A Landscape Analysis
We practice what we call “Evolutionary Branding”. We start with what will have the most impact for the least amount of money. The difference between agencies that work with big brands and agencies that work with smaller brands is that the agencies that work with big brands treat branding as a STRATEGIC endeavor whereas smaller agencies often treat branding as a visual exercise. But what the big agencies know, is that even a gorgeous logo will not increase sales, but a great strategy will.
Consequentially, step one is ALWAYS the landscape analysis. We carefully research your target market, see who your competitors are and learn what they do well and what they do poorly. This is very important because it lets us take advantage of opportunities and low hanging fruit.
Every agency we’ve ever encountered makes this one BIG mistake. It’s shocking actually. They send out a discovery questionnaire when onboarding a new client and ask what they like. What colors do they like, what websites do they like, what logos do they like, what fonts do they like, or some variation of this. Every single one does this.
The questions you should be asking are: What colors do your CUSTOMERS like, what websites do your CUSTOMERS like, what fonts do your CUSTOMERS like.
The Value Proposition, Brand Strategy and Messaging
What is it that you do – and even more importantly – what is it that you do differently and BETTER than your competition?
“Outstanding Customer Service” doesn’t count. EVERYONE says that.
The Value Proposition is the most important part of the branding process and the part that even seasoned professionals often don’t seem to understand. And it’s hard. Defining your Value Proposition is a lot like the game of GO. It is a question that takes a second to ask and a lifetime to answer.
But if you can answer this one question, marketing is easy. All you have to do then is get your answer in front of as many people as possible.
Your business or product name
Once you have identified your competition and crafted a compelling value proposition, you have a solid foundation to craft a name that sticks. The naming process is very personal, but also has a legal aspect to it. It’s not as simple as just coming up with a great name, we have to make sure it’s not being used by someone else in your sector – and what is even more difficult – we need to secure the domain name or come up with a compelling and memorable url.
Your slogan is a one sentence encapsulation of your Value Proposition. What you do differently and BETTER than your competition. The purpose of your name is so people remember you. The purpose of your slogan is to SELL.
Once you have a name that sticks, your slogan tells people the why: Why they should do business with you. Why they should buy your product. Why they should CARE.
It’s not enough to have a recognizable name, you also need a recognizable logo. A good logo builds trust and will help to pull your brand together. Don’t think that you need a symbol or mascot either. Some of the most recognizable brands use just text for their logo. This is especially powerful when you have a catchy name.
Remember though that Branding is NOT just a logo. That is why it is way down at step five in our process. The definition of branding is the promise you make to your customer. A logo is your stamp of approval.
Application of the brand to your website
Your website is the first point of contact for your audience. Before they come to your offices, they will visit your website and contrary to the adage people DO judge a book by its cover. Since the homepage is the most critical page of your website – this is where in milliseconds visitors decide if they will stay or if they will go – we like to focus on that first.
We create 5 mockups ranging from conservative to a little bit out there. Then you choose the one you kind-of, sort-of like the best and we make revisions to that until you LOVE the homepage. This is a VERY effective technique to focus in on what you are looking for and create a website that knocks people’s socks off!
The Brand Manual: Look of the Brand: colors, font, photo style, illustration style, etc…
This is where it comes together. Quality design should be a part of every one of your marketing materials. Your website, brochures, stationery, content posted to social networks, emails, etc. should all be designed for maximum aesthetic appeal and this is your guide.
To build and maintain a strong brand, every aspect of your brand should be as good as your product or service and you must be consistent in presenting your brand because brand consistency leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to trust.
Many of our clients don’t have large marketing departments, often only one or two people, so we look at our job is to make their job easier. Unlike traditional branding agencies, our brand manuals are designed to be actionable, not only outlining strategy but to be a complete strategic roadmap with messaging and graphics for the website, ads and social media and instructions for using them.
Deliver value. Value doesn’t mean lowest price. It means that you are useful and that people need what you offer. This is why all branding starts with the “Value Proposition”.
Keep your promises. You’d be surprised how many small businesses burn bridges with their customers by failing to keep their promises, missing deadlines, going in back order, delivering shoddy merchandise. Happy customers who feel good about your organization are your best source of referrals. Also, it’s a LOT easier to keep your current customers than find new ones.
Stand for something. Think about the brands you love. Do those stand for something (or against something) and connect with their customers emotionally? Chances are they do. What does your organization stand for (or against)?