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Successful Brands Have a Soul

Successful Brands Have a Soul

Pixar Studios - Castle CubicleThe offices at Pixar Studios are… unique. Take their work area, for example. Each employee is given the freedom to customize his or her workstation. And I don’t mean photo portraits and desk accessories. At Pixar you’ll find workstations that look like castles, caves, tiki huts, and one office even has a secret room called the Lucky 7 Lounge, where the Pixar team and big-name celebrities hang out over drinks. Complete with a free cereal bar and game room, a workday at Pixar is not your typical day at the office. Take a look.

Pixar’s internal culture spills onto the great movies it creates. Personally, I can’t help but smile when I recall certain scenes from Finding Nemo or The Incredibles – two of my favorite animated movies. Pixar’s work has made me smile, laugh out loud, cry, gasp, and even wax philosophical. It’s no wonder they have a glass case filled with over 20 Academy Awards and countless other shiny award statuettes. Pixar has a soul.

A Brand with a Soul

There is an underlying culture within Pixar that spills onto everything they are, from their individual workstations to their animated films. This culture and soul are promoted from the top, from their leaders, and trickle down to all things Pixar, creating a beautiful, unique blend of creativity and fun. For many companies, especially those in the franchise industry, maintaining a defining culture can be a difficult thing. It’s one thing to keep team members in a single location synced, but keeping your brand’s personality consistent across various locations can prove challenging. But it can be done.

K.I.C.S. (Keep It Consistent Stupid)

My first job was at a McDonald’s. There was this one customer called Jose who would always walk up to the counter and order a Double Whopper with cheese. “Hello Jose. Welcome to McDonald’s! We’re fresh out of Whoppers. Can I get you a Big Mac instead?” With the exception of Jose, people don’t have an issue recognizing that they walked into a McDonald’s. The work that’s been put into maintaining consistency in the look and feel of a McDonald’s restaurant is tremendous, and with over 33,000 restaurants worldwide, I’d say they’ve done a good job of creating a solid culture (whether you agree with that culture or their food is a different topic). Your brand’s soul needs to be intentionally established and protected. Your brand’s soul is a fusion of a consistent look and feel to your graphics, a consistent voice across all communications, a positive, pleasant work culture at every one of your franchise locations, and many other factors.

Soul-Building 101

A place to start for a franchise or business is defining its core values. The brands with the most soul have core values that drive and define everything they do. Take a look at Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s core values. Dedicate a few minutes to look back at your history and identify the key principles, values, or motivators for doing what you do. If you can’t really recall any, think of what you’d like your brand to stand for, and what values you’d like to inject into your product, service, and work culture. Don’t filter yourself… go wild and make a huge list of traits! Most times the best ideas come from unfiltered thinking. Now rank the values in that list and define 5, 7, or 10 core values. Write a sentence or two explaining each. Type that list, print it, and place it somewhere visible. Make those values practical and apply them to how you work internally, how you treat your team, and how you perform your service or create your product. Keep it consistent and you’ll see your brand’s soul come to life. Prospective customers are more drawn to brands that stand for something… that have soul. Since your brand is not what you say it is, but what they say it is, give them something soulful to talk about.

Challenges will arise as you uphold your brand’s soul and culture, be they financial, operational, or brought on by growing pains. Fight for your brand’s soul, and in the words of the wise fish Dory, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming.”


About The Author

Diego Aguirre
Diego Aguirre is Associate Creative Director at Marketing In Color and holds a Diploma of Digital Design from the Art Institute. His branding and design work has served clients across a wide range of industries.
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