Building brands from the inside out


What do we mean when we talk about 'developing the brand'?  

More often than not, when a client says "we need help with our brand" this is quickly followed by comments like "our logo is outdated" or "our website doesn't reflect our business anymore". 

Hands up, we're all guilty of it. When we think of 'developing a brand' we often jump straight to those visual elements of a brand that show up externally; the logo, website or other parts of the brand identity.

‘Brand identity is tangible and appeals to the senses. You can see it, touch it, hold it, hear it,
watch it move. Brand identity fuels recognition, amplifies differentiation, and makes big ideas and
meaning accessible. Brand identity takes disparate elements and unifies them into whole systems.’

Alina Wheeler - Designing Brand Identity, 2013.

Of course these elements are hugely important in creating value and allowing you to stand out in the crowd. However, your brand isn’t simply these visual, tangible elements, it is the very essence of your business and the experiences both your employees and customers have with you. 

A brand is nothing without your people

Brands are like people - they have personality, they make mistakes, and occasionally they might reinvent themselves. 

Likewise, your people are your brand. Employees are closer to the brand than anyone else, living and breathing it on a daily basis. They are the ones who walk and talk it, nurture customer relationships and create the customer experience. 

Some of the most authentic brands are those that follow an ‘inside out’ strategy to brand development. Aligning the internal and external brand makes sense and means there is one version of the truth. Research by Harvard and Gallup found that 'aligned' organisations deliver twice the market share, 38% less absenteeism and 18% more productivity.

Building brands from the inside out

When we're approached to work on a client's brand, we ask a few questions to kick-start the conversation.

  • What is the purpose of the company? 
  • What's the vision for the company in the next five years?
  • Describe the type of person that will help you get there.
  • How do you want your customer to feel after doing business with you?

These allow us to open up discussion on purpose and vision, people and culture and customer experience in the context of the company 'brand'. This quickly takes the conversation away from logo's and straplines to something much deeper and fundamental to articulate before we engage with the creative team.


It's vital to take discussion out of the board room early on in a branding project. Particularly when it comes to things like defining values and behaviours. Employees should be engaged every step of the way. Allow their ideas to shape the strategy, rather than presenting it as a done deal at the end of the project.
Jess Jeary - Bowline

A picture of success

Virgin is a great example of brand shaped from the inside out.

The Values:

  • Provide heartfelt service
  • Be delightfully surprising
  • Be red hot
  • Be straight up
  • Maintain an insatiable curiosity
  • Create smart disruption


These brand values are tangible in Virgin’s identity, customer experience and employment experience. Richard Branson’s ethos is to “Train people well enough so they can leave, [and] treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.

A listening culture such as Virgin’s which actively supports and encourages idea-sharing, makes employees feel valued and like their voice is heard - allowing the company to focus on staff wellbeing and engagement. 

"The magic happens when we begin to see the values of a brand showing up in day to day activities. Making them meaningful and the way we do business around here."
Tim Jeary - Bowline

Drop us a line today to pick our brains on your next branding project.