I was watching the Trooping of the Colour recently, and was struck by how army regiments display the ultimate object lesson in brand identity. At its most basic level, a brand or corporate identity unites people of a common purpose and a common set of values. The simplest manifestation of this are the colours, the flag or standard. Recognition on the battlefield was vital to even the earliest warlords, so they displayed their distinctive colours to their tribe or army.
Going a step further, it made a lot of sense to be able to recognise your comrades: consistent identity across uniforms was a sensible consideration. Soon all the trappings of identity symbols, badges, colours, tunes – found their way into military life.
Telling the story.
Identity is about far more than recognition, however, as any brand manager will tell you. It is about communications and values. Every regiment develops its own set of values. These are of necessity militaristic – courage, efficiency, fierceness, mutual support, etc. – values that are critical to the performance of the regiment. They also bolster the sense of common purpose, pride and loyalty. It is about emotional attachment.
As with all brands, external communication is also key. Items of uniform, music and colours were often as much about demonstrating to the enemy that you were bigger, stronger, smarter or more fierce than they were. More, it is not just the enemy, but a regiment wants to express its values to its competitors – other regiments. Again, we are building and eliciting an emotional response.
Take a look around any regimental mess – you will see colours with battle honours, regimental silver and trophies. Walls carry pictures of past events, letters from important personages and paintings of previous colonels and heroes. Medals sit in glass cases and obsolete weapons hang in memory of times past. There are rituals and procedures unique to the members. What the sum of these items represent is a story, and on-going narrative.
What can we learn to enhance our brand in civvy street?
- Make sure your own people are on board – communicate with them, give them a sense of purpose and belonging. They are your brand ambassadors.
- Get your values right – the trappings of identity are only as good as the values they stand for.
- Don’t undervalue your story – the brand narrative continues, for you, your people and those you wish to influence.