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The new Yorkshire Housing brand has finally arrived. It has been a long process, delayed by COVID and we’ve learnt a lot on the way. So I thought I’d share some of our journey.

Tell them brand isn’t the logo

When you say ‘brand’ most people think you mean a logo. But it isn’t that. Really, your brand is what people say about you. It’s your reputation.

If I say Disney – what does it make you think? I’ve never been to Disney but I think of fireworks, fairy castles and happy families – a magical experience. It’s not their logo that tells me that – it’s everything else I know and what people say about them. Just think about the Apple logo. If it didn’t make me think of tech and my phone, I wouldn’t blink if I saw it on the side of a greengrocer’s van. It’s a plain uninteresting piece of fruit. In itself the symbol means nothing without my Apple experience.

From the start it’s important to help people understand what brand is, so when they see the new visual identity, they understand that it’s only one part of the jigsaw. A logo will not reflect everything you are or your business strategy. It’s a way for people to identify you. There are many other important parts such as your tone of voice, brand promise (ie what you aim to do for who), and your customer experience that make up your brand.

I found a brilliant video online by a fantastic designer called Marty Neumeier that I showed to our leadership team and Board to explain what brand is.

You can watch it here.

Get the right people in the room

Now, without upsetting brand agency folks, they can have a reputation for being ‘fluffy’. I knew this wouldn’t go down well with our straight-talking no nonsense Yorkshire Housing people. So, I looked for an agency that could hold their own in front of our senior team.

We hand-picked our team carefully and invited colleagues from different parts of the business to be part of a 12-strong brand group. The group worked with our agency DS Emotion to understand what it means to be Yorkshire Housing. We also spoke to some of our customers and got feedback from our leadership team and Board.

 

You need to trust your team and support those with the right skills to do their best work. When it came to design we did it in-house. But only because we have a crash hot designer who is a brand expert in his own right. And we love what he came up with.

Don’t make the Hippos king

Everyone has Hippos (Highest paid person’s opinion) to deal with when it comes to brand. If you aren’t careful they can dilute what you’re trying to do. There is a saying, that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. This is never truer than when you are dealing with brand feedback. I don’t like that colour, picture, shape. Can it be greener, bluer, rounder, edgier …… and on it goes. Before you know it your designer will be frustrated as NOTHING can be designed to meet conflicting feedback.

Yes – get feedback from colleagues, the senior team and customers – but don’t hone in on those off the wall requests based on personal taste. And don’t take feedback more seriously because it came from someone senior. Treat everyone equally. Look for themes in the feedback from across all the stakeholders and respond to those.

Remember, the brand is not for the board, the senior exec team, or someone who hates the colour you chose. It’s for all your colleagues and customers. Choose what will work for them.

Your people are the brand

When our customers think of Yorkshire Housing they don’t think of a logo. They think of the colleague who repaired their boiler, or the person they spoke to on the phone.

You can say what you like about yourself and have a shiny new logo, but if a customer has a bad experience – it damages your brand. They’ll tell all their friends and probably tag you on Facebook too. So, it’s really important to help colleagues understand their role in the brand because every email, letter and conversation counts. To support them we’ve created a new tone of voice guide, ‘How to Talk YH’ which shows how to write in our new straight-talking, friendly style. We’re rewriting examples of customer letters and planning brand training.

The fact is, a comms teams can’t build a strong brand on their own. It needs a firm long-term commitment from the business and it takes time. I’m pleased that we’re ready to set off on the next exciting leg of our Yorkshire Housing brand journey.

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