Blog

What does it take to build a brand?

April 7th 2015

I’m writing this blog on the launch day of a new brand, Torus. Although we are only officially a few hours into Torus going live I’ve been awake since the early hours eagerly anticipating what lies ahead. As Group Head of Brand and Communications for Torus I feel a bit like a proud mum ready to wave her child off for their first day at school and hoping that everything goes as planned.

Torus is the name of the new group formed by North West Housing Associations Helena Partnerships and Golden Gates Housing Trust (GGHT). We have a name and a visual brand but in true brand terms, there isn’t a whole lot more in place just yet. Most of what we are pushing out is manufactured by the team and I. Something I want to change very quickly but hey, creating a brand takes time.

A brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. At the moment it’s too soon for people to be saying a lot about Torus. Shaping the brand and reputation of Torus provides so many exciting possibilities and for many months I’ve been musing on this killer question…..what are the words, phrases and associations I want people to make when they think about Torus?

I have lots of answers whirling around my head to that question but creating a new company and brand has many twists and turns so it’s hard to have a really clear view up front. Lots of people are involved, you have to learn to live with ambiguity and shifting goalposts and you have to see the bigger picture and remained focussed on the overall vision. Creating a brand is all about gut feeling. Knowing what feels right for the brand and what won’t quite cut it. Every brand is unique and Torus is no exception.

I’ve created lots of brands over the years but this one has to be my favourite so far. One of the reasons for this is that it’s a new chapter in the life of my beloved Helena brand. A brand I’ve been crafting in a communications sense for over 12 years, from the company being just 6 weeks old. I’m pleased to say that the Helena brand is remaining intact and for our teams, customers and local partners in St Helens, that’s what they will continue to see every day. The same will apply over in Warrington, the home of GGHT. We want to build on the best of two well respected company brands and provide reassurance to the people at the very heart of our businesses.

Torus presents some exciting creative opportunities for a whole different set of reasons. Firstly the audience is a little different. The primary Torus audience will be regional organisations so a new set of people to get to know and make an impression with and an opportunity to test out some new communications techniques – always guaranteed to make me and the team smile! Secondly there is the skill (and challenge) of crafting a new Torus staff culture and employer brand when for most people the badge they wear won’t actually change.

So where did we start? A few months ago, before we had even chosen the name Torus or started work on the visual brand, I started to create a website and campaign to recruit a new Group Chair and board members. This wasn’t as hard as you might imagine because we had a fundamental building block in place. The people working behind the scenes to bring Torus alive all loved what the potential new company stood for. Loving your brand is essential. We were all inspired by the potential opportunities that a new group would present to all stakeholders and were united by a compelling vision. We knew it would be a real game changer!

This made it easy to write and talk about Torus, even though at this point it was hypothetical and at any point the process could have ground to a halt. The language flowed, rooted in our emerging vision and values. We started talking about revolution, transformation and creating a legacy. We asked our combined workforce of 1000 people what the most amazing thing the new group could achieve. Their ideas and energy blew us all away and once we knew that Team Torus was getting all fired up then another piece of the brand jigsaw slotted into place.

A really critical part of the brand however is how we will do business, not what we will do. That’s why we are having some fun with the Torus brand. We have injected movement, colour, logos that collide, explode and come together in a fusion and my own personal favourite, a spinning Torus!

First reactions to the Torus brand have been positive. People have engaged and said it stands out, both in the region and in a crowded housing sector packed full of new brands, mergers and other group structures. I hope my legacy for Torus will be a strong reputation and lively brand. I want people to know who we are and what we stand for and to talk about how we do business as well as what we do. Our headline plans include building at least 1,500 homes and helping 2,500 local people into jobs in the first five years – things that will have a big economic impact in our region and create that lasting legacy that the brand is predicated on.

And the final piece of my brand jigsaw is a bit of a bombshell. To craft a name we used well established branding methodologies which explored our corporate vision, aims and desired brand behaviours. From this came a shortlist and then we settled on Torus. The problem was, I didn’t like the name, thought it was too masculine, that everybody would spell it incorrectly and assume we had an obsession with star signs! After 24 hours sulk time I opened a blank document and started to describe this embryonic new business. The language I was using, framed around evolution, fusion and transformation flowed and I realised there and then, that the only name we could have for our business was Torus. If you are still scratching your head then I’d Google Torus and the rest of my blog should make a little more sense.

Vive la revolution!

Find out more about Torus by visiting our website – www.WeAreTorus.co.uk or following us on Twitter @WeAreTorus

Caroline King, Group Head of Brand and Communications, Torus
Tweet me @Caroline_Torus