Way back in 2010 when I first started abandoning hopes of becoming an astronaut and started looking for a more tangible career I stumbled upon a documentary called Art&Copy. The film is a must-see (and probably part of the curriculum) for any advertising student, and made me consider —and choose— advertising as my major. However the film lacks to mention the larger world behind advertising: that of brand-focused initiatives that help make so many companies successful.

Interning at Tag Strategies has been an amazing experience in the world of branding. Although Tag functions as a full service ad agency, its main focus is brand strategy (hence Tag Strategies). Clients of Tag often boast about how great the folks at Tag are at building brands into industry leaders, and confident forces in the corporate world.

The main difference between Tag’s approach to creating a brand and the run-of-the-mill ad agency approach is just that: their approach.

First things first, when “creating” a brand it is important not to fabricate ideas or beliefs that clients have: if at the root of your brand is a lie everything aligned with your brand is a lie. That’s why when Tag brands companies they don’t create their brand, they discover it. Through a long, in-depth session with clients Tag gets to the root of a client’s reason for being in business, think of it as their reason why they entered their market; or simply: Why.

This approach shares much with Simon Sinek, the man who literally wrote the book on starting with why. When companies build their brand starting from why they are in business and work their way out to how they work, brands succeed. When reading Sinek’s book (Start With Why) or interning at Tag it becomes very easy to see this technique at work. Brands like Southwest Airlines, Zappos, and the holy-grail Apple all start with why they do what they do. When this process is reversed (remember that run-of-the-mill approach?) companies will often start with what they offer and how they function trying to find their “Why”.

As Sinek or any of the Brand Experts at Tag will tell you, such an approach is almost doomed from the start.

Interning at Tag has truly been eye opening in seeing the core functions and foundations of brands. When looking at any brand from the largest corporation to the smallest mom and pop business, interning at Tag has helped me see brands for what they truly are. This is a great tool for anyone who wants to help brands improve and succeed no matter the size of the company, or advertising budget.