Brand essence lessons from the R.A.F.

I recently got some branding inspiration from an unusual source: the end-of-year prize giving at my daughter Chloé's school, Kingston Grammar School (KGS).

Firstly, I was struck by the motto of KGS itself, which is "Bene Agere ac Laetari". If, like me, you didn't do Latin at school, this can be translated as "Work Well and Be Happy".

Secondly, I was inspired by the keynote speech done by Squadron Leader Mark Jackson of the Royal Airforce (RAF). At the end of his talk he mentioned the motto of the RAF, which is "Per Ardua ad Astra" or "Through Adversity to the Stars" 

Here's why I think both of these mottos are inspiring examples when crafting brand essence statements.

1. Build on a brand truth

At KGS, the motto is described here as "The ‘golden thread’ that weaves its way through school life, where the aim is not to achieve academic excellence at any cost but, rather, to aim high, be the best you can and, equally importantly, to be happy." Initiatives in place to deliver this include mindfulness training for both pupils and staff, strategies for coping with exam stress and a ‘Failure Day’ where pupils are "encouraged to think positively about disappointment and setbacks." 

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And for the RAF, there is clever reference to the activity of flying up towards the stars in the face of challenges and danger. The motto has been "Made famous by the heroic and courageous deeds of our air forces over the years," according to this source. Indeed, Squadron Leader Jackson told a story that dramatised the motto, about his first bombing raid carried out in practically zero visibility at several hundred miles an hour!

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2. Make it Memorable 

Sometime brand essence statements can be more like bland essence statements, lacking in distinctiveness and authenticity, and way too long.

Both the KGS and RAF mottos are short and snappy, each being only five words long. There is nice rhythm to each of them, which rolls of the tongue. In addition, there is some emotion put into the mottos that helps make them distinctive. I especially love "Through Adversity to the Stars", which is so much more compelling than a safer alternative like "Overcoming Challenges".

3. Be consistent

The key to creating "memory structure" is to find fresh ways to execute the same idea over many years, what we call "fresh consistency".

The RAF motto is over a century old. Colonel Frederick Sykes, Commanding Officer of the Royal Flying Corps, "asked his officers to come up with a motto for the new service; one which would produce a strong esprit de corps," according to the RAF website here. He was already using crowdsourcing over 100 years ago!

In conclusion, the next time you work on crafting a brand essence statement, consider the mottos of KGS and the RAF, and see if you can use them to inspire something which is short, snappy and memorable, and based on an emotional expression of a brand truth.