Dr. David Kippen, HRExaminer.com Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Dr. David Kippen, HRExaminer.com Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

What would you say to an invite to the best coffee date ever? A date with one of your most important relationships. Someone you’re intensely curious about but often wonder if you know at all. Someone whose ups and downs affect you personally and intensely. No matter what you do, how busy you are, or how many other priorities you have I’m guessing you’d say “yes!

So here’s your invite for the best coffee date ever: go grab a coffee with your brand. Seriously, whether you work in marketing and manage a brand portfolio, in HR and manage your Employer Brand, or just care about the company you work for, follow the outline and this can be the best hour you spend this quarter.

Here’s what to do:

Find the Perfect Place

Pick a great coffee shop. Not the place you go every day. Pick a place that’s worth a trip across town.  A place with character. Atmosphere.  Try to pick a shop that’s not frequented by people who dress like you or think like you. The goal here is to get out of your zone into a truly new space.

What to Bring

You’ll need just a pen and a small notebook. (Your brand won’t appreciate it if you’re distracted by digital interruptions while you hang out together.) Take a piece of paper (or swag) with your company logo on it. Order a beverage you don’t ever order.

Where to Sit

Once you’ve got that all sorted, find a spot with a large view—corners are great, so is outside. Sit yourself down, put your logo down across from you, and start getting to know your brand.

Get Started…and Don’t Stop

The best way to have this conversation is to freewrite. It’s really simple and the results are amazing. Read the short paragraph under each section. Start writing…and don’t stop. Really, don’t stop. Even if you feel like you’ve got nothing, write, “I’ve got nothing” ten times. Eventually, your subconscious, creative mind will kick in and you’ll find you have a lot to say. Give yourself five minutes for each section. Take a rest in between to people watch.

Start with the logotype. Your logo is your brand’s one-word summary. It should work hard to express meaning. What does it mean? Some logotypes have design elements that are carefully thought out—they’re pictures and words that say exactly what the brand’s about. Intel, for example, means “intel”—from the military, short for intelligence—and the circle around the word represents the silicon wafer on which the chips that run our world are made.

A few logotypes have elements that mean nothing whatsoever. Or meanings are lost in the mists of time. Or whose meanings have changed. BMW’s famous blue and white logo represents a propeller because the company was once focused on airplane engines.  But most logotypes fall somewhere in the middle. What does yours mean?

 Want a truly memorable date? Ask a few of the people around you what they see in the logo. Pay particular attention to people who have never heard of your brand.


Great brands stand for something. Ask your brand, “what does this company uniquely stand for?” You’re not asking about higher purpose. That’s important, too, but comes later. Right now, you’re looking for uniqueness. What’s truly unique about what your brand has to offer the world? What are your differentiators—the things that only your brand can offer?


Now, think of your brand like you think of your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever. Unless your partner won the genetic lottery, it’s probably taken you a bit of time to see what’s truly beautiful about them. A twinkle in the eye before telling a joke. The thing with the eyebrow. An endearing walk. Unless you work for one of the Interbrand’s Top 100 best global brands, your  brand probably took you awhile to warm up to. So what’s beautiful about your brand? I mean, what’s actually visually beautiful? It could be as simple the color of the copper wire your company produces in bright sunlight. Doesn’t matter. Write it down. And when you get back to your office, take a picture of it.


Look again at your logo. Think of the story it’s telling. Who’s story is it? Which of your colleagues personify what your brand’s all about? What do they do to personify it? This isn’t fluff: it’s essential. Brands are nouns, but they’re also verbs. The identity of your brand, the behavior of your brand, the person of your brand: three words for the same idea.


Here’s the biggie: purpose. There’s been a lot of discussion about engagement since the great recession. But I think that tide has passed, or nearly passed. It’s not that engagement doesn’t matter. Just the opposite: too many of us have been talking about it too much for too long. Today, what people want more—and what millennials yearn for—is work that matters for a company with a purpose greater than its own economic survival. So ask your brand, “what’s your higher purpose?” “Let’s say it’s 100 years from today. How will you (your brand, that is) have made the world a better place?” “What do you uniquely enable?”

For some companies this will be an easy, inspiring question. Google’s purpose is to organize the world’s information and make it useful. Tesla’s is to shift the world to electric transportation sooner. For others, this may be work. But it’s essential work—and if you find no clear purpose, that’s a message, too.

More Questions

By now, you should be having a great date. Hopefully, you’re finding yourself able to dive deep into new areas of your brand’s meaning, areas you haven’t yet explored. But sometimes even the best chat runs out of steam. If that starts to happen to you, here are some more questions to keep things moving. (You’ll need to break out your laptop at this point. But your brand won’t mind.)

What’s Next?

You and your brand were in the zone. The hour’s flown by. You look down and see pages of notes. Some are small ideas. Others are huge. If this has worked for you—and it will, if you take it seriously—you’ll realize you know your brand and your company a whole lot better than you thought you did.  You’ve also likely identified some areas where your brand’s not doing everything it could—or should. So one next step is simple: plan, prioritize, and execute to fix what’s not working.

But if you’re in a large organization it can be hard for an army of one to succeed. So enlist others. Ask six, eight or ten of the most passionate, committed, connected influencers you know to go through the same process.  It doesn’t matter whether they work in Marketing, in HR, or somewhere else. In fact, it’s better if they’re in different areas because their points of view will help you get a genuine 360-degree view of your brand.