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JANUARY 26, 2021 //     

Building the Unity Brand: What’s it Going to Take?

By: Paul Sears

Joseph Biden is the 46th president of the United States. Some are elated about this, while others voted differently. After a grueling year of uncertainty, tragedy and unrest, many of us would like our leaders to lower the temperature and work together so we can all take a national deep breath. Biden used his inaugural address to launch what I call the “Unity Brand.” 

It begs the question… what will it take for it to be successful?

At Allison+Partners, I serve as executive vice president, Brand and Engagement Strategy.  No surprise, I believe strengthening the Unity Brand strategy and engaging Americans with it consistently will be key.  

We say successful brands must be Dynamic, Relevant and Vital. Dynamic in that they can quickly evolve while staying true to their core. Relevant in that they can deliver the right increment of value in precisely the right space and time. And V.I.T.A.L.-ity helps brands embrace the idea that a brand narrative lives entirely in humans’ hearts and minds. Vision, Inspiration, Trust, Alignment and Leadership are crucial, measurable steps to foster shared belief.

In his address, Biden clearly outlined the Vision: he voiced the word “unity” eight times. He used it as a tool to Inspire: “With unity we can do great things. Important things.” This includes righting wrongs, putting people to work, teaching our children safely, delivering racial justice and overcoming the deadly coronavirus.  

Repairing national Trust may be the biggest challenge Biden faces. To that end, he laid out some straightforward actions he and other leaders can embrace:

  • Let history, faith and reason guide us.
  • Listen to, hear and see one another - not as adversaries, but as neighbors.
  • We gain from standing in another’s shoes for just a moment.
  • We can treat each other with more dignity and respect. 
  • Disagreement is part of our national fabric, but it must not lead to disunion.

To nurture trust over the next four years, Biden must outline clear proof points that unequivocally link to these pillars. For example, if history, faith and reason guide us, giving Dr. Anthony Fauci a stronger speaking role helps reinforce this point. But Fauci’s messaging must be simple, clear and consistent.  

When engaging across the aisle leaders must publicly and respectfully consider their colleagues’ positions. If they ultimately do not embrace them, they must provide straightforward rationale. Democrats should visit Republican districts, and vice versa, with the explicit intent of fostering bipartisan conversation. And the discourse must at all times be exceptionally civil.  The Unity Brand simply cannot survive without message discipline.

Throughout his campaign, Biden presented himself as a centrist. Continuing to show America his platform Aligns with core values on all sides could not be more critical.  He asked us to focus on “the common objects we love...opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor and, yes, the truth.” He said he will fight as hard for those who did not support him as for those who did - and he must continually prove that at every opportunity.  

The final cornerstone is Leadership, which requires courage, consistency, and perhaps most importantly, transparency. Trust in government and other public institutions has been shattered by misinformation, inconsistency and lack of clarity from officials, causing unprecedented polarization in our society. Healing our fractured culture is not something for the faint of heart. It demands steadfast commitment to the values outlined above and ongoing demonstration of them again and again. To “end this uncivil war,” Biden said leaders must “open our souls instead of harden our hearts.”  Leaders must give Americans access to their thoughts and feelings, a glimpse inside their decision-making, and an unvarnished look at their true point of view.  In our 24-7 social media world, such access is not just appreciated, it’s expected.

At A+P, we’ve helped many clients navigate challenging inflection points. Whether ensuring a vote-by-mail technology company is equipped to maintain its reputation through a volatile election cycle, or helping a commercial real estate developer engage with local skeptics - one thing is clear. We recognize the pivotal importance of a crystal clear brand strategy and an empathetic engagement plan.

Many Americans desperately hope the Unity Brand can be more than just words. It will take bravery and commitment from Biden and all of our leaders, to prove just how VITAL it can be.  

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you with your branding needs, get in touch at paul.sears@allisonpr.com. 

Paul Sears is Executive Vice President, Brand & Engagement Strategy.  With nearly 20 years in advertising, social media, content and brand strategy, Paul spends most of his time helping clients sharpen their strategic focus – at the brand level or for individual products and campaigns.

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