brand, culture

Sharing your brand story (and here’s ours)

The most compelling brands in the world tell compelling stories. Whether the brand is Nike (the Greek winged goddess of victory was named Nike, and it all rolls from there) or IBM (Thomas Watson and THINK) or [your favorite brand here], the most interesting brands have great mythologies built up over time. The brand story is deeply ingrained in their actions, voice, look, and culture.Red Hat Story book

It’s been almost eight years since we created the first Red Hat Brand Book. The original book was an attempt to capture the essence of our Red Hat story, to explain what Red Hat believes, where we came from, and why we do what we do.

It had a secondary mission as an early brand usage guide, explaining what Red Hat should look and sound like at a time when the company was expanding rapidly around the world and brand consistency was becoming harder to achieve.

When most companies create this sort of document, they call it a “Brand Standards Manual”, or something like that. But we were young, foolish, and drunk on the meritocracy of open source, so in the first version of the Brand Book, we emblazoned the words “This is not a manual” on the front cover.

Why? We wanted to be very clear this book was the starting point for an ongoing conversation about what the Red Hat brand stood for, looked like, and sounded like, rather than a prescriptive “Thou shalt not…” kind of standards guide.

I hate brand standards that sound like legal documents. I’ve always felt like the role of our group was to educate and inspire, not to police, and we tried to create a document that embodied that spirit.

This year we launched the biggest update yet to the Brand Book. In doing so, we actually split it into two projects:

First, we created a book called the Red Hat Brand Standards. We finally gave up our philosophical high ground and admitted we need a manual too… the company is getting big and some people just want to know what they should and shouldn’t do with logos and colors and whatnot. But we still try to educate and inspire first and only police as a last resort.

Then we created a book we call The Red Hat Story.

What is the Red Hat Story?

First and foremost, it is a simple story… about sharing. In fact, the first page reads:

Your mother was right. It’s better to share.

Starting with this basic, universal concept of sharing, the book explains who Red Hat is and why we do what we do, translating it into a language that any audience could appreciate, computer-savvy or not (mad, mad props to Jonathan Opp, Adrienne Yancey, and Colin Dodd, the poets and artists behind the book). The book itself? Your mother could read this book and understand what Red Hat does (of course it starts by telling her she was right, so she’s probably an easy sell).

We give this book to prospective and new hires, to current employees, and, in the right settings, even pass it out to folks outside the company. There’s nothing secret in it, it is just a story after all.

We also turned the book into a short video called The Red Hat Way, which was highlighted in another post here, but is linked again below.

So what do you do with a story like this? You tell it. Everywhere. We’ve taken the basic visual and conceptual building blocks of the Red Hat Story and used them in presentations, videos, orientation, and about a bazillion other places. We haven’t even thought up all of the places we could use it yet.

But everything tracks back to that very simple story about sharing. Maybe those Made to Stick guys would be proud of us…

So since my mom was right, I decided I should share our Red Hat story rather than just talking about it. So I’ve made a PDF file of the book available here.

Put it in full screen mode and read it like a book with a spine in this middle (it’s the file based on the one that went to print for the physical book, so there’s a gutter in the middle, if you are wondering why the spacing is kinda funny).

Does your brand have a story? If you have one you’d like to share too, post a link here (if you want to share with others) or connect with me directly on Twitter or Facebook if you want to share 1:1 (look over there in the right column—> for how to find me).

I’d love to see how you tell your brand story too!

(photo of the Red Hat Story book by Adrienne Yancey)

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If so, you can find more tips about how to position your brand effectively in my book, The Ad-Free Brand (not an advertisement, mind you, just a friendly suggestion:).

Only $9.99 for the Kindle, but available in each of these formats:
| Kindle | Nook | EPUB/PDF

About Chris Grams

Chris Grams is Head of Marketing at Tidelift. He is also the author of The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Successful Brand Positioning in a Digital World.

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