By Jaime Rapaport Barry
When I was in graduate school, I interned for a startup anti-poverty foundation. It was a fascinating time to dip into an organization – we were wrestling with big foundational questions and just starting to develop our brand. I jumped into the process right as a local brand strategy firm presented their initial rounds of logo design. They were a bust – we just couldn’t see ourselves in them. The next round wasn’t much better, and we started to get anxious. We entered the last presentation with a deep sense of trepidation. And then, the moment we were waiting for happened – they showed us a logo, and our CEO started to cry: we finally had a symbol that perfectly represented the mission we valued so dearly.
Brand isn’t about logos or fonts or colors. It’s not about swag or collateral. It’s about making key decisions to ensure that your reputation accurately reflects your organization’s deepest aspirations and cherished identity. Your brand isn’t a flat, two-dimensional thing. It’s the living, breathing essence of what you do and how you do it.
As UpStart prepares to launch a new brand in December, we’ve been thinking a lot about this topic. And so is our network: a recent audience survey (including both entrepreneurs and institutional leaders) highlighted issues of brand and marketing as one of the biggest struggles they face as change agents in the Jewish space. That’s why we’re releasing BrandLaunch, an experimental podcast mini-series featuring conversations with experts in the UpStart network. These conversations run the gamut, from messaging to organizational culture to wholesale “rebrands” (and yes, we talk about logos, too).
In all of these conversations, some common themes emerged: brands are most compelling when they’re authentic and consistent. Infusing brand into every aspect of your organization makes that authenticity shine. And, great brands tell great stories.
Below are some nuggets of wisdom from the series. To dive into this more, head over to BrandLaunch for a listen. Each interview is less than 30 minutes and full of thought-provoking content for any organization trying to make its mark in the Jewish communal space.
Harry Nathan Gottlieb on Messaging and Pitching
Harry Nathan Gottlieb is the founder of two interactive software companies, Jellyvision and Jackbox Games, as well as an UpStart Board member. We talk about the distinction between good and great pitches; how to tap into the “beginner’s mind;” and ways to avoid the downward spiral of wordsmithing by committee.
“Branding is not something you create; branding is something that you are. You need to be living your brand or it’s going to come off as inauthentic. It’s putting into words and pictures, consistently, the thing that you do day in and day out.”
Harry also offers wisdom on surviving – and thriving – as an entrepreneur, and we touch on what went wrong when I pitched new messaging to the UpStart Board.
Ariana Pritchett on Visual Identity and Digital Activation
Ariana Pritchett is a partner and strategist at Flight Design, Co., a boutique design studio that specializes in branding, design, and creative strategy. We talk about how logos are an outdated way of branding; how to diagnose if your visual identity is really working; and how “should” isn’t the best strategy for social media.
“What is the platform that is energetically exciting, that does get you engaged, and how can you go that route, or spend more time and energy in that arena? That comes from knowing your core values, and who your audience is…”
We also talk about the toxic mix of guilt and FOMO (fear of missing out) experienced by entrepreneurial leaders as they try to market their organizations.
Tina Rosenblum on Brand and Organizational Culture
Tina Rosenblum is a founding partner at Oak & Willow Group, which helps companies from startups to Fortune 500s create and activate their company story (another word for “brand”). We talk about diagnosing the health of your organizational culture; the impact on your employees of living (or not living) your organization’s values; and advice for starting something new.
“[Brand is] about honesty and integrity and being able to deliver what you say you’re going to deliver as leadership, and living that in a way that the rest of the team feels they are buying into…”
We also talk about what UpStart learned from our own team culture survey, and Tina shares a simple but effective tool she uses to get to the heart of an organization’s culture.
Zach Hochstadt on Engaging in a Rebrand
Zach Hochstadt is one of the founding partners of Mission Minded, a marketing and branding agency that works exclusively with nonprofits, foundations, and independent schools. UpStart partnered with Mission Minded to develop our new brand.
We talk about how you know when to engage in a rebrand; how to distinguish your brand from similar organizations; and three ways you can get the most out of the rebrand process.
“An organization has to be ready for change. If you’re going into a rebranding process and you’re saying to yourself, ‘gosh, I hope we come out on the other side, looking and acting exactly as we currently do,’ then you’re probably not ready for that rebranding effort. It is disruptive. You are inviting an introspective process, at the end of which, you’ll come out as a different organization.”
We also talk about how a brand “promise” can help your organization make big, strategic decisions and how to keep the momentum going after the official rebrand process is over.
From these episodes, we hope that listeners can identify a few helpful tips to implement right away at their organizations. Remember that building your brand is an ongoing process. Just as your organization evolves, so does your brand. The most important thing is to remain true to your organizational values in everything you do. Consistently check in with your internal and external stakeholders to make sure you’re in alignment with them.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about brand: your struggles, your triumphs, and your questions. Leave a note below in the comments.
Jaime Rapaport Barry is the Senior Director, Brand Strategy at UpStart, which partners with the Jewish community’s boldest leaders to expand the picture of how Jews find meaning and how we come together. UpStart’s new brand launches in December.