2016 Brand Essentials Check List

Think your brand is 2016 ready? If you hesitate to answer that, read below to make sure you are doing all you can to start the New Year off right.


If you hesitate to answer that, read below to make sure you are doing all you can to start the New Year off right.

Anyone who has ever seen the “Password” television game show or played the at-home version knows that this classic word association game is focused on providing insightful communication clues to get your partner to guess the secret password. While it’s always fun to watch duos struggle with something that seems obvious to outsiders, the focus when you’re a player is honing in on what your partner might be likely to know.


In order to play the game successfully, you have to know your audience, pay close attention to your partner, and integrate his or her perspective into your communication efforts. Further, developing a true rapport with your partner is based on trust, common experiences and a two-way communication model. In short, playing “Password” is not unlike what the best branding efforts do every day.

As 2016 plows full steam ahead, now is the time to take stock of your brand and determine how you can give your branding efforts the full-court press. Whether it’s some simple messages that just need tweaking or a full back-to-basics approach, knowing your strengths and weaknesses now will help ensure your brand is ready for primetime. To help communicators get their head in the game, we’ve compiled a checklist for brand marketers and communicators to help squeeze out the competition in 2016.

Unless you’re just starting out, you likely already have a name and a logo, but successful brands have so much more. In our brand food chain, we help companies identify where their current brand exists and focus on moving them up a rung or two in order to mean more to consumers. This process requires brands taking a good, hard look at themselves and answering some tough, but necessary questions:

  • Who is your audience and how do they interact with your brand?
  • How does your audience want to be communicated with?
  • What channels are you communicating across?
  • Are you listening to your audience and incorporating their feedback into your messages?
  • Does your brand have a mission?
  • Is that mission communicated to consumers?
  • How does your brand compare to other brands in the same space?
  • What value and meaning does your brand brings to consumers?
  • Does your brand successfully communicate its value and meaning to consumers?

Brands do not have to be fully-realized, visionary brands to ramp up brand presence in 2016. Honestly assessing where your brand stands is an unfolding process. The best brands understand that brand meaning is iterative; it’s a journey not a destination. Taking stock of your brand and making it mean more is a powerful goal for this year.

Become Storytellers

Let’s face it; we all love a good story. We all have that friend who is hilarious or sweet or super smart. How do you know these characteristics of those friends? Chances are she always has funny, heartwarming or interesting stories to tell. These stories are ones that make your eyes misty, make you laugh out loud or gasp in amazement.

At a very basic level, storytelling is more than a skill; it’s the social glue that binds us together. That’s why parents read to their children and adults get absolutely consumed by a good book, and stay up all night to find out what happens. Humans respond to storytelling, and every story is a human story. That’s why brands should get in the business of telling a meaningful story. But the trick for brands is that the story you tell shouldn’t be about you.

An excellent example of a brand that is embracing storytelling is Always’ Rewrite the Rules campaign featured during the 2015 Super Bowl ads. This is a brand that has taken a larger cultural issue – demeaning women and girls by saying “like a girl” – and asking us to reimagine a world for the future generation of girls. This is a brand understands that they are selling feminine products, but they want to stand for something bigger, they want to mean more.

Every Brand has to Stand for Something

As a brand, you have to communicate something meaningful to your audience – something that is most often not directly about selling more of your product or service. One quick glance at the best ads of 2015 shows that very few brands are selling products on the features of their products alone. Most brands, at a minimum, are telling stories about their audiences, walking a mile in their shoes.

In our article The Art and Science of Reaching Consumers, we discussed the process of brands uncovering, discovering and building their larger meaning. Not all brands are ready to fully embrace their larger meaning – their big “why” – because other steps in the brand food chain process are fundamental and foundational. As a brand, you have to master one step on the rung before moving up to the next.


Whether you’re a commodity brand focused on how your product compares to others in your space, a brand that is focused on the people using your product, or a fully realized brand with a big idea, there are tools at your disposal that will help communicate meaning at all levels of the brand food chain.

The key to success for brands is honest brand critique, continual assessment and improvement, and two-way conversation with your audience. This two-way conversation always focuses on active listening and embracing feedback. The best brands don’t beat themselves up when they misstep or fail to live up to their potential, they look for opportunities to improve. When brands do the hard work and realize that as a brand, the communications process means more than the product to create meaningful connections with consumers, they’ve won. But then they pick themselves up and do it all over again.

Tell us what you think the best brands are doing and what you expect for 2016. All eyes will be on the Super Bowl next month too to see which brands “bring it” to the big game. Use #bestbrands and share your ideas and insights.

Related Insights