Lighthouse - 1There are all kinds of houses. Small houses and big houses. Houses for kids and houses for seniors. Houses you rent and houses you own. There are beach houses and mountain houses. Mansions and condos.

But what type of house is your brand? Whether you realize it or not, you can view your brand as a type of house. And just like a house, your brand better have a strong foundation. Like the three little pigs, if your brand house is built with straw or sticks, when the wolf (your competitors) come by they are going to blow down your house.

There are four house types you can categorize as your brand. The first three you probably want to avoid, while the fourth is one to achieve. Here they are:

(1)    Outhouse

You know what you do in an outhouse (insert your own joke here). If you’ve ever had to use a port-a -potty at a public event, you know how they smell. Rancid. Stale. Old. Disgusting. Do those words describe your brand? The reality is over time your brand can easily become stale. It can stink. Especially if you let it sit too long without attending to it (get the idea?). Every several years it’s a good idea to take a deep dive examination into your brand to determine if it’s still fresh or not. On a side note, one of the things we do in a marketing audit is the “smell test.” We actually smell your bathrooms to see what they are communicating about your brand.

(2)    Penthouse

Just like the Jeffersons, sometimes “we’re moving on up” (to a deluxe apartment in the sky—yes, I do know the words!). While we think the penthouse might be a lofty goal, the reality is this is no place for your brand. Why? Because you don’t want your brand to communicate that it is out of touch or above others. Your brand should be with people, not above them. Too many times in  rebranding efforts we don’t involve our employees. It’s just the executive team or board sitting in a room crafting a new strategy. Then they impart it on high like Moses coming down from the mountaintop with stone tablets. Or coming down from the penthouse. That never works. Avoid the branding penthouse trap by involving your employees in the branding process. Get them engaged with brand training.

(3)   Jumphouse

Jumphouses are fun so don’t you want to build a fun brand? Of course, fun can be an elemental part of your brand strategy (just see Southwest Airlines). But when it comes to the house branding analogy, the jumphouse refers to the fact that your brand can be all over the place. Have you jumped in one of those fun houses lately? You are all over the place and you never stay in one location for long. You bounce from one side to the next. Too many times, your brand can jump from place to place as well. You change target markets at the drop of a hat. You “bounce” from one geographic location to the next. One day your total focus in on getting younger and the next it’s getting more from your core base. One of the keys to building a successful brand is consistency. And you can’t achieve that brand consistency when you are jumping all over the place.

(4)    Lighthouse

This is where you want to be. Unlike a spotlight (that shines on yourself), a lighthouse serves as a guide and a beacon for others. It’s a signal of a safe harbor or haven. Is your brand talking about itself (like a spotlight) or about what you are doing for others (like a lighthouse)? Your brand is not about you—it’s about them (your target audience). You build that lighthouse brand by telling stories of consumers who use (and love) your brand.  As Denise Yohn summarized in What Great Brands Do, “The lighthouse concept, attracting people who aren’t even looking for you, resonates deeply with me because I’ve seen far too many good brands squander their precious equity in efforts to chase elusive audiences.” Shine your light rather than spot your light.

So what type of house best describes your brand? One exercise you can do to engage your staff with your brand is share this post and ask them to determine what type of house illustrates your brand.