Let’s talk about what we stand for.
As a family unit in a complex world, we continually evolve and redefine who we are and where our values lie. I love the idea of beginning the New Year with a solid sense of who we are as a family through the formulation of a “family brand,” an intention similar to a family mission statement, but shorter and more punchy. A family brand is a motivator when obstacles mount and articulates success in times of celebration. It’s easily repeatable and can serve as a reminder of what you hold dear. Perhaps most appealing, while having a moment, you can channel your brand as an inner mantra to help you breathe out distress.
Compared to a family mission statement, a family brand seems doable. I grasp the benefit of creating a family mission statement, but it seems a tall order to sit down with a five-year-old and craft three or four rich sentences that capture everything we believe to be true about the health and purpose of our family.
A brand pairs it down to just the right size. Bruce Feiler, who writes about contemporary family life for the New York Times, explores the idea of family branding in his book The Secrets of Happy Families, saying that brands—within the marketplace as well as within a family unit—force those behind the brand to “sit down talk about what they believe in, and articulate a common vision.”
My family of five found gathering to establish our family brand a meaningful experience that continues to surprise us with relevance. I love the pithiness and accessibility of our family brand and found the process gratifying. Our family brand? “The Klipsches: Loud Speakers and Good Huggers.” We arrived at this with some help. Our surname happens to be the name of a popular brand of audio speakers. Klipsch, the company, has a clever catchphrase of its own: “Keepers of the sound.” They might be keepers of the sound, but we plan to give it away.
Here’s what I mean: We are a family of boisterous, communicative people that believes in speaking up and speaking out. We strive to live our lives out loud so that the world can hear us. In essence, we are loud speakers. Of course, we do our best to follow traditional social cues and maintain normal audible volumes; however, when it comes to loving others, we hope to be unambiguous. The addition of “good huggers” reminds us that we are loud for love. We are demonstrative in our affection for each other and for the world. We strive to seek justice and share love. We are the Klipsch family … loud speakers and good huggers.
Your personal family brand reminds yourself of who you are as a family unit and articulates the kind of people you wish to be in this life. Ultimately, it shares a touch of the promotional purpose of a product brand as well. I’ll admit that after growing up hearing that Energizer batteries will “keep going and going,” I expect that they will. And I have come to accept that a cup of coffee might actually be “the best part of waking up.” Your family brand is messaging that you control and that you’ll grow to believe. It encapsulates an essence of who you are as a unit, reiterates your values, and gives language to your ideals.
Follow these steps to establish your own family brand:
MAKE TIME – Your conversation can take place over a dinner, during a long car ride, or during a regular family meeting. Everyone needs to be present and attentive, but the time or place of discussion will be unique to you.
PREPARE – Depending on your family dynamic and the ages of your children, you may need to begin with a few guidelines. (“Everyone will be heard in this conversation. Each of you will have a chance to present your great ideas.”) Make sure everyone understands what a “brand” is, perhaps by providing a few kid friendly examples. (Nike’s “Just Do It,” My Little Pony’s “Friendship is Magic,” and M&M’s “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” were sufficient in our household.)
CENTER and DISCUSS – Before diving into a brainstorm, center the group. Make the directions clear: “We’ve gathered together to come up with one sentence that will serve as our family catchphrase. This statement will describe us to the core. It will help us make decisions and it will remind us of who we are.”
TRY IT ON – Once you’ve arrived at a statement with some energy behind it that encapsulates the heart of your family and points the group of you to the future, repeat it aloud. Is the language simple and direct? Does your eight-year-old understand it? Does your four-year-old? Try it out for a few days and check back in. Is it applicable on a daily basis? Does it adequately grasp the essence of who you are as a unit? Finding the catchphrase most appropros might require several drafts.
PRINT IT OUT to LIVE IT OUT – Lest I forget, all I have to do is look at the refrigerator where the words “Klipsch: Loud Speakers and Good Huggers” stare back in all caps. It’s important to “publish” your family brand once it’s established in order to remember what you believe. Otherwise, the activity (though meaningful) can get lost in busyness of daily life. Just as you might attach inspirational quotes on the bathroom mirror or adhere a bumper sticker to the back of your vehicle, make your family brand visible.
REVISIT and REFLECT – Every once in awhile, think about how your family brand is impacting your life. Have you conjured it to help make a decision or solve a problem? Does it still fit your family? Share your experience of the brand and reflect on the ways that it’s working for you and taking up residence in your psyche.
Once established, you’ll find that a family brand announces itself in the midst of everyday life. For instance, when my sister-in-law shared a photograph of a protest that she took part in, I did my best to interpret the complicated action for my children. My then 10-year-old thought about the image and commented on the fact that his Aunt Kait was being a “loud speaker and good hugger.” Things were simple: she was acting like a Klipsch.