it's very similar. And they always push me to do better. I'm around. 'em A lot. I know how well they they just are who they are. They show up well, they represent well. And they think, well, that is right here. So clearly I get to follow up these three ladies.

So branding is a shared responsibility amongst your team and is one of the most important, valuable assets a company has. How our companies show up in the world is every team member's responsibility. And it starts from the top of the organization and works its way through. I think you heard that message through all three of their presentations. We talked about how you show up in the community. You are your brand being unified in messaging as well as potentially starting from leadership and working its way through.

In the book Unleash Possible, which was one of our book club picks this year. Peter Bower states, a company's CEO has to sell possibilities, a future that may be unleashed in their own mind, but not yet formed in others. This is where our stories come into play. As leaders in the organization in a CEO's mind, it is simple. Our stories tell the futures that are bright, built together with our teams and have unlimited possibilities as leaders. We see it, we know it and we believe it. That's what we have in mind. It's what comes out of our mouths and our actions is how we get our teams to connect.

So how do we get our teams to connect to our vision, build momentum and sustain the amount of energy needed to create a better future for us all? It starts with branding. Branding, shapes people's perceptions of your company, your products, and your people. It's an intangible. You won't see branding on a P and L you won't see branding on a scoreboard in as simplest purest form. Branding creates clear, concise language and visuals for what your company stands for. It does not include a dollar value.

Your team and consumers depend on clear, consistent touchpoints that are authentic, genuine, and represent your team. Your team needs to know what your brand's about. They need to know what the words are. They need to know the visuals. They need to know your brand. Part of what you're here for today is you don't actually get to see behind the scenes itself. This is a two hour workshop where we try to get back to our community. This is a small portion of what we do for our team. This is actually our brand discovery workshop. It's a two day process. We bring all our team members into the corporate office and we work on our own personal brands, how it connects to our team, our departments, each other. We have a lot of fun. There is a lot of competition. I will say. There's a lot of games we play, but it all starts on understanding ourselves and how we relate to our company and what we do.

Our marketing team just unveiled a brand book. It is amazing. It is fantastic, but it tells each of our team members what we stand for, what we do as a company, how we look, how we talk. And one of the things I really liked that our marketing team captured in that is they captured the essence of who our team is and how we show up for our customers and each other. It's not just words in the book. It's not lofty. That's not who we are. So when we talk about authentic as leaders, I believe the four of us would agree that if you're not authentic with your brand, your customers, your consumers will know immediately. And I see a lot of heads nodding at that. So we're all in agreement.

All right, branding shows up before you do. And it's a story that is told when you aren't even in the room. So if I act one way with my leadership team and I act a different way with my employees, that's not authentic. If, when I act an additional different way, my customers, that's not authentic. It's easier for me and easier for my team. And I think if you showed up in either Jessica, Tracey or Karianne's company, they would tell you the same thing, who they are right now is who they are. Whether they're at work at home, amongst a crew like this, they're the same. And that's who you want to work with.

Components of a successful brand

A company's branding identity includes a great logo, tagline, colors, and font. Absolutely key to that. That is what it should include. However, it should also include a company purpose or Simon Sinek says your why. Clearly several of us in the room are Simon Sinek fans. That was very evident in some of our language. When I read his book and understood about the why, that's, how you connect your team to where you're trying to go. It's a great book. I highly recommend it. Sinek also recommends a just cause that inspires your team and rallies them around a common goal. And it should also include core values that are not just words on a wall. I invite you to, when you leave here, look at your core values and make sure you as a leader, understand what those core values mean, how they serve your team and how they serve your customers.

Align your purpose to your core values

If you can't recite them, if you don't believe in them, if your team doesn't believe in them, they don't understand. They're just words on a wall. Core values are much more important than that. We use our core values to align ourselves to our just cause and our company purpose. We use our core values to identify and also look at our performance, how we're showing up and we use it to hire people. We want to make sure that they can live out our core values when your brand is executed and understood by your team. It creates a powerful voice in the community and sets consumer expectations for interactions with your team. Your team's going to show up in a lot of different environments. They're going to be in a lot of different events. You want to make sure that who they are is representative of your brand and your team.

When Karianne's out in public or Tracey or Jessica, they are representing their brand. Even if they're not at work, that's who you think of leaders must establish the components of their brand, which can take quite a bit of time. You need to be intentional. You need to be thoughtful. You want to do it right? And it takes commitment. It takes focus and it takes determination. This is also a good piece of where you want to unify your team. When we were looking at our branding and we actually several years ago, and then we've redone it a couple times since then we actually paid attention to our teams. We asked them what they thought the brand was. We asked them what they thought our customers thought the brand was. We actually asked our customers what our brand was. We got that feedback so that we could create something that truly represents who we are and what we do so that we are authentic and genuine.

People have feelings

When we show up you, your team is made up of people. I don't know if everybody noticed that your team is made up of people and people have feelings. Have you ever heard the quote where I went to work and one day and people showed up? <Laugh> I don't know if that was shocking to you, but people I find very interesting. I love meeting people. I like connecting people. I like figuring out what makes them tick. So this is right up my alley. When I think about branding, your team wants to believe and put their energy into a place that matters, cares about them and what they do. So when you talked about capturing the hearts of the employee, capturing the mind, I really do think you have to capture both. If you want to do good work, you can always get a body to fill a position, but if you want their energy, if you want them to do excellent work, if you want them to find opportunities, if you want them to help you with your blind spots, you want to capture their heart.

You want to make sure that believe in the company and believe in the brand. Once you have your branding components developed your most important task as a leader is to communicate consistently, authentically and continually with your team. It's important that you're all working from the same playbook. When you go to market, I would encourage every leader in the room about the time you're bored, talking about something is the time that your team finally connects to it, because what they want to know is is this just the flavor of the month you're talking about? Is this just a brand new idea that she's going to forget about in two weeks, they want to know that you are serious, that your core values, we have ours right here, really need to do better at that. Just a little sign, but our core values. They've been the same for many, many years. We could have changed them when we bought the company and rebranded, but they really spoke to who we are. They spoke to our team and I could take any single person and I could rank all of our teammates and they would stack up nicely each of those five core values. All right, clear expectations and shared purpose, create immeasurable, immeasurable value for your brand. This is what shows up when you're not in the room.

So, all right, so I'm going to give you some action items that I have learned along the way, because working at SOLV, I have a lot of access to a lot of swag, a lot of apparel, a lot of different ideas, and some of them have turned out splendidly. And some of 'em not so much. So when we talk to our customers or we talk to friends in the community, or we talk to different people, we always try to give 'em our best efforts of, This worked really well, or this one may not have so well, just so that you can get our experience. It doesn't mean you have to take our advice, but we try to give the best that we possibly can. All right.

So this will turn branding into action and create alignment amongst you and your team. First, you want to align your company purpose with your company core values, a purpose should inspire and galvanize your team. I said it before. I'll say it again. Go back to your place, look at your core values and make sure you know, that it's a word that is meaningful to your team and make sure you take action with your core values. All of our core values have an action with them and it's clearly defined what we mean. A lot of people will say they have accountability as part of their core values. We've defined it. So it's very clear to our team members, what we mean and what we expect from that intention matters clearly set expectations for the adoption and company branding ensure that your team knows what's acceptable and what's tolerated. Details matter. You want to make sure that you're clear when Karianne said clarity is kindness. You want to make sure people know what's expected and what's not expected. That helps 'em really focus on their job.

And we talked about earlier, when they said that we've put a lot of effort into our functions. Each team member knows what those are, so that they can go on and do great work. They know what's expected, and then they can create opportunities within their jobs, adopt and use the company, branding yourself. It's important to take the lead and show the team that you believe in your branding actions matter. You notice today I have solve gear on. We all do. We all have a little bit different because we, I believe I believe in our brand. I believe what we can do. We can believe what we do in the community. I know we can support. We can give back and we can help our customers give best versions of themselves. Use your branding, purpose, core values, marketing content in your everyday language, from emails to letters, to conversations.

I know Karianne mentioned in her newsletter that she does. I would bet money, good money that her core values are in there. Her branding is in there. Intentionality is in there. I can tell when Jessica was talking, she believed in her brand. And I could hear some of the words that are about her company coming through in her language. And she wasn't scripted. She just knew it. And I see that with Tracey as well expect and inspect measurements, pull your customers, track your results. Look at your online presence. Seeing how people are engaging with you.

Results matter. You may think your brand is awesome. It's the greatest thing since sliced bread, but you want to check out and see what your customers think. So measure your results.

Encourage your teams to wear branded apparel and use branded swag. Pride matters. I will tell you, we have two days at work where we have casual days, Wednesdays and Fridays. You can show up in yourself shirt, and then you can wear jeans on those days. The other days you could wear SOLV gear all day long as long as you have business casual pants on. As part of our Adventure Trek program that we started a couple of years ago, we gave everybody baseball hats. My intention was, I thought everybody would go to the ballpark, go to all their extracurricular activities, wearing our hat. When I came in one Friday, it's casual day, got their SOLV shirts on and they have jeans on and they have hats on. And I went, my first thought was, hats are not part of our company policy. Why are people wearing hats in our office? And I had to check myself how to think about that. I said, they're wearing our hats. They're wearing our hats. And it was so one of the things I just got little choked up about because they were wearing our hats. It seemed so silly, but they liked what we gave them. And actually they looked great in them too. So we changed our policy. You can wear hats that work on casual days.

As leaders, attend one department meeting a month and yes, I'm going to stop right here because I saw Gordon shift. I think he was the trendsetter. <Laugh> just so you know, on that, he was the trendsetter attend one department meeting a month. It's best to learn from everyone how your brand is incorporated in everyday work life. Showing up matters. The ELT team and our company - we all have our departments and our direct reports. I like to roam around the company. I like to sit in on different meetings. I like to learn. I like to see what people are working on so I can see the language. I can see if accountability showing up in that department. I can see if they're struggling with knowledge. If they're struggling with knowledge, it's my job to figure out how to get them that knowledge. So I like sitting in at different meetings and I would encourage you to do that as well.

And Tracey's favorite, serve your community wearing your brand. Companies are supported by their communities and reciprocity is key. Giving back matters. We are supported by our communities as companies and I believe that we should show up and help whenever and wherever we can. So when Tracey was talking about all of her events that she shows up at, she's not there for a cell, she's not there for a business card, she's there to show up and give back. And I admire that. She does that very well. All right, clear, concise branding is crucial to capturing the hearts and minds of your team and your company's long term success. I encourage everyone to be passionate, intentional, and committed, to invest and be on brand. It starts with all of us and all of us that work within our companies. We should all be responsible for being on brand. So thank you. And I would like to thank these three women leaders in the community who gave you a lot to think about a lot to take back and I appreciate what you did today. It was awesome.

want to be exposed to new branding & marketing ideas?
Register now for Brand Discovery held on Thursday, May 4th from 10am-1pm at JUMP in Downtown Boise. 

We have an amazing panel of speakers lined-up, excited to share with you all the juicy details on: how to build your personal brand, giving you high-level strategic branding advice, how to implement branding tactics, and more!

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