Love the Bones You Own: Developing Your Big Idea

Perhaps you have heard of the expression, "love the skin you're in", which is a way of encouraging a person to be happy with their natural body type and appearance. The phrase is one of self-confidence and empowerment. A healthy and positive self-image is recognized as a good thing for individuals, and the same is true for businesses.

“Love the Bones You Own” is my own, slightly different, take on the “Love the Skin You’re In” slogan, and it applies directly. Bones form the structure that our muscles and skin rest on. In the same way that everything you see on the outside of human being rests upon the framework of a skeleton, This relates to brand building for small businesses.

What dynamic, inclusive concept or conviction pervades throughout everything your organization does? This is your “Big Idea”, and it forms the foundation that all your organization’s attitudes, activities and aspirations are built upon. Your Big Idea is essential to being able to build your brand and communicate your unique identity visually, verbally and otherwise.

In the same way that everything you see on the outside of a human being rests upon their skeleton,  your Big Idea is the scaffolding that supports all your brand strategy and activity. The branding handbook, Brand Atlas, puts it this way, “A big idea is articulated by the company and recognized by the consumer as the reason the brand is chosen, cherished and enduring.”

Whatever you decide on for your Big Idea, do it thoughtfully and partner with storytellers, designers, messengers and distributors that help that idea carry through all your brand touchpoints. Your Big Idea can be anything, but above all, it must be yours. This is the age of authenticity, and inauthentic brands are sniffed out and called out.

Ah, yes, but how exactly does one come up with a big idea? Your organization can identify and capitalize on its Big Idea with a 3-phase approach I call “Define, Refine, Align.” This process will yield numerous important insights as well as an authentic final result; a skeleton your organization can immediately build upon.

DEFINE
Your organization must strategically determine what undergirds all your business practices, structures and systems. You can begin by asking yourself, what need does my organization exist to meet, or better yet, what problem do we exist to solve. The “Why?” question should precede the “What?” question.  

For more direction, try to consider and leverage the “nouns” that are important to your organization: People (namesakes, founders, key leaders), Places (neighborhood, city, state or nation of origin), and Things (values, principles, laws, truths, creeds).

REFINE
Once you’ve developed a working Big Idea, the next step is to refine it. Test it, measure it, bounce it off your braintrust, your staff, your customers. Get it down to a sentence, then a phrase, then a word, if possible. Think about how easier it will then be to communicate that idea to sharers of your brand, both internal and external.

You will want to re-examine your big idea and how your brand extensions are serving it periodically. Just as bones grow and clothes may no longer fit, so too do Big Ideas need adjustment as organizations change over time.

ALIGN
This last phase can be overlooked, but it is extremely important. Once a big idea has been chosen, carefully consider all your brand assets and business segments to ensure that all these key components fit well with your big idea. This will help you determine if there is a need to reduce or remove a component of your organization that no longer aligns with your big idea, or, it may indicate that there is a significant opportunity to expand an offering or infrastructure. Think about it, with this phase, you’re not creating restriction, you’re actually allowing for freedom- freedom to restructure and rebrand as needed, on your terms.

In 2015, settle on a Big Idea that will form the essence of your organization’s brand. Talk it over with your stakeholders. Work with other key decision makers in your organization to figure out the "muscle" (infrastructure and organization) and the "skin" (visual branding and marketing), that will be developed in support of your Big Idea.

Enthuse Creative builds relationships with companies and organizations of many sizes and industries to help them establish and enhance their brands through the use of design. We create and we consult with our clients and help them to tell their stories in innovative and genuine ways. Some of the services we provide are visual identity design and development, brand analysis and research and social media management. Contact us today for more information on how we can help your company or organization grow through effective implementation of brand design and strategy.

February 2015
Reggie Holmes, Creative Director, Enthuse Creative