[Podcast] Brand Purpose, Mission, Vision & Core Values with Stef Hamerlinck

[Podcast] Brand Purpose, Mission, Vision & Core Values with Stef Hamerlinck

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Tune in to episode 5 of the JUST Branding Podcast and listen to Stef Hamerlinck, a strategy consultant & podcaster, chat to Matt Davies and Jacob Cass on brand purpose, brand authenticity and some unique perspectives on the benefits and misuses of growing a brand from the inside out.

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Show Transcript

Jacob Cass:
Hello and welcome to JUST Branding. This is episode five in series one, and we have our first guest author speaker with us today. And we are going to be talking about brand purpose, mission, and values. So Stef Hamerlinck is a brand strategist who also runs a design and strategy firm called Ollie, and he is also a podcaster who runs Let’s Talk Branding, which I’ve listened to a lot.

Jacob Cass:
We’ve got him on the show, because he’s got opinions and they don’t always align with other people’s opinions. And I think that’s a great person to have on the show, because as brand strategists, we all have our own way of doing things, but it’s good to be looking at things from a critical angle. So I’m going to jump straight into it and ask you how do you define brand purpose, Stef?

Stef Hamerlinck:
Well, that’s already a hard question, because it depends a lot on who’s answering the question. But for me, brand purpose is very closely related to the why of the company, why do we exist, what’s our reason to exist. And it mainly stemmed out I think vision and mission. It’s almost like vision and mission pressed together in a really short concept. That’s I think what most people perceive as brand purpose.

Stef Hamerlinck:
And then, I think over the years, it evolved where it took over mission and vision for a big part. And it became this brand essence, which is interesting to me, where there’s a lot of overlap between these two concepts which is brand essence and brand purpose, because a lot of people talk about their brand purpose as the thing that drives the company forward. What is it that drives this company?

Stef Hamerlinck:
And then, they answer the purpose or often it’s the same as the essence. So I’m not trying to confuse people here, but that’s exactly probably where I have some beef with this, because it is a little bit confusing. And then, there is even the link with CSR, corporate social responsibility, which was the OG purpose which was a lot of companies said, “We need to have a corporate social responsibility,” which is fine.

Stef Hamerlinck:
But nowadays, it has become this thing where it’s not cool to be corporate social responsibility. It needs to be more authentic. It needs to be driven by purpose, and this mainly came from… I don’t know if you guys know Simon Sinek. Probably you do, but he’s-

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Matt Davies:
Yeah, we know of him. I mean, I don’t know him personally.

Jacob Cass:
We’re not OG.

Matt Davies:
Yet, yet. We might have him on the show at some point, so who knows?

Stef Hamerlinck:
Awesome, awesome. Yeah, he almost invented this idea of the why, what’s the why. A lot of purpose thinking evolves around that concept of why. And so, that’s a bit different from that corporate social responsibility, but there is a lot of overlap, because most of the times you see companies that talk about, “Well, our purpose is also what we do for society.”

Stef Hamerlinck:
And so, that’s very closely related to corporate social responsibility, but people don’t want to name it the same thing, because the one thing it sounds more like it’s something everybody needs. While its purpose is something that’s driven uniquely by what you do, a long, winding explanation.

Matt Davies:
So how would you summarize that, Stef? How could you summarize? What is brand purpose to you? How do you look at it?

Stef Hamerlinck:
Brand purpose is the why I think. That’s-

Matt Davies:
Nice.

Stef Hamerlinck:
… the easiest answer.

Jacob Cass:
And why do we have to ask why? What is the purpose behind that?

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Stef Hamerlinck:
Well, that’s the question. What is the purpose of having a brand purpose? And I’m not sure that it’s always that important to have that actually, because what I’ve seen and I’ve done probably around 100 workshops or more now, so I can see what happens or what doesn’t happen. Sometimes, you answer this question and you get a great answer. This is a person that’s leading the company or somebody that’s in the company that really has a strong purpose.

Stef Hamerlinck:
He really knows why this company was founded, and it wasn’t just there for making money. And I think then it’s really interesting to go into that and to build a brand on top of that, but there’s a lot of companies that don’t have this strong purpose, that don’t have this strong founding story or this strong why, but they do create a great product or a great service. And so, sometimes then if we are too focused on brand purpose because we think it’s like we need to have this, we can’t have a brand without a brand purpose, then we start inventing a purpose.

Stef Hamerlinck:
We start finding one that fits what a cool purpose looks like, and we start matching it. You see a lot of cool brands like Patagonia or TOMS. There’s a lot of brands that are really strong today and have a strong purpose. And so, we start thinking if somebody answers us and it isn’t a strong purpose, we start pushing it towards something that we like to hear that is a good purpose.

Stef Hamerlinck:
If you want to talk about authenticity, that’s completely not authentic because you’re just literally like… That’s the same as me saying, “Well, I’m driven by making designers feel happy,” or something. If that’s not true, I’m just inventing a purpose to make me sound cooler and I think that’s a bit of a problem. So yeah, that’s why the purpose of purpose is sometimes it’s not useful to have it, because you can have a successful brand without having a purpose.

Stef Hamerlinck:
It’s perfectly possible. There’s no reason why you should have it. If it isn’t a big part of the story, then just ignore it and just focus on what product you have. And that’s more than enough, because there’s a lot of research that has shown us that if we look at customer behavior, consumer behavior, they don’t buy because of purpose. We might think that, or we might believe that. Because if I ask you, Jacob or Matt, “Hey, do you buy brands based on your beliefs,” what would you say?

Matt Davies:
I’d say sometimes.

Jacob Cass:
Sometimes, yeah.

Stef Hamerlinck:
Well, it’s normal. I mean, do you buy brands that fit your values?

Jacob Cass:
I think subconsciously I do. For example, Apple is the biggest one that comes to mind because of what they stand for and innovation really. And that’s what I am drawn to. But when you say Patagonia, for example, before I even started brand strategy, I didn’t know they were doing good for the Earth. And that’s really what their whole brand strategy was about. I had no idea. I just thought they were the outdoor brand, and then-

Stef Hamerlinck:
Thank you.

Jacob Cass:
That’s a good example-

Stef Hamerlinck:
Thank you, Jacob.


Jacob Cass:
… of your point where I wouldn’t buy Patagonia for what they do, but there’s other great examples like TOMS, which I will be part of. That’s a great model, and it’s been replicated so much. But I think to bring this back down to Earth for small business, how can they build this into their brand?

Stef Hamerlinck:
Well, again I think it’s really important to understand that if you have something, this story or this why that really works well that has an interesting value to it and it sounds like it’s something you want to share with the world, and maybe it’s also relevant for consumers, then by all means start talking about that story. But never forget that in the first place, you need to have other queues that are more important.

Stef Hamerlinck:
Even the founder of Wallaby Parker said… I don’t have the quote by head, but he said like, “First, we focused on having the best possible glasses for the right price, and we focused on having the right distribution model. And then, we focused on having advertising that works. And only then did we start thinking about telling our story about the Wallaby Parker story and the purpose behind it.”

Stef Hamerlinck:
So always remember that there are fundamental layers that go before all these things that are purpose, that are more important. And then, if you do feel that there is something to be told, by all means go ahead, but again it’s really interesting to me. If you look around yourself in your room and you look at all the brands that are standing in front of you, you might not be able to say the purpose of more than 90% of the brands that are in your room.

Stef Hamerlinck:
So I think as a small business, it’s even more important, because you have limited resources to think about where you’re going the invest and where you’re going to build your brand around. And I think that’s unsure.

Jacob Cass:
Yeah, I think that’s-

Matt Davies:
I think that’s-

Jacob Cass:
… one side of it.

Matt Davies:
Sorry, go on.

Jacob Cass:
I was just going to say, yeah, that’s one side of it. But if you look at the other side of how it affects you subconsciously and the beliefs of the why, because if you create at least in the brand and you’re aligned with the customers, it creates a more emotional connection and that is why you’re joined to that brand, for example. So that’s the other side of discussion. What is your perspective on that?

Stef Hamerlinck:
I don’t actually believe people join brands. I’m skeptical about that, because again this is the big idea, that idea that brands are there to create loyalty and to create customers that believe in the brand. And thus, they buy more. They buy easier. They become recurring customers. For a lot of brands, I don’t know if that’s the case. And science has shown us. For example, How Brands Grow is a really interesting book by Byron Sharp.

Stef Hamerlinck:
I really recommend reading it. They have looked at different categories, and they have seen that people are not innate. We are not loyal to any brands. We tend to skip a brand every two years, even though the brand can be super powerful, even though it can be aligned with our unconsciousness. We’re still flipping from brand to brand. I think what your point is about emotional unconsciously, it’s super important.

Stef Hamerlinck:
I think that’s actually the essence of what branding is about, and I think that’s what is so important here for designers is to understand that a brand, a certain visual identity, it signals certain unconscious signals that trigger someone to buy, but the important word here is unconscious. Purpose is a lot more about messaging and rational.

Stef Hamerlinck:
What’s the story and do I believe in that story, and does it match my story? But unconscious, there’s a lot of things that are happening that are really important and maybe that can be, for example, the way that packaging looks. Yeah, Matt, do tell.

Matt Davies:
Yeah, no, I just wanted to comment here. So I find this approach really, really interesting. I love the skepticism. It’s great to be challenged. It really is. I have a quick, quick thought. I’ve read that book by Byron Sharp and it is profound. Basically, he flips the assumptions of marketeers and what’s taught in many universities worldwide. So yeah, let’s get our readers to have a read of that. It’s quite technical though, I would say, for the [crosstalk 00:12:12]-

Stef Hamerlinck:
Yeah, it’s fairly academic.

Matt Davies:
Yeah, it is. It was heavy-going. I’ve got to be honest, but I got the gist of it, even my simple brain. But one of the things I thought it may miss out, and I wonder what your thoughts are on this, is one of the things that I find is that the challenge of businesses, be that small business or a massive business is often in leadership and alignment. So one of the things that is very hard to do is basically get a load of people to execute against something very simple, because everybody’s got their views.

Matt Davies:
And everyone’s piling in with, “Let’s do this. Let’s go after this market. Let’s try this. Let’s deploy over here.” So it can become very challenging. So I wonder whether or not, and this is a question really to you is do you think the value in defining a brand purpose, yes, could eventually get to the consumer but really the heart of it might be best served for the leadership team and then for the teams underneath them within a business?


Stef Hamerlinck:
It’s definitely an interesting concept. What I tend to say is that brand strategy is that internal alignment, but brand purpose is like a small facet, one exercise, one thinking model within all of these options but I think, yes, it’s really important that you have a really clarified what this brand is about in really simple terms. I mean, in the end at a presentation I do for brand strategy, what I showed them is a slide that on top it has brand platform.

Stef Hamerlinck:
That’s a sentence that’s let’s say, I don’t know, five words, six words, something like that. You could say it’s the brand essence, or you can say it’s the brand purpose for all that matters. And then, I have three supporting pillars. That’s the slide that everybody needs to understand. That’s the slide that will align marketing, branding for the coming years. So that’s really important, but I think does that have to be the brand purpose?

Stef Hamerlinck:
I’m not sure, because brand purpose is very much related to that story and that why. And that doesn’t always create the right platform for certain products. So for me, it’s like it’s not brand purpose. It’s brand strategy. That’s the difference.

Matt Davies:
Okay, no, that makes sense. That makes sense. I think it’s fascinating. What we’re discovering, at least I am discovering in my work in strategy, is there is no one tool that applies to every single business. And there is no one silver bullet that you can just shoot off and go, “Right, yeah, we’ve done brand.” And it’s constantly evolving and changing as consumers change, as companies change, as leadership teams shuffle around. It’s so important to get that clarity, interesting. So you see-

Stef Hamerlinck:
Absolutely.

Matt Davies:
… very much the purpose as the external essence of the brand and not necessarily an internal driver.

Stef Hamerlinck:
Not per se that it has to be external, because a lot of these statements, positioning statements, purpose statements are kept internally and then maybe translated externally into some kind of founding story, or maybe into a tagline. It doesn’t have to be externally. It’s just the fact that even internally it doesn’t have to exist to have a successful brand. That’s what I’m saying.

Stef Hamerlinck:
It can be there and if it’s there, by all means, go ahead and talk about it. But if it’s not that important, then it doesn’t… It’s not a checkbox for every brand strategy. That’s what I’m trying to say. And I think that’s the problem with this idea of Simon Sinek, his golden circle. It’s how, why, what, the three circles.

Stef Hamerlinck:
And so, he says that if you don’t have this why, this inner thing, then you can’t have a successful brand or anything that’s driven. I don’t know if that’s always true. Sometimes, the platform can be the how or even the what.

Jacob Cass:
Okay. So I think we’re aligning why to a created purpose for the business doing better, doing business for other things than money. So that’s the question we’re going to answer. But for a small business, it doesn’t have to have this lofty goal of donating another pair of shoes or glasses. It can just be about helping another person and really bringing that back down to your mission and aligning that with your why.

Jacob Cass:
So it doesn’t necessarily have to have this big idea. So I think that’s the other tool that could be used to help align the brand and have a mission to do is to have that way, so you can always know who you’re looking after and know why you’re doing it. So I think that’s the other side of it rather than that big idea.

Stef Hamerlinck:
I think what’s interesting is the fact that you mentioned here and I think that is true, that if you’re working with smaller businesses or businesses that are just starting, it’s often easier for them to know what the why is. Or it’s so close to when they actually started, or they’re such a small business that they really know why they’re doing this. And that’s often the challenge when you come in organizations that are bigger.

Stef Hamerlinck:
It seems like it’s a lot harder to find out a purpose that’s really honest and authentic, because these big organizations, they are set up to work and to grow, but they are not always aligned on what it is. And I think, yeah, for sure, a lot of smaller businesses innately have this and I’m not saying they should ignore this. It’s just I have worked with smaller businesses or even startups that they were almost frustrated that they didn’t have this powerful why.

Stef Hamerlinck:
And I was like, “Guys, it doesn’t matter if we’re not having this. Let’s look at what consumer need you’re solving and if that’s the right solution for them, and let’s build a brand around that. And don’t worry too much about this purpose,” because all the books we’re reading is we see all these amazing brands with all these amazing persons. And every brand starts asking me, “Do I need to do a one-for-one?” And I’m like, “No, chill, man. Just do the proper thing.” Sorry, Matt, go ahead.

Matt Davies:
No, no, no. That’s all. I mean, I was just going to come in there and say would it be facetious of me to say that actually what you are actually helping those smaller businesses do is find their purpose. It’s just that the purpose is not as lofty as perhaps some of these other brands who’ve crazy like TOMS have been able to achieve. I often think of Amazon, which is often quoted as to be the customer-centric company on the planet or something like that, the customer-centric company in the world or something.

Matt Davies:
And you think, “Well, that’s kind of not that lofty.” It is, but it isn’t. We’re just saying that we’re going to just serve customers really well. That’s our purpose. And really, that’s exactly what you’re saying there. The question then is, on Amazon for example, is how they are going to do that. And they’re going to get the biggest range and the most efficient website, and that then becomes their strategy to grow into that purpose.

Matt Davies:
So I wonder whether what you’re talking about is just saying to people, “Look, you don’t have to go too crazy with this,” right? Don’t go too high. I would say, “You are talking about a purpose but just limiting that and just making that smaller, and then not developing it into some huge story that is unauthentic at the end of the day.” Is that a fair summary?

Stef Hamerlinck:
I think there’s definitely some truth, and it probably has to do with splitting hairs in terms of what words we are using. No, but words matter a lot in strategy, because I do feel like taking the stress of something by calling it differently can help a lot in building a brand. For example, if I say to my client, “Well, this is your platform,” that word for me means it’s something we’re going to build branding and marketing on top.

Stef Hamerlinck:
For me, the metaphor works. While its purpose is something else, it has different connotations, different attestations, different expectations. And so, I do think sometimes it matters what we call it, because it helps understand the exercise. But yeah, for sure. Sometimes, I might be working on defining the purpose. The issue though is that for a lot of things, what I said.

Stef Hamerlinck:
There’s a lot of clichés and things hanging around this work that are not working as much, and I think a lot of cases people, clients, do expect that if they read a book about why… They think that if they have a stronger why, consumers will be attracted to their brand more easily. And I think that hides the painful truth that brands have to put a lot of effort, a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of creating content or creating ads or paying media budgets to get out there and to be known by consumers.

Stef Hamerlinck:
And it’s not because you have an authentic story that consumers will automatically flock to you, and I think that’s important. Our role as designers or as strategists is explained to our client like, “Whatever you’re building, whatever story you’re telling, it’s not going to be that magical that people are going to automatically come to you. So let’s also think a lot about why this should really work.”

Jacob Cass:
I was going to ask you. I took your Activate Your Strategic Brain course, and you actually went through creating the strategy for a fictional company, which was called Far Moon. And I think also great insight into how you actually go about a workshop and figure out about creating this brand manifesto. So could you give some insights into how you would actually go through this process with a small, mid-sized business to create this brand manifesto, how you get to the why and some of the steps you go through in your workshop. I think that will be super helpful for listeners.

Stef Hamerlinck:
Sure, so a brand workshop is something. I think the easiest way to get to know the brand workshop is to buy… Where’s it at? I know it’s a book, so not everyone can see this. But for people on YouTube, this book, Branding in Five and a Half Steps, it’s a really good book. And there are six questions in that book that I also use in my workshop. So simple questions like why are we here, so purpose, what are we here for, who are we here for, what makes us different, these really simple questions that aren’t terminology we use.

Stef Hamerlinck:
It’s not like what is our positioning. It’s like what makes us different, for example, really simple questions. And so, the workshop is just me with my client going through these questions, and we’re putting Post-its on the wall and trying to facilitate. So sometimes, I’m trying to group certain Post-its, or I’m trying to remove Post-its or move them to another question.

Stef Hamerlinck:
It’s just getting as much gut-feeling reactions out of your client when it comes about, brand, and then putting that in a workshop. After that, I go about starting to define the brand and that’s doing a lot of research, looking at competitors, looking at category analysis, doing customer research or doing interviews, doing maybe some quantitative surveys, all that stuff to really get to see were the assumptions made in the workshop.

Stef Hamerlinck:
The things we’ve told in the workshop, are they true? Can we validate them to other pieces of research? And then, you start defining a story or a brand. So you start defining the values. You start defining positioning. So how do we compare ourself to other companies? And then, once you have that layer of discovery, you’ve researched the brand. You’ve defined the basics of the brand, and you’ve positioned the brand.

Stef Hamerlinck:
Oh, sorry, then you start thinking about more creative executions of that. For example, if you have a purpose, it’s easy to start writing a manifesto or some really interesting copy. What I tend to write, for example, these days is a press release of the brand. And this is if you can have a brand strategy, and then you can write a press release that has all the aspects of the story you’re going to tell.

Stef Hamerlinck:
And your client can see that press release in the right tone of voice with all the right aspects in the right hierarchy. What’s in the short title for the press release? What’s in the longer piece? What’s in the second paragraph? This is really brand strategy. It’s like telling your story in the right order, in the right hierarchy, in the right tone of voice. And that’s what’s really helpful.

Stef Hamerlinck:
So whether it’s a manifesto, a press release or some kind of creative touchpoint you’re creating as the end point of the strategy, that’s really powerful. And it’s more powerful than, for example, positioning statements or other things. These are of course helpful to define your brand, to start clarifying where you’re going.

Stef Hamerlinck:
But if you can translate that into something creative that will speak to a consumer and is relevant to them in a way that’s really sparking interest and enthusiasm, I think then you’re at the end point of your strategy. And you can start building brand identity or whatever creative executions.

Jacob Cass:
I think that’s brilliant and very well said. So yeah, I think what you just said at the end is what a lot of designers are going to be interested in to see how you can actually use this document to translate it to design. So bridge that gap, which is really what this season’s about. So do you have any insight of how you actually go about doing that, or what’s the next steps?

Stef Hamerlinck:
Sure. So I think first off, it’s really important. At the end of the strategy, you really need to have a feeling that everybody is aligned. I have this idea that if we’re not almost high-fiving at the end of a strategy presentation, there’s something that went wrong, because there’s still some doubt. Strategy is only as good as the execution that comes after that. So if you didn’t build that platform, for everyone you’re going to have trouble in the execution.

Stef Hamerlinck:
That’s always the same thing. Every time I feel there is some objectives and they are still there at the end, I know we’re going to have trouble in the design phase. But okay, so that’s on the side. That’s really important that everyone feels aligned at the end. For bridging that gap, we have a couple of things. For example, this is something you should maybe ask Gil Huybrecht, who’s my colleague.

Stef Hamerlinck:
He does this thing where it’s like a mood-pouring session with the client. So what we do is we have a couple of posters on the walls that briefly summarize the brand strategy. So who’s the target audience? What are some maybe visual clichés? What is our tone of voice? A couple of really important things that talk about the brand and the personality and the audience, and then we have a bunch of design books on the table.

Stef Hamerlinck:
It can be a lot of different styles of books, and we just start flipping through these books. And the client can put small Post-its on pages he likes or red Post-its on things he doesn’t like. And then, at the end, we go again through it and we match it with what does fit also the brand personality. And what we also tend to do is we have a poster with visual clichés. So those are things that in that category, for example, are very typical, very cliché.

Stef Hamerlinck:
And we want to avoid them. So when a client tells you, “I want this type of photography,” you can point back to that visual cliché you agreed upon, by the way, in the strategy because that’s important. And you tell them, “Look, this is really a cliché in your industry. So I would avoid going in that direction, if we want to look distinctive of course.” So that’s a really important part.

Stef Hamerlinck:
That session is where we get a feeling of what they personally like, but also we have a discussion about how it might match the brand. So it’s a bit different than stylescaping what, for example, the future where stylescape is something you present to your client. What we do is we tend to almost create a stylescape in collaboration with our client while having the strategy in front of us.

Stef Hamerlinck:
So that’s the way we do that. And then, after that, we present identity work. We don’t do any iterations. So in the last I think 20 or 30 projects, we never did a second logo or we never did a second iteration of the identity. It’s not to say that we found the golden formula for this thing, but it’s crazy how much we can just show the identity and they say, “Yeah, yeah, that’s it,” because they kind of already knew where it was going because of the strategy, because of that session, because they did it together.

Stef Hamerlinck:
And that’s a really important note here is if you involve your client in this whole process, if you make them understand what visual clichés are. And if they really see, then they’re almost like they created the logos together with you. So they can’t really shoot it down, because it’s not a surprise. So that’s our process, and then we go and build the whole brand experience, so identity work, website, all that stuff.

Matt Davies:
Stef, do you ever have issues where you’re in one of those sessions, and maybe you’ve got two or three people who are all leaders in the company? You agree the clichés or whatever it might be, and then you’re going through. And then, one of them says, “No, no, I really want this particular thing. I think that really matches the strategy,” and another one says, “No, it really does not.” And they’re at loggerheads. Do you ever have that, and how do you overcome tensions in the room?

Stef Hamerlinck:
We have that, but we try to move those discussions before any actual work is created. So for example, in the mood-pouring session, that’s where those discussions come up and they have to come up. It’s good that they come up, because you know they’re going to come up later in design stages. And I think what’s really good is the fact that, one, you need to do these sessions with not just one client, if you can.

Stef Hamerlinck:
I always try to have two or maybe three people from their team, because you’re going to see the more voices you have, the more you’re going to have discussions internally like, “No, no, that doesn’t align with the strategy.” And so, you basically get people on board, and then they start having internal discussions. And they come out of it with a certain compromise or something that aligns them.

Stef Hamerlinck:
And I think that works really well, but I think the main point here is not to avoid these things, but it’s just to bring them up at the right point. For example, in strategy, I have the same thing. I do a truth session before a presentation, and a truth session is just a session where I create let’s say 10 posters with really harsh truths about the strategy or things that I feel that are really sensitive.

Stef Hamerlinck:
And I put them on the walls and I just say, “Guys, I have a feeling that you won’t get this or you won’t do that, or you won’t see this. Is that true or not?” And then, we have a really honest discussion about it. It’s a truth session, but that’s the perfect point to bring it up, because it’s early in the process.

Stef Hamerlinck:
There’s still a lot of room for improvement. But if you wait and you keep it to yourself, and then you present it as work, you’re going to have trouble. So I think the only way to fix this is to actually talk about it.

Matt Davies:
Yeah, it’s really interesting. I think what you’re talking about is not being afraid of opening up the creative process, which you can only really do unless you’ve done the strategy piece with the client, and you’ve got that trust with them and vice versa. You’ve got that relationship. And now, you can open up those conversations and they trust you to guide them through those discussions.

Stef Hamerlinck:
Because they know you understand their category. They’re consumers and it’s really interesting. I’ve had actually this client that told me after we did this strategy, “I had the feeling you understood my industry better than I did myself. So I would let you do anything, because I know you got this, because I know you understand my industry almost better than me or at least you have a perspective that’s so valuable to me.”

Stef Hamerlinck:
I think if you can create that feeling, that it’s not about you and your design and your world and your little discipline of branding, but it’s about their understanding, their company, their business, their needs. Then, they will really trust you, and then you can have these discussions like, “Look, I know this is your preference, but it’s not the best way forward for the brand. And do you remember what we agreed upon for the brand, yes? Then, can we move forward with this?”

Stef Hamerlinck:
I’ve had clients that said, “I hate purple. I really freaking hate purple,” but we agreed that we needed a color that wasn’t this, this and this color because these competitors had that color. We agreed that we needed that personnel. We needed to have a vote, and all the checkboxes were there. And I said, “If you look at all these reasons, can you deny that this is a good call for the brand?”

Stef Hamerlinck:
And he said, “No, I can’t. Let’s just do purple then.” And it’s funny, because we still make a joke about it and he can laugh at it, but he knows that it’s successful. And the identity looks well and distinctive. And so, it’s really this process where you’re not a scientist, but you do have a really process to get there and that helps a lot in removing these discussions.

Jacob Cass:
I think the key word you said there was process, and that’s really what strategy is about, having that process and a way to facilitate information from the client. So-

Stef Hamerlinck:
Absolutely.

Jacob Cass:
You’ve shared a lot of knowledge and a lot of insights, and I think it’s a good time to wrap up this episode, unless you had any closing thoughts or plugs that you want to say for our audience?

Stef Hamerlinck:
Maybe one thing, yesterday I just published this. So maybe it’s a good thing to wrap it up. I just created my own definition of brand strategy, and that’s maybe a good way to end this. And so, I wrote down brand strategy is a platform that bridges, no, is a… yeah, is a platform that bridges branding and marketing with business strategy. And so, just to clarify, I think that’s why it’s so important is again this idea of it being a platform, what we’ve talked about.

Stef Hamerlinck:
A purpose is maybe a part of that platform, but it can be something else, but it’s a platform that bridges business strategy, so understanding all the things that revolve around the business model, the market and so forth. And it bridges that with branding and marketing. So it’s really important I think for designers. This is something I struggle with, to be honest. First, for me brand strategy was a way to do better branding, but the problem is brand strategy for clients actually is also a way to do marketing.

Stef Hamerlinck:
And marketing has all these other really important things we need to learn about, distribution, price. It’s not just about promotion. So once you understand that brand strategy is that, you can maybe start learning a little bit more about marketing, if you want to offer brand strategy as a service that isn’t just related to branding, because I think that’s fine if you want to do better design.

Stef Hamerlinck:
Brand strategy will help you do that. It will help you gain trust with your clients. It will help you charge more. But if you then want to level up to that level of doing brand strategy that is really valuable for the business on a higher level, then it’s really important to also start learning about marketing. That’s something I wanted to share.

Jacob Cass:
That’s a brilliant way to close out. Thank you so much. So for our listeners, go to check out Stef’s website, which is Let’s Talk Branding. So it’s a podcast, tons of guests on there to listen to. So definitely go check that out, and we’ll link to all of his stuff in the blurb, as well. So do you have any closing things, Matt?

Matt Davies:
I just wanted to thank Stef for his time and for his views and for coming on the show. It’s been fantastic to have you, and we love your challenging of all the clichés and all the junk that floats around. We’re unfortunately getting to a point where brand has an identity crisis, which is a bit ironic really. So thank you for cutting through some of that for us today and thank you for all your insights. And we look forward to keeping in touch with you over the coming years, and maybe we’ll have you back on in a few years.

Stef Hamerlinck:
Awesome, I’m honored to be on the show. Thanks a lot, guys. This was really fun.

Jacob Cass:
Thanks, Stef.

Matt Davies:
Thank you.

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