The Brand Manual

The Brand Manual

In our experience, an organization’s culture is as important to brand-building as communicating the right message to a consumer. The values that members of any organization share and believe in translate directly into the value you provide for your customer. Capturing and guiding that new cultural direction is what Shook Kelley’s Brand Manual projects are all about.

Designing Culture

Once we go through the challenging work of helping clients discover a new strategic vision, Shook Kelley also has expertise in making that vision a reality. It’s important to recognize that culture is both a set of ideas and beliefs, as well as something deeply shaped by material realities, too. At Shook Kelley, we not only design experiences for consumers, we’re also developing a range of tools that can prompt organizations to change, too. New strategies require organizational cultures to change, because a facelift is simply not enough. The Brand Manual is one of the key ways that we help organizations redesign their culture, and get people throughout the organization talking about and focusing on issues that they may not have considered before.

The Organization’s Bible

The Brand Manual is a special internal culture-building document, a kind of manifesto or constitutional proclamation that helps people throughout an organization understand the brand’s origin story and future vision or direction. The Manual often sets new and higher expectations for the organization, and tries to help each individual in the organization imagine themselves in a larger context and mission. The Brand Manual should not be confused with the brand identity style guide (that’s a separate brand management document, which is also important of course). Instead, the Brand Manual is filled with key principles that describe the organization’s culture, its values and priorities.

You Can’t Fake It

One of the things we’ve consistently learned in helping build brand cultures is that you can’t fake a brand nowadays—and culture is an inescapably real and shared belief system. Certainly, cultural identities are an everyday “role” that we play, but these are authentic roles that become part of our real lives, that includes our work lives. If done well, a defined brand culture can help us locate the people in the world who are truly passionate about helping people in the same ways that your brand wants to solve problems for people, no matter the industry. Sometimes it’s common for us to compare brand experiences to theaters, but that’s not a literal comparison. Theaters are for actors, people who take up many different kinds of roles, whether kings or paupers, saints or sinners. Regular people act, but they only bend so far. We can’t think of a project that didn’t require or compel our client’s organizations to change. But at the same time, we seek to bend and stretch our client cultures, not break them. We don’t expect the average employee to be a world-class actor. We only expect them to aspire to higher standards or help them articulate a vision of who they want to be and become.

Leading The Way

The purpose of a Brand Manual is to lay out a powerful vision for an internal culture which is believable and attainable: to tell the brand’s story, set new and higher expectations and to help each individual in the organization imagine themselves into this larger context and narrative. The Brand Manual shows the way, demonstrating how an organization can change, by describing the principles that this future community should be based on.


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