Find your voice and get your story straight

Brand MOT

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Is your brand market-worthy? Would it pass a brand MOT?

In the UK, every car over three years old has to pass an annual MOT test to prove its roadworthiness. It’s a legal requirement. The test covers safety, emissions, and drivability. If you follow through on my little thought experiment, I suggest that a brand MOT it would be a test of market-worthiness.

MOT in a vehicle context stands for Ministry of Transport. The Ministry in question has been renamed as the Department for Transport, but the old acronym is indelibly associated with the annual vehicle test.

MOT in a brand context might stand for Meaning, Order, Tonality.

The brand MOT – Meaning, Order, Tonality

These words are slightly contrived to make the MOT acronym work, but they do a decent job as a definition of market-worthiness when you unpack them.

Brand MOT – Meaning

What is your brand all about? What does it stand for? How is it uniquely relevant to a specific group of target customers? What is the clearest, most precise, and most compelling explanation of your product or service? What is it about your brand that excites and reassures potential customers?

Getting a clean bill of health for meaning is about getting your brand’s story straight and making sure that it presses all the right buttons with customers. To do that, you need to get under the bonnet, under the hood. And that means primary research. You don’t make meaning without understanding the context in which your brand is considered, the attitudes and prejudices your brand needs to overcome, and the language that customers use to express the needs that your brand might address.

This is why one of the values that I bring to my brand consultancy work is Access – direct access to my clients’ clients or customers is essential to a rigorous brand strategy project.

Brand MOT – Order

Is your brand defined with clarity and precision? Is it easy to work with? Better still, is it a joy for creative people like copywriters and content creators?

Most brands will have some kind of brand framework or, in more grandiose terms, some form of brand architecture. In less grandiose terms this means a series of boxes which have to be filled in. Each box is home to a component of the brand’s definition. The more boxes, the less wieldy the framework becomes. Which creates a paradox. Any framework, be it an onion, a pyramid, or a key, creates a sense of order. But often these frameworks do little more than define the boundaries of cluttered, complicated overthinking.

You see brand architecture. I see the brand equivalent of a shanty town.

Passing a brand MOT for order requires you to optimise for pragmatism rather than intellectual satisfaction.

Brand MOT – Tonality

There’s more to tonality than tone of voice. Your brand’s tone of voice inevitably and quite rightly varies according to context. Your brand’s fanfare for a piece of innovation will have a very different tone to your brand’s expression of regret at the passing of the Queen.

Your brand’s tonality is visual as well as verbal. It’s about aesthetics and voice. Tonality is about brand relevance and customer resonance. For B2B and service companies, tonality should be a sincere and authentic reflection of the organisational culture behind the brand.

Passing a brand MOT for tonality is about finding your brand’s voice. A brand’s voice is a function of its worldview, its values, and the role that it plays for customers. Brand voice is strategic and consistent. Tone of voice is tactical and varies with context.

So, would your brand pass its MOT?

Have you got your brand’s story straight? Have you got a pragmatic, minimum viable brand framework? And have you nailed your brand’s voice? If not, guess what, I can help.

If you liked the idea of a brand MOT, you might also like The Coherent Pitch (making sense out of ambiguity).