grab bag blog

This is where I talk about my work, my discoveries, my creative process, and the ins and outs of marketing in the arts.

When Branding Identity Gets Fuzzy

October 18, 2013

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guiding principles, wisdom
-The Temple of Apollo  at Delphi

Before you can jump into designing logos or websites or brochures or any kind of meaningful advertising for an organization, you have to know the fundamentals of that organization. What is its personality, what are its strengths and weaknesses, what is it truly offering? This may sound elementary to those of us who are independent contractors—outside sources who are used to uncovering these facts before we begin. But it’s easy to lose this perspective when you’re inside the organization.

Back To The Future image Marketing or branding, when done well and effectively, is a natural extension of a company’s identity and relationship with its patrons. But when a company gets foggy in its identity, communication falters. A company or organization that leads an unexamined life may one day wake up to discover that it is no longer who it thought it was.

So what can you do if your company’s identity has gotten flabby? You send your company to bootcamp! Over the next several weeks, I’m going to take you through the process of examining an organization and its founding principles and getting them back into working order. This is a journey I understand from both the perspective of an outsider AND an in-house position.

For clarity, I’m going to use a very specific example: Bohemian Theatre Ensemble in Chicago. Last year, I ran a founding principles workshop series for BoHo. The company was approaching its 10th season as a well-respected Chicago storefront theatre. But over the past decade, it had experienced a leadership change and almost complete staff turnover, and the guiding principles established when BoHo was born were dusty. The Mission and Vision statements were no longer useful tools for guiding decisions. Even its name was foggy—legally, the company is Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, but had been using the nickname “BoHo Theatre” for years, generating confusion among patrons.

At the end of our workshops, the company walked away with revised Mission and Vision statements, a new set of values, and a renewed energy and sense of purpose. You can use this outline to do the same for your company, or better yet, modify it and use it to stage refresher workshops or retreats every few years to keep your organization on track. Think of it like regular maintenance on your car.

I’m going to break each topic into individual articles and post a new one every Friday. If you have insights, new ideas, or disagreements, I invite you to leave comments here or on the Grab Bag Media Facebook page.

Next week, we’re going to discuss: Guiding Principles (What Are They and Why Should I Care?). See you then!


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    […] comes later, when you want to evaluate your organization and what it’s been doing. As I said at the beginning of our guiding principles exploration, this is all about “knowing […]

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