Here at Project Vault we have founded a business. So obviously, we are also ‘building a brand’.  

Let me just clarify what I mean by that.  

I often hear people using the word ‘brand’ where I would use the word ‘business’ – meaning some kind of economic or corporate entity with financial attributes. Yes, we’re trying to build a business as well, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I also often hear people talking about ‘brand’ where I would use the word ‘name’. No, Project Vault isn’t likely to be our final name. And yes, we need to finalise our name, but again, that’s not what I’m talking about either.  

(By the way, are there any parents out there where the pregnancy had a project name because you didn’t want people – generally your parents – to know which name you were thinking of choosing? Either I know too many people who have worked in businesses where all kinds of things have project codenames, or this is actually very common.  At some point I may have referred to my wife’s pregnancy codename at a meeting in a certain big company, and got away with it because people in the room just assumed – correctly I suppose - that this was a secret project that they didn’t know about!)

Anyway. How do we think about ‘brand’ at Project Vault? For us, brand is the sum total of all of the interactions people have with a business. The name is one of them. As is the colour palette. The design of the logo. The words we use, in all the different places you find them, shape the brand: on the website, in adverts, on social media, what the founders say in interviews, how you are treated by us when you call up with a question, and so on.  

At this stage, our brand is in gestation. In many respects, it will be a manifestation of the personalities and motivations of the founding team. This project exists because a small group of people wanted it to – and so much of our brand comes from our motivations and our personalities – and even, to some extent, from the way in which we speak and our own visual taste. I think that’s important. I don’t want what we care about and how we talk to feel like it came from a shelf in a ‘branding store’.  

We are recruiting people who care passionately about the same things that we care about – about making the world simpler and fairer, and about helping people to tackle problems that they can’t or don’t have time to solve on their own. We have strong opinions, and they will come through in our mission, purpose and values, and how we talk/look/feel to our members.  

I have worked in organisations that have outsourced much of their marketing/brand activity. I have worked in organisations that have tried to keep as much of it as possible in-house. My bias and preference for hiring external help has always been the same: you go external when you have a spike in workload or a spike in capability, but you never outsource who you are. That doesn’t mean no agencies ever, but it does mean that you need to think about what you ask them to do – if you are outsourcing core thinking that should be your own point of view, then you are on the wrong track. I think you are on the right track when you end up with an organisation filled with people who share a similar (but not identical – because then you’ve got something that might feel a bit too much like a cult) view of the mission, and the brand ends up being the total of how those people choose to communicate with the outside world across the very many different touchpoints. If you do a good job you can hope to create a framework for how your brand communicates, but you can never hope for total control. The moments when consumers fall in ‘love’ with a brand (rather than just liking it) are in fact often those where something has gone wrong and someone, within a framework, takes control of making it right.

So what does that all mean for those who come to work here?

If you believe in our mission, and you might be interested in one of these roles (or indeed in coming to help with something else) – then we would like to hear from you.  Our brand is the total of everything we build for our members; words, products, sites, apps, as well as how we collectively talk to and with them.  We will get help doing that when we need to, but we never want to ‘just ask the agency’ or ‘let someone else think about that’.  

We’re lucky that we have several supporters who are experts in what’s become known as ‘purpose-driven’ brands.  We spent some time with a couple of them last week, getting feedback on our ideas and testing thoughts with them.  One of them challenged us to make our views of the problem that we’re solving for our members as clear as we possibly can, and not to be afraid to stand out.  That’s what we want.  To stand out.  And for people who work here to feel that they are making the change, never just managing an agency.

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