Tip of the Iceberg


When you read the title of this I bet I know what likely popped right into your head.

This is a perfect example of one thing (the iceberg) becoming synonymous with something else (the Titanic). This is also one of the overarching goals of branding, and certainly the goal of a disruptor.

I’d like to tell you a little story. A tragedy this is not, though definitely a cautionary tale for all the brand stewards out there navigating the unpredictable seas of market forces.

Early in my brand building career during a consultation appointment, my client had the basics of “I have this thing and I want to sell tons of it” but they did not understand how branding factored into the equation. The client bemoaned how they just wanted to get going. The client complained about the energy it would take to do the work, and the cost. And when I asked about their mission, vision and values, the client then gave me a blank look. As I began explaining what branding actually is and why good layered branding is critical to market success, the client sounded off in alarm, “I thought branding was just a logo! I have a lot to learn.”

I titled this piece “the tip of the iceberg” because a logo is just like one, while the rest of the iceberg embodies the full scope of a brand. Above the water line is where the consumer is cruising looking for something worthy of stopping for amongst the only brand elements they typically ever see. Below the water line is the foundation of the brand. The DNA. The psychology. The playbook that tells you who you are, what you do, why you’re in this, and what you can promise the loyalists you hope to cultivate. It is the thinking under the surface that allows for consistent on-brand execution.

Consumer-facing Messaging
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– >>> Water Line

It is the deep architecture below the surface that the true success of a brand relies upon and it starts with Purpose (more on that here >>>). Doing this foundational work requires thinking through each successive piece to arrive at a place of coherence and brand integrity. And once you have that, you can break through the surface and easily share these truths in ways that the consumer needs to hear or receive them.

The consumer-facing messaging, campaigns, and initiatives are then responsible for conveying everything below the water line, but in a tone, manner, and approach that authentically embodies the brand for each consumer segment (which can often be different than how the architecture below the water line is described internally among a team).

Often in this kind of comprehensive brand building, my work never makes it in front of the consumer. But as I follow the brands I’ve worked with, I see glimmers of this internal work in the brand’s continued evolution. Ultimately, defining a brand in this way is what helps equip and empower my clients for lasting success.

So heed the warning of this tale and don’t be the client that “just needs a logo”. Be the creator that is ready to shape a market-worthy vessel that’s built to last.