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4 Lessons From Disney on Building Your Brand

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Have you been to a Walt Disney park? I just took my family to Disney World in Orlando, where branding and customer service is king.

When visiting these resorts, you’re treated like a guest in someone’s home, not someone buying a product. The experience doesn’t end there.

Employees are referred to as “front of stage” or “back of stage” staff. The core value of treating the customer like a valued guest also extends to staff. This philosophy is true even of Disney stores in a local mall.

It’s clearly evident that the visual branding of Disney is excellent, but when you look at interactions in how its customers are treated, you see how the verbal messaging also aligns with the exterior presentation.

As an advisory firm, creating cohesive verbal and visual messaging can positively affect your client relationships too. Here’s how to get started.

Build Verbal Messaging 

By building your firm’s visual brand first, you can easily get off track or out of sync with your firm’s communication style.

Instead, begin by formally structuring your verbal communication and messaging. This process starts with your core values: what you do and how you want to be ideally perceived by those you serve.

Your verbal communication should be an outgrowth of the core values. If your core values include honesty and transparency, your communications  with clients need to reflect the same.

From there, focus on “why” you do what you do. Ask “Why did I get into this profession, and why do I care about the specific client I’ve chosen to focus on?”

Clarity of Purpose

Addressing the why of your firm affects every area of your service. Also, it is a central consideration when developing your verbal messaging, which helps clarify who you serve, why you serve them, and what your process is to engage with each unique investor.

Keep in mind, like core values, the heart of this process is authenticity. Your core values will help identify who you want to be, and your actions then need to reflect those values.

 Visual Messaging

From Disney’s point of view, the entire park experience is orchestrated for the guest experience. From your point-of-view, the entire firm experience needs to be orchestrated for your clients.

This experience does not end with how you explain what you do and why you do it. It’s also about creating a feeling of what it’s like to work with you. Visual cues can be a huge aid here in promoting certain feelings in your clients.

When you review verbal messaging, ask your team to define what that “looks like” to them, and use that feedback to select visuals that support your core values.

Ask what colors resonate with them and why, or what specific visuals come to mind. And keep in mind, while a logo is an important component of your visual brand, it’s not the end-all, be-all of your firm.

Visual messaging even extends to your office, your decor and even how you dress. No matter where a client interacts with you, you want the entire relationship to feel like a seamless experience where everything fits together.

Messaging vs. Values

Verbal and visual messaging is not static; your firm will change over time. What won’t change are your core values.

People love Disney because it represents something more to them than just a story. The brand is a picture of childhood, nostalgia, joy, and family. Those values have been true for generations even though the stories have changed.

You want to elicit that kind of emotional engagement with what you say and how you act when clients have interacted with you.

People will identify with your brand when the story and values sync with what they want to be associated with, and you can only achieve this through thoughtful and intentional messaging work.

Jarrod Upton, MBA, MS, CFP® is Chief Operations and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company, an independent growth consultancy for financial advisory firms. He can be reached at