What is a brand and how do you build one?

What is ‘Brand’?

You can build a powerful brand and build brand equity by appealing to and keeping the attention of your target audience and then going beyond that to increase resonance. ‘Brand’ is about garnering, earning, sustaining love and loyalty. It’s about passion and principles, positioning and purpose, people and process. It’s about all of the values running through what you do, why you do it and what it means or should mean something to your tribe of customers.

Most importantly and much overlooked, is how it all translates to how you do what you do and contributes to your brand reputation.

Branding is the expression of your what constitutes the intrinsic difference and unique nature of your company, part of the activation of the outworking of an idea and the embodiment of a perception. There is no underestimating its power, as this article explains, whether you are engaged in responsive website design or development or undertaken operational change.

‘Brand’ is the synthesis of everything your consumer believes and feels about your business, your offering and why you exist and it’s why they gravitate to you, engage and transact with you and keep doing so. It’s everything to do with the brand position they accord you in their minds. Brand experience, for the customer, defines the brand because ‘brand’ is an emotional construct that savvy businesses can influence.

To start and stay sustainable, your purpose, values and identity which we uncover layer by layer, are key. We help you drill into this using our Inside Out Brand Strategy Method.

How we can help build your brand

Iconify combine creative brand consulting and design with innovative business advisory and implementation to help clients build powerful brands that are resonant and fit for the ever-changing competitive and technologically dynamic modern business landscape.

We help to build a powerful brand by:

  • developing a brand strategy and focus on enhancing the experience and optimising engagement.
  • leaders discover and define the purpose required to be resonant with naming and creating straplines or taglines,
  • idea generation for marketing and communications,  industry and competitor research and the attendant data analytics, positioning and strategy, design, internal engagement and operating model redesign, digital and social media campaigns and  risk management.
  • consider how to improve your customer journey and raise the likelihood of a favourable experience and to anticipate possible areas of risk to your reputation and optimise readiness to deal with adverse events, always with an eye to sustaining brand equity.

How to build a powerful brand. Brand equity comes from the engagements and benefits customers derive from interaction with your brand.

Brand Strategy

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Brand Development

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Brand Communications

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Brand Risk Management

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Building Your Brand Equity

Building brand equity is what you are doing if you take steps to protect your brand, to extend you brand’s reach, foorprint and customer satisfaction. Brand equity is the value of your brand to your company. Keller describes a process for building your brand equity that creates the ideal conditions for increasing the value of what your business does through the perception of your customers. We believe you can do this through blended branding and things like strategic website design.

Beyond Features

Beyond the features of your service or product, your brand is built and held and sustained in the minds of your customer. It is constituted of all feelings and ideas and perceptions born of engagement, exposure and experiences that a consumer has with your brand.

Brand equity can’t exist outside of customers because they must be persuaded to buy into your brand. Which means you must target the right customers. Equity is a gift that can net your business recognition, the benefit of the doubt and scribing of authority, goodwill and intentions just based on perception and the consistent brand experience you offer to your customers.

The key to building your this lies in building awareness, communicating your brand’s reasons for existing and purpose to actively influence or change your customer’s perception of your company and maintain a deep and personal bond with customers.

Quality products and services matter – the features matter but they are not the most important thing – delivery and engagement count far more because decisions are made mostly based on emotion as emotions ultimately drive and build powerful brands. 

Brand Reputation

Which came first – brand reputation or brand perception? Did reputation give rise to a certain perception or did perception make people act in ways in relation to the brand that gave it a certain reputation?
One thing is certain, to control reputation, we must control brand perception, from the get-go.
Because in the age of social media which has changed the game, one ill-judged tweet can do a lot of heavy lifting in trashing hard-won reputation and even equity. Control for reputation now rests with stakeholders to a degree it didn’t in the past. Still, a focus and consistent reference to the building blocks of brand strategy, particularly around brand purpose, can stave off many of these pitfalls. This is dependent upon a crucial brand dimension – people – your internal customers and how they have internalised your purpose and their role in it. Not only does brand experience rely on it, but increasingly, reputation, as your staff will speak as much for you and about you as your customers and could have a greater impact at critical moments.

Keep your business improving

With a focus on brand. Let’s change the game.


Brand strategy should be central to business strategy

You’ve successfully built the brand and a tribe around your offering who are incredible advocates generating referrals, word of mouth and enviable online buzz. You’ve built an asset. If in order to protect your business and give it the best long term chances of survival and competition, you decide to undertake significant business change, would your brand strategy not play a part in the business strategy? Yet, everyday, businesses make this critical mistake of not putting it at the centre of their endeavours. We can help you to do this.

Brand Advisory

We’re here to help new businesses with new a product launch, new brand creation or rebranding strategy, process and activation.

Brand reputation strategy stems from protecting the brand and incorporating it into the business strategy

Web and Online Strategy

Web and online strategy can help you build visibility, authority and of course build brand equity. The design and build of a website go beyond a critical digital presence and done well, can help you better engage with your core customers and use to great effect the messaging derived from the brand strategy process.

The Role of Differentiation

The objective of brand building and the process of doing so successfully is based around the concept of differentiation, which is isolating the concept, feature (of product/service), channel or method of delivery that allows your business to position as unique, a leader or in some other way differentiated.

What is Brand Purpose and Why Does it Matter?

Let’s look at Why Brand Purpose Matters, first.

Brand purpose matters because it connects with your customers on an emotional level, the level at which engagement, purchase and attachment decisions happen. Now, we all know, customers today are savvier, more politically and socially engaged than they used to be and see the connections in their buying choices in a way they didn’t in the past, for example, their connection with protecting the environment or views on sweatshops. So your purpose is critical for them, and how your brand relates with them.

It’s also critical for you as a business because it should define why and how you make particular decisions about the directions you choose to go in and how you implement initiatives and those decisions. When your actions and stated purpose are in conflict, they create a schism that presents as a dissonance to your customer who then perceives your brand as somehow inauthentic. This causes a disengagement with the brand over time and a drop off in purchases, referrals and advocacy and must be avoided at all costs. 

Purpose runs through everything you do

Purpose should run through everything your brand does

The Strategic Context For Brand Transformation

The Context for Brand Transformation

A strategic context for brand transformation is more necessary than ever as professional services companies like law, accounting and architecture firms begin to realise the importance of building a brand. The realisation that building a brand goes way beyond designing a nice logo is important for businesses who may still not think it is possible to differentiate in their sector.

When it comes to the unfavourable impacts that the pandemic may have had on your operating model and the challenges thrown up, you may be starting to recognise that a transformation is needed, From mindset to branding and digital transformation to delivery model, and due to the range of areas impacted, you may realise that an integrated strategy is required.

 

Rebranding Strategy – a Great Beginning but Not the Whole Story

Rebrands are the latest panacea being offered by marketers to leaders for wide-ranging growth, technology and internal capacity issues they face. However, a focus seemingly only on marketing drivers may not provide the comfort that leaders need, as it’s difficult to make the leap from a marketing-driven initiative to functional and operational constraints that affect your business’s competitive position.

Consultants offering productivity tools or technology firms offering software solving current problems but with no reference to brand ideals and ambitions (every bit as important to sustainability and longevity), would likewise fail to provide the strategic lens required to solve problems in a holistic manner. This is what makes a strategic context for brand transformation so critical.

Having clear objectives regarding building a brand in order to become and stay differentiated, is a consideration that spans your business, end to end. Therefore, there is a need for an integrated brand strategy and transformation. There is an unmet need for independent assurance of the brand marketing work to ensure it incorporates the business’ objectives and considers the business’s capability to live up to the brand ideals defined. Conversely, there is also a need for independent assurance of change management activities to ensure they are aligned to brand imperatives, like purpose, positioning and fundamentally the brand promise.

Ideally, there is a strategy to the delivery process of brand transformation that can be designed and implemented through an integrated brand strategy. At Iconify, we recognise that this is what businesses are really crying out for at this time – a holistic process for addressing the range of challenges coming at leaders fast, and uniquely we have the expertise and capability to offer the underlying work or the assurance capability. This means that even if you already have (internal or external) marketing or strategy teams working, it makes sense to consider a different approach that ensures all brand marketing is also aligned to business objectives, and change works are aligned to brand imperatives because this significantly reduces the risks of working in silos, conflicting requirements and degraded customer experiences.

The Branding Imperatives to Business Objectives Alignment Gap

At Iconify, we have recognised this significant strategy synergy gap, namely that because the links just aren’t made in the minds of leaders between a rebrand and the integrated strategy that a business needs to solve the challenges they are currently facing and anticipating, these disconnects looms large in the absence of an integrated strategy. That’s why we propose a strategic context for brand transformation that considers the business as a whole end-to-end and touches on the main considerations that would make the largest and most immediate advances for creating a brand with longevity in its DNA.

If

  • you need a strategy for bringing business revenues and other KPIs up a couple of notches
  • you face staff and customers loss, are getting fewer leads or are billing at lower rates
  • revenues are stalled and you are looking for new avenues of growth, and want to add new services
  • you have yet to start your digital transformation process
  • your website is not yet a digital asset that helps generate leads, improve reputation/social proof
  • your digital presence is lacklustre
  • You want to fall in love with your business again, and everyone along with you,

you need a rebranding strategy that goes beyond brand design and focuses on brand-aligned business strategy.

Steps to Brand Supremacy

Step 1) Brand Strategy

How can your business win? Brands that win are outcome-focused, not service focused. They know it’s about the experience, the confidence engendered and the hassle avoided. Coke understands that nobody ever wanted a cola. They wanted an exciting cold drink that made them feel like a part of a worldwide tribe of people just like them.

Without Coca-Cola’s ad budget, how do you establish your credentials and influence your target audience? That’s the role of brand strategy; through this process, clarity on purpose, positioning, proposition and your brand promise are realised and integrated into your operations, people and communications. A rebranding strategy that does not take account of the strategic context for brand transformation for your business, will not deliver the full benefits your business deserves.

 

Step 2) Brand Identity

Brand identity is all the visual, verbal design and cues of your brand and should match your overall brand personality. Many rebranding strategies stop at this level but we aim to go beyond the visual and match these cues not just to the brand personality but also to your brand imperatives; things like purpose, positioning, position and promise), and be designed to make the right impact. This is how you build out a rebranding strategy with stamina.

 

Step 3) Capability and CX (Customer Experience) Alignment

Holistic integration of brand strategy into your operations and processes can create a customer experience that customers appreciate and don’t want to be without. That comes from building the capability to match your brand’s promise.

It’s important to grasp that your customer’s experience is a rolling river, from when they become aware of you, to when you have fulfilled an order to when they recommend you or find out you have other services they need because you anticipated their needs to when you ask for reviews they are happy to give or respond to a query or complaint they wish they didn’t need to when they read news of what you or your employees are up to, doing things that interest or matter to them. It matters.

 

Step 4) Change

Understanding what needs to change to plug the gaps between your vision and your as-is business model with its attendant challenges and constraints, is a key part of building a brand or rebranding. Change is central to successful and sustainable rebranding and managing this process and your organisation’s readiness for it is vital.

 

Step 5) Communications

Once your brand personality is clear, your voice and language can be evolved to meet prospective client expectations and appeal to their emotions, and this comes from messaging that is concerted and consistent across all channels for employees, partners, and clients alike.

 

Step 6) People and Culture

As first-line advocates of your business, and defenders of the faith of your business, your employees are so precious. It’s critical that they buy into the principles of the business and that they are empowered to embody your brand ideas and ways of working in their conduct and performance. The culture of your business must enable the attitudinal positions your business expects to see through your employees. Building and executing a rebranding strategy in the context of brand transformation is a perfect opportunity to review how well your processes facilitate innovation and adoption of change as some profound changes to underlying processes and systems may be required.

 

Step 7) Digital Transformation, Marketing, Presence and Web

Digital – the word on everyone’s lips with a plethora of applications, fields and opportunities.

Rebranding your business strategically, not just visually, is the perfect time to start to understand your customers, their needs and habits as well as the outstanding gaps in your business’s capability. Being the aspirational brand your business aims to be will fall short without significant and extensive digital capabilities and a presence that is built and bolstered through them, for example, engagement and the ability for your clients to access some of your services through your digital infrastructure.

 

Step 8) Constantly and iteratively align brand imperatives to business objectives

Once deficits are identified, it is important that all changes undertaken are done with a view to mapping strategic objectives, delivery methods and the brand’s aspirations and objectives.

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Brand Strategy as a Superpower for Brand Building

Brand Strategy as a Superpower

When it comes to brand building, integrated brand strategy is a superpower that helps your business achieve its goals and address many of the most pressing concerns you might be facing.

Business concerns we hear about the most centre around similar themes:

“We’re a little lost on digital”, “we need better branding”, “how can we achieve greater growth”, “how do we get fit for purpose software for our business”, “we need a culture change”, “we need to manage change”.

The way that businesses with durability and stamina deal with solving these questions are what makes them sustainable brands. Understanding this literally separates those who play for short term impact and those who play for keeps because strategy is their superpower.

Why?

Because they recognise that all efforts in these respects touch on brand building. If your efforts in your business and the way benefits are being delivered are not playing a part in building your brand, shaping your perception and serving and engaging your customers better, you need to re-evaluate them.

Brand building is the process of developing and shaping your business’s brand through the discovery of what your purpose, positioning and principles are with the aim of positioning your business in the market and in the perception of your customer and building awareness on that basis.

Differentiation is critical to that process but digital marketing – SEO, SMM, Email Marketing and PPC have changed the game. As useful as these advances are, without the relevant brand discovery, development and strategy process, these processes will not deliver the desired outcomes.

What is a Brand?

Your brand is the sum total of everything your business stands for, does or doesn’t do and the position you occupy in the minds of people who know of you. It is the perception people have of you and the attributes, they ascribe to your product or service, the ways you deliver them, your culture and ways of working or all of the above. All of these considerations go into brand building and make it demonstrate the necessity for an integrated brand strategy as a superpower in meeting business goals.

Very often, however, how people feel about your brand has nothing at all to do with the features of your product or service but primarily with how your product/service makes them feel. The power lies in the fact that it can command a premium for your product or service. The sum total of your brand contributes to your brand reputation, your brand equity and the power of your brand.

Consistency of communications, customer experience and service are critical to customer perception. It takes time and strategy to build a brand and that’s why long-range vision is so important. With the right planning and preparation, customer engagement can be increased and enhanced to improve advocacy and sales.

What is brand building?

From a brand assets perspective, a recognisable, well regarded and even loved brand is the diamond standard and is irreplaceable as a guarantee of the brand promise, quality and calibrated expectations. Small to mid-size businesses are frequently competing with bigger brands who have bigger budgets to spend on advertising to entrench their position and supremacy.  This means that smaller rivals must build up a strong brand personality and awareness in order to compete smartly.

 

Brand differentiation is critical to and drives brand awareness, which is the first stage of building brand power. At the heart of brand building is the requirement to integrate and synthesise brand strategy  – positioning, purpose, principles to create an authentic and resonant entity. Getting this right is the blueprint for building brand power.

A brand built with a holistic and strategic strategy can capture brand love and loyalty and shore up brand equity, so a brand building process is going to be one of the most important things that a company can undertake in the competitive stakes, and will be increasingly important in the coming years. Therefore, so any effective brand building process will need to incorporate shrewd brand visibility strategies.

The Strategy to Resonance Equation

Knowing what you want to achieve and all the factors needed to align across all parts of your business is how strategy can function as a superpower.

The idea of resonant brands derives from Keller’s brand resonance building block that suggests that resonance is the strength of a customer’s psychological engagement with the brand and the steps to how this is formed. Performing these steps lead to differentiating, brand resonance and gaining brand power. Answering the strategic questions thrown up in developing an integrated brand strategy across all of your business facets and functions is key to attaining resonance.

 

In the final analysis, your brand represents a promise and how well you keep your brand promise determines whether yours is a resonant brand.  Resonant brands will grow to eclipse their rivals. Your brand promise is a position in the marketplace, much like a territory. What you represent in the market to people that you want to influence and move, is attributable to how accurately, acutely and completely you can appeal to that target market. What brand visibility strategies should be employed? How compelling can you make your message? How well can you enable customers to believe you can give them what they want and how well will you deliver on that?

 

These are the questions that brand strategy seeks to answer in order to effectively promote what your business stands for and enhance your place in the market to make your brand resonant because iconic brands are resonant brands, who rule their territory, and garner brand love and loyalty.

Why Brand Positioning Strategy?

Brand Positioning Strategy and ‘The Battle for Their Minds’

Brand strategy and positioning recognise that as a business, as an aspirational brand, your business is in a battle for the consumers’ minds.

Simply put, a brand positioning strategy is necessary because people start businesses every day. They literally start-up by the hundreds and vast numbers of new businesses are in the same, similar or comparable markets which means they are often not just competing directly but also indirectly. It’s never been more important to be seen and heard because with shorter attention spans and so much more competition for it, ‘popping up’ is not enough. Grabbing  attention alone will not cut it. You need to keep it.

A brand positioning strategy is how you do that. Even when there is a sufficient ad budget (and there often is not enough) in a business, people actively avoid ads, so other avenues for building awareness and recognition are necessary. Goals for your business should include building a really strong brand that can increase your market share but strength comes from resonance and resonance is dependent on a brand positioning strategy.

Positioning, as part of an overarching marketing strategy, helps to create resonance because it ensures relevancy and clarity. It can help you think about your brand is perceived. To create a strong brand, your brand needs to occupy a distinct position in the consumer’s consciousness. You may need to build it or you can create it by changing how they think about your competitors.

At the Core of Positioning

Who are your tribe, what do they love and why should they love you?

If you can answer this, you can explain why they should listen to you. If you know that, you can craft a message that helps you realise your goals with regards to your target segments. Therefore, an initial understanding of who your target segments are. What are their differences and similarities and their underlying loves, fears or unmet needs?

In short, you’ve got to KYC – know your customer, through research, conversation and study. It’s the only way to get through to them to where you can make a lasting impression. It’s the equivalent of making a shocking ad about something customers care about – themselves.

 

Winning prospective customers needs to be addressed at both ‘fit and hit’ levels – fit needs, wants and anticipate requirements and hit emotions through meeting unmet needs, satisfying unexplored desires and gratifying unrealised angles for delivering delight, beyond all expectations. This may entail an extension to your offering that adds on a tiny margin of cost but is something your customer is willing to pay a higher additional premium.

This is being seen and heard on every level. You go beyond meeting an unmet need in the market to meeting unmet needs in your customer’s psyche and lifestyle. These are important considerations because depending on the barriers to entry, meeting the gap in the market your business does could be replicated. An additional dimension is essential and is where brand positioning strategy comes in.

The success of this process would mean that your brand evokes meanings and feelings about gains and benefits rather than features.

 

Positioning at its best is not features led, it’s feelings led. The goal is brand supremacy in that position not product superiority in the category. This is an important distinction. You are going for brand love in order to compete and will need to project a distinct and unique brand consistently in order to get the message across.

Successful Brand Positioning Strategy Drives Perception as well as Performance

This is why it’s pivotal to brand strategy, especially one that is integrated because your business is always considering this customer and their needs through both how you interact and engage as well as how you operate, deliver and serve.

A positioning statement is a huge step to defining the dimensions of positioning once the relevant research has been done and insights are gleaned because a very clear view of your target market is fundamental.

Data your organisation already holds is a very useful place to start as is research, especially if your product or service offering or business is new. Positioning is equally important when there is an existing stable of brands and the positioning of a new product will then need to be in light of building a powerful brand architecture that minimises the opportunities for cannibalization.

 

Brand position and strategy is an approach that creates the best opportunities for your brand to thrive. You’ve got a great offering, one that you believe in but it’s important that this is anchored to the audience who will best appreciate your product, the right message to reach them and the right voice to carry the message.

Why Brand Positioning is Key to Successful Brand Strategy

The Positional Elements of Brand Strategy Part 1

The Key to Successful Brand Positioning and Why you Need It

Brand positioning is key to successful brand strategy because it drives everything from brand design to the business choices we make around, for example, capability, tools, communication and HR.

The holy grail, whatever your business is to move away from factors that commoditise your business and trap you in a race to the bottom on price. Conversely, differentiation allows you to levy a premium for your offering, whether you sell products, services or a mix of both. This all depends on differentiation and should particularly be focused on businesses operating in a very competitive business terrain, which let’s face it, is a high percentage of many companies. Certainly, in the professional services and home and lifestyle sectors, this is very true.

 

Why the positional elements of brand strategy are key to successful brand positioning

But what are the things that allow your business and offering to be differentiated? Let’s take a quick step back and consider some core ideas around what constitutes a successful brand strategy and some foundational brand positioning truths.

1) Understanding Brand Imperatives 2) Differentiators may be found outside the offering 3) what brand positioning is 4) why it’s integral to brand strategy, and 5) why your business needs it

 

1) Brand Imperatives

Brand strategy is based on what we define at Iconify as Brand Imperatives, foundational elements of building a sustainable brand – Purpose, Principles, Perception, Personality, Position, Proposition, Promotion, Promise. These are defined with the purpose of carrying them into the operational, functional and delivery realms of business in an integrated way, to ensure consistency between what your brand stands for and how it operates, so that expectations set by your messaging and promotion can be met through the capability built within your business to do so.

 

2) Differentiators may be found outside the core offering

What sets you apart does not have to be intrinsically in the offering but may in fact be in methods, delivery or even based on relationship.

Positioning is an imperative of the brand that defines the space within which you believe the sum total of what your brand and business are about can matter. It;s the space where everything that differentiates your business and lends such a slant and pivot to what you offer as to make it difficult to compete with on the terms you set as to what is so special about your brand. People buy feelings and benefits, advantages and emotional crutches; they buy satisfaction and gratification, not just the products and services they buy from you. These are simply a means to the end they ultimately seek.

3) What is Brand Positioning?

Al Ries makes it clear that this positioning is an alchemy that happens in the mind of your customers as a result of the perceptions driven by your business about the benefits people gain from your offering. Your business must be positioned in a favourable ‘space’ relative to your competition where a synthesis of what the customer believes they want, what they need, and how your offering delivers on those.

To do this effectively, you need to KYC – know your customer, which can be done through research and conversation.

 

Positioning strategy, the Customer and CX

Positioning Strategy is the plan and techniques of defining, ascribing and winning the right position and while it is an integral part of brand strategy, we believe brand strategy encompasses ideas beyond just positioning.

This is because it’s one thing to build the perception, another thing to carve out the position but it’s another thing again to maintain that position sustainably. That must be supported by the capability that references and protects the foundation, meaning and power of that position through how your business operates.

 

4) How brand positioning is integral to brand strategy

The position can not exist in a vacuum and is not tenable without consistent and excellent customer experiences that encourage your customers to move beyond adoption to advocacy. This is because it’s very possible to become positioned by accident or as a matter of course, which leaves a lot to chance and your business at the mercy of those who can spend significant amounts on ad revenue to rebut the position you hope for. Businesses that hope to become brand must work proactively to identify a position to own and deploy communications and marketing signals to do that in an integrated way.

5) Why you need it

Where the favourable and compelling idea of your business lives in the mind of your customer is where your brand is born. Before this idea is adopted, you are just a business. Once a strong view is formed that will lead to the contemplation of adoption or advocacy, your business becomes a brand. This is brand positioning. This is ‘why’ brand positioning and the necessity to explore the positional elements of brand strategy and the key to successful brand positioning.

You need it because you win by contending in a busy market place as a leader and a remarkable player due to differentiators that can be found in your business through brand strategic tools and techniques.

 

In the beginning …. or 100 years ago or so

When we think about brands, we think about Coca Cola, Mercedes Benz, Xerox, Colgate and the like, thousands of brands we are all familiar with, whether we are adopters or not but what these brands have had above all is time. Even Apple, often seen as a Wunderkind has been around for more than four decades. They have had time.

They have also had something else that is truly special. They have had a story.

But there is one other thing that they have all done. They have spent millions building and cementing their position. This means that if you haven’t got 40 – 100 years to establish your brand and billions in ad spend, you really need a positioning strategy; you need the special story and you need to do your utmost to found that position in the minds of your customer. You do that, you are no longer competing on a commoditised basis. Which means recognition and resonance. You will have adopters and advocates. Brand love and loyalty follow and the bottom line, follows this – revenues will increase and keep increasing predictably. That’s the story of brand.

In the Positional Elements of Brand Strategy Part 2, we will look at some more exciting ideas to help determine a positioning strategy

Integrated Brand Stategy for Decision Makers

The Ultimate Brand Strategy Process

In this post, I share an infographic that represents our Integrated Brand Strategy Process, the ultimate brand strategy process for decision-makers, who must consider more than just marketing, design and creative aspects of the business.

We take an in-depth look at what an integrated brand strategy should look like and the process that’s required to ensure that it’s fully fit for purpose and delivers on everything I have outlined in the last post, about why brand strategy should be integrated and aligned with your business’s operational objectives and actions.

 

From Porter’s 5 forces, SWOT and PEST to Perceptual Maps and Value Chains, there are a number of tools that can help us build a foundation for brand strategy work.

1) Decoding your Business Environment with Strategic Tools

The first step in building a brand strategy is to recognise that it is in fact a building process.

You need a foundation, damp proof membrane, steels, and utilities thought out, worked out and integrated throughout from the outset. But also, you must know that you need to build a house, not a school but you may not know if you want a house on three floors or a sprawling bungalow.

To establish your goals and ultimate business objectives, you need to fully understand the terrain within which you operate. Then you can take a clear and long term view of what the brand you are building should be and for example, the type and size of plumbing (capability) you will need.

 

You must carve out what we call the ‘Brand Imperatives’ at Iconify, discussed in the last post; the P2Ps as we we call them – Purpose, Principles, Perception, Personality, Position, Proposition. Promotion, Promise. These are important both internally and externally but we must never define them without reference to what is going on in the external environment. Brand strategies are created to help businesses win which invariably requires taking stock, knowing and fully understanding your strengths and weaknesses, your threats and opportunities. With regard to your environment specifically, you should be abreast of challenges and gaps in the market as well as obstacles – your basic SWOT/PEST data but used as a basis for building your purpose and differentiators, as well as your positioning decisions.

 

This market and competitor information is critical for deciding how to pitch your company. You get many good ideas too of where the ‘potentialities’ of your organisation for differentiation and even extension may come from, which is part of what makes this integrated approach, the ultimate brand strategy process.

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2) Inside-out Brand Strategy – Define your Brand Imperatives

You start outside, scope out the terrain, start to define what your structure should be, where you should site it and what its edifice might be but starting outside and understanding your environment means you are sure where there is water, soil or rock. You are ready to start considering your business and brand in concert to define your Brand Imperatives – purpose, principles, perception, personality, position, proposition, promotion, promise – in detail, with the correct stakeholders.

 

Simon Sinek advocates starting with the ‘Why’, and we agree, so we start with purpose but the preceding exercise will have informed and reinforced that/those ‘why(s) as you start to define your business purpose, your principles and ideals you want to embed in the organisation to start winning the attention and custom of the clients you will target. Brand Imperatives are built from informed hopes and dreams.

What is the current perception of your business in the market and does that differ from the perception you hope to project? What positional opportunities are there and should you continue with the position you occupy if you do not lead in it? How close are your offerings to what people really want and are willing to pay for?

 

What will it cost to get you to the ideal or is there a pivot that is more profitable? How well is your company keeping its promise to its clients, meeting customer expectations and what adjustments are required to get there? How are you promoting your business now? Are your methods relevant and effective or is a review in order? This and more as some of the questions this part of the process will help you get the answers to.

3) Define Brand Aspirations

At the start, you’ll consider where you are going and decide where you should go as you define brand imperatives, but this is also the time to think about what you want the brand to be known for, desired as – which psychographic requirements will it meet, for example. As you define your purpose, it should be linked to aspirations for the brand. It’s no use having a limiting purpose if you have big ambitions for the brand. But these need to be defined clearly in terms of market segmentation, position and even down to how you would like to be described by current and prospective customers in the next 2 years when they speak about why they pay 50% more for your offering than for that of your closest rivals.

 

This will help determine the gap between where you are and where you want to be and of course the size, scale and extent of the effort required to begin to fill the gap in the market most lucratively.

4) Determine Interdisciplinary Objectives

That last step is critical in building clarity on what each function of your business need to do to achieve those aspirations and clarify how the operations need to change. It will help to build a business case and outline the necessary transformations across the organisation, why they need to happen and by when. In an integrated brand strategy, all things must work and dovetail well together with dependencies clear, anticipated and well managed to deliver the resonance that is the goal of an integrated brand strategy.

Consider operations, functions (including marketing of course), people and technology – what do we need to be able to do with and within these to build the business and the brand that will get us that market share and establish our brand as the first choice? What should be prioritised, and at what rate to get us there?

5) Review organisational capability

Operations, functions, people and technology – how well are we placed to meet the objectives established in the last step as what the business should be capable of doing to arrive at the desired endpoint of strategic initiatives.

From brand design to business transformation to reputation management, the next step is to determine where the organisation is now versus where it wants and needs to be if it is to meet its aspirations along a capability maturity spectrum that will be built upon as the strands of the integrated brand strategy are executed.

As an example, if an objective is that the business wants to engage more frequently and meaningfully with a segment of their target audience they currently feel cut off from, the questions would be:

  • Is there a solid and multifaceted digital marketing strategy that will make this happen and
  • are the necessary tools and capability available to achieve this?

Common challenges are IT related and many businesses are constrained by digital transformations that they are yet to make, many of which are relatively simple. However, in the absence of a complete brand strategy incorporating the digital transformation element, the roadmap to achieving these capabilities can appear very vague.

 

One thing we see a lot is that innovation is a fond dream of many business owners which they consider is of the pipe variety. Another is to increase diversity and inclusion. Without a clear plan to identify and remedy any deficits in your business, if they exist, it’s difficult to make the turnaround. Even when these exist, if the program of change isn’t linked to the brand strategy, especially with regard to brand imperatives and how organisations are committed to operating, it is all too common to fall at the first hurdles.

 

Ultimately, your ability to build the brand you dream of and be the first choice of the target segment you are aiming for in the position you decide on is fully dependent on operationalising all the areas that will deliver the objectives of the business case in uplifting capability and capacity across the board.

6) Define Change Program and Develop Strategy

Operations, functions, people and technology – what will actually be delivered, by who, how and when?

 

The parameters of the business’s transformation from the brand to the people level are taking shape strongly by this point in the process, and remain only to be documented, planned and resourced as a program of change with buy-in from decision-makers and stakeholders who should already have been on this journey from the outset and can clearly see that the costs indicated are a warranted and worthy investment.

Change practitioners and project managers will manage this part of the process but the brand strategy should dictate a key set of considerations for the business and technical architecture as well as how people should be organised and capability built on a cross functional basis. If new branding collateral is required, this should of course govern that process of discovery and design.

7) Strategy Execution

What have we done so far? We have built an integrated brand strategy that has considered the lockstep improvement, perhaps even overhaul of interdependent parts of your businesses that will benefit from economies of scope through the transformations that are made to all parts of the business that build, transmit, translate and deliver value. Yes, we have built a Transformation Engine! That’s what makes this the ultimate brand strategy process.

 

For the first time, perhaps you have been enabled to see your company as a holistic entity. It’s no longer seen as a business where it’s desirable to have functions, tools and processes they use, hived off in silos with communication about key and integral things, minimal or non-existent. Now we can plan for an organisations where people across all functions enjoy a sense of shared identity based on purpose and direction as well as a role-based responsibility.

 

Clearly, this organisation will serve customers better, now united by a shared vision and enabled and empowered by better capabilities to do the jobs they are asked to? Surely the people that work here are more engaged and enriched?

Strictly, execution is separate from strategy, however, it is extremely instructive to define and link how and where delivery workstreams that will work on the benefits of the strategy are related, how they’ll be met and should be a critical part of the project governance, risks and benefits management.

 

What will the comms and messaging look like? What is being transformed for brand, the business and IT and how will they all impact Customer Experience? How will they be delivered, how will this be governed and who will be responsible for ensuring that the Brand Strategy objectives are not lost through the compromises that often have to be made in change programs? Lots of exciting questions, the answers to which could be transformative to your business.

 

The unique thing about the brand strategy I have described is that it is an integrated brand strategy and in that integration is its power. The wonderful thing about it is that it generates sufficient detail not just to build a powerful strategy but also facilitates the establishment of tactics and processes to make the strategy stand while remaining responsive, flexible and focused on the Customer Experience.

Below is the summary of our Integrated Brand Strategy Process.

The Ultimate Brand Strategy - the number one best brand strategy for decision makers is an Integrated Brand Strategy Process

The idea is simple: To help decision-makers adopt a brand mindset that extends beyond the creative and design elements of a brand, and takes you from the visual to the heart, soul and the parts that actually do the heavy lifting. It helps owners, leaders and directors realise that changes to strategy should be aligned to the brand marketing work and ensure that brand messaging is reflected through the business operations and translated to how customers experience your business.

This strategy will to help strategists create roadmaps and gain clarity on your most entrenched challenges. Its complexity will be defined by the complexity of your organisation, but as a rule of thumb, the more complex your operations, the more you need a brand strategy that isn’t skating on top of disembodied marketing activities but is at the heart of your strategy for achieving your revenue and brand-driven goals.

Why you Need an Integrated Brand Strategy

Why it’s critical to have an integrated Brand Strategy to Create a Truly Resonant Brand

Effective and successful Brand Strategy can be defined as an integrated and long term mix of business cases, objectives and holistic strategies that are aligned across the business, operational and marketing functions to promote superior performance, resonant perceptions, an unassailable market position and present a compelling proposition through optimised business and technological capability and brand marketing techniques.

It’s the process of defining your brand’s purpose and imperatives like your proposition and principles but it should also underpin how your business operates to reflect these ideas and promises and it should direct efforts to meet these objectives. Overall business performance is therefore attributable to strategic tools defined through the brand strategy. Certainly, it goes beyond your brand, logo and colourways of your company because these things do not tell, sell or deliver anything to your customer. This is behind the idea of a resonant brand, a brand that is believable, compelling and enduring. Instinctively, one can grasp that the foregoing cannot be anchored by purely creative and visual aspects of branding.

 

Beyond Perception, Underpinning Performance and Bolstering Brand Power

Brand strategy must move beyond perception to performance with a long-term plan that incorporates capability as well as brand building. In highly competitive operating environments, it is critical to carve out a market position that is not easily copied or mimicked. This is what an integrated brand strategy can help your business to achieve because to be effective, it must be long term and align the objectives of business and marketing functions.

Presenting an offer compelling to the most lucrative target segments requires an in-depth understanding of your audience, but how can this information be come by without a clear joining up of what your business is promising as its offering and benefits with who and how. Important as this is a key determinant of operational and financial performance.

A Winning Brand Strategy is about Your Brand & ……

You’d be wrong to consider developing a brand strategy work carried out purely by a creative agency but you wouldn’t be alone. Brand strategies have traditionally been seen as a byproduct of marketing but it is real strategic work that should touch not only on everything that is important to your business but also on its aspirations, growth and ability to manage and adopt change. This is why it needs to be seen and implemented as an integrated brand strategy that builds and maintains a resonant brand in a holistic way.

Your business’ brand strategy should move in lockstep with your business objectives, and as such must align with your people, processes, operations and technological plans and objectives. Making changes to any of the preceding without reference to the brand strategy is the reason why so many business change projects fail, but also why brands lose their resonance and the brand purpose-promise fit breaks down.

The Best Approach to Defining your Brand Strategy

We’ll look at Brand Personalisation in detail in another post but for the purposes of this post, in order to illustrate why an integrated brand strategy is superior to any other kind, it’s useful to consider the following:

if your brand were a person, who would it be, what would it say and how would he behave? What does this person hold dear? What would they never do, and what would they stand for?  In other words, what is the character of the person?

What have they done, what will they do, what do they hope to do? How do they compare to their friends and people they know in knowledge or kindness or aptitude? In other words, what’s their history and story?

What do they struggle with? What are their aspirations? To whom do they relate the most and who relates to them? What does one get from associating with them? Why would one seek them out? What can they help you with better than anybody else? How do they make you feel when you go to them for help? Are they quick and easy-going? Are they thorough and do they add untold value? Do they do one thing and then you find they can help you with something else you had not thought of? If you need them to come quick, do they come on a scooter or in a car? Do you care more about the environment or about speed?

Holistic Brand

This is what your brand is like – an integral and whole entity with intrinsic values, aspirations and always building a capability to achieve those dreams that transcend the work done for promotion. When you put it that way, it becomes intuitive that brand strategy does not belong just in creative agencies, specialist marketing teams or business consulting teams standalone, any more than your human would be fine with just a dentist but not a doctor, or a hairdresser but not clothes.

A whole person needs them all and a whole brand needs a multidisciplinary team to create an integrated strategy. Strategy cannot be implemented without a plan, capacity or capability and a brand strategy is the blueprint to make things happen.

If it wasn’t before, it should now be  clear that you must consider your brand:

Purpose, Principles, Perception, Personality, Position, Proposition, Promise and Promotion.

In the next Brand Strategy Post, we’ll look at some ideas and a process for defining an integrated brand strategy.

The Importance of Market Research for Small Businesses

To Boss Your Market, You’ve Got to Know It

The importance of market research for businesses starting out or moving up, including small businesses is down to the fact that the data that research provides, is at the heart of much of what you decide to do with your brand. How you pitch your offering, your messaging, how you articulate your purpose, the methods you use to project certain perceptions, these all depend on knowing our market and the prospects who people it.

Setting off on a brand development adventure to ascertain your positioning without market research is analogous to setting off on travels through the Sahara Desert without a compass. You might try it but you really should not.
You might understand the importance of developing a brand and also for having a brand strategy to steer your business through choppy waters but it is equally important to know that it is complex and in-depth work that should have a basis in facts and numbers and not just supposition and wishful thinking. Empirical evidence is not only good for confidence but it actually gives the power for great decision making.

 

compass capabilities of market research

What is Market Research?

Market research is a tool, a knowledge base, a marketing, planning and brand development stock in trade that enriches the process of brand definition and sharpens the resulting brand’s effectiveness and the desirability and efficacy of the offerings your business provides. You find and collect information, insights and patterns that expose the potential desires and unmet needs of customers as well as their attitudes and habits. If you remember that businesses like Google and Facebook trade in data about you and me, then you must realise the value of data like that.

Regular market research helps your business grow and continue to grow. It helps your business take stock of shifts and changes in the market place and identify trends and threats in the operating environment. It’s a real risk not to do it because it helps you continue to understand and refine your knowledge about your target market and improve your ability to speak their ‘language’. It means that you can pinpoint problems and possible opportunities and uncover competitors operating in gaps you were not aware of.

 

What should be the scope and objectives of your market research?

Market Research is famously divided into primary and secondary research types.

Clarity on what it is you want to know about the market at the stage of the business life cycle you are inhabiting determines this, as well as the type and mix of techniques you might employ.

Primary market research focuses on collecting unique data about a business and target customers to use to enhance your offerings and relies on getting as close to the customer or prospective customer feedback or behavioural data from their interactions and transactions with you, like how effective sales is, how effective your sales channels are etc.

Secondary market research is conducted at a remove from the customer and their direct behaviours, feedback and reports, being derived from readily available and compiled from a range of sources.

With primary research, you focus on data and metrics for:

Sales
Competitor and industry research
Competitor Services
Communication channels
Interviews
Focus Groups

You focus on the following with secondary research:

Published company reports data
Industry and sector-specific data
Government data and sector reports
Third-party surveys and studies
News and social media reports, reviews and the general themes shared in forums etc.

Things to Remember

It’s important to ascertain when you start a market research process what data is required, why and by whom, whether similar research has been performed, especially recently and try to mine it or adapt it to your requirements. This may mean that you do not need to carry out your own primary research but if it does, it is instructive to define how and who with. A hypothesis or general idea about the broad nature of the target market is also needed.

10 Reasons You Must Have Market Research

Start your business or relaunch it on a stronger footing

For brand development and to underpin a brand strategy

Compete with established competitors who are confident and slick because they’ve got market research insights you don’t

To scale

To differentiate and diversity

Learn about the customers you want, the customers you’ve got and the potential customers you’re missing – extend your line or offerings

Know and undermine your competitors by identifying opportunities in performance, pricing and promotion

Make informed decisions

Test new offerings and markets

To speak to your prospects in a language they understand and build brand love and loyalty now and forevermore, Amen.

 

Bridge the Knowledge Gap with Market Research

Businesses that engage in regular market research grow faster and are more successful than competitors who do not. This is why market research is not just for new businesses and is especially precious for small businesses and professional services businesses that face intense competition. When it comes to defining a customer experience that can give you an upper hand in retained USPs, market research is critical for the data needed to design it,

How to Define Brand Purpose

The Answer is Purpose

‘What is brand purpose’, is a popular query so here’s a look at  how to define your brand purpose, why brand purpose is important and how yours can be a purpose-driven brand for our times. The short answer is that brand purpose is pivotal and a purpose driven brand stands the greatest chance of going the distance.

Defining Brand Purpose

‘Because I need a job’ said exactly nobody whoever got a great gig, in response to the question ‘Why?’ Why do you want THIS job? Why us? Why you?’ In the same vein, there is a big WHY at the heart of your business and if there isn’t, if you hope to go the distance, there should be. While your local corner shops may not have purpose emblazoned on the shop door, their purpose is pretty clear and their position and importance in your life as part of it, doesn’t require much explanation. But they will always be local and serve a specific segment plus their principals may be largely fungible because your entire relationship relies on a need they serve and anybody could run it as long as they were not impossibly unpleasant.

When you are competing across locales and geographies and a range of offerings with a competitive market place though, the dynamics are different, Then, there has to be something beyond the mere features, the totally transactional. There is a ‘Why?’ for every connection, engagement, interaction and also for sustaining these as long as there are other choices. The more choices there are, the more differentiation and the greater the need for a compelling answer to why brand purpose is important.

What is Brand Purpose?

Brand purpose is the reason why your business exists beyond the profit imperative, what it hopes to achieve in the life of their consumers and in the world, and how that ‘why’ powers how you do business. When your business gets big and important enough, CSR factors will kick in but without your purpose, you will navigate those waters only superficially, possibly artificially, never authentically copying the fads and trends of what others do. 

What is brand purpose to you? What does it mean to your business? What does it mean for your people? Brand purpose will dictate a roadmap for how you work with and treat your employees and your customers. When these things fall out of alignment, the problems will come but then they will also be easy to diagnose.

Let’s look at your individual purpose. It got you out of bed to build or grow your business. Purpose is a driver – people can be galvanised by purpose and this applies as much to your employees as to your customers, so while we discuss differentiation for competition, the competition is not just for sales, it’s also for recruitment of the right people into the lifeblood of your business.

Sinek, an authority on purpose,  believes that people need to see more than just the transactional elements in the things we do in life, especially the things we have to do, than just the need to do it.

Brand Purpose Definition

So, how to define brand purpose, taking together all the concepts above, especially with regards to creating an emotive element for connection between the business and its consumers? The following is our definition:

Brand purpose is the essence of the single driving idea, principle, reason, that links you to your customers on a level that transcends the transactional and rational, going beyond mere benefits and creates an emotional connection which depends on and relies on the positive, differentiated impact your business hopes and exists to make to your consumers and society at large. Brand purpose delineates ‘who; your brand is in the world and what it stands for, what it dreams and why. Lofty, no? Yes, and necessarily so.

A look at the brand purpose of some of the world’s most recognisable brands.

It’s instructive to take a look at a few of the purposes stated by what are arguably purpose driven brands.

– Promoting sustainability and community – Innocent

– Our ultimate purpose is to inspire and develop children to think creatively, reason systematically and release their potential to shape their own future – experiencing the endless human possibility – Lego – this one gets me every time!

– To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google – I think most can agree Google is rocking its purpose all day long!

What brand purpose is not!

Having addressed the ‘what is brand purpose question’, it’s just as useful to look at what is not brand purpose. They are related to brand purpose and it does inform them but brand purpose is not your mission statement, your vision, your business strategy or any of the other important and more tangible things businesses are used to having to think about and document.

Per Sinek and other scholars on the subject, Purpose correlates to the Why, the What is your business operations and the How is how you get the job done.

We envision the relationship in a similar vein, with the Purpose the resounding and never silent Why, while Mission is the child of the What, the original What being your business and your mission to grow it (your brand promise is based on mission and your values), with the Vision bringing up the rear on Where that mission might take you, the big hairy ambition of your business being encapsulated in Vision. Guiding principles and values are the foundation of your How, in terms of your corporate attitude and behaviours, and help to define the culture of your business, and boy does culture matter! Your purpose is stillborn without it. Specific actions to reach the destination of the mission and vision, are of course encapsulated in Strategy.

When it comes to how to define your brand purpose, there is a place and a purpose for all of the above.

Sinek, an authority on purpose,  believes that people need to see more than just the transcactional elements in the things we do in life, especially the things we have to do, than just the need to do it.

The Golden Circle Presentation | Simon Sinek How to define brand purpose

Copyright Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek’s golden circle simple and clearly shows that purpose while at the heart doesn’t refer to the how and the what but I like to think that the the ‘why’, the purpose, emanates outward, shaping and informing the what and the how.

Why Brand Purpose is important

Why a purpose driven brand? Well, you say, this didn’t seem to matter before so much, why is brand purpose so important? The biggest, strongest and longest standing brands ALL have well defined brand purpose. If with all their hundreds of millions of dollars in ad spend see the importance of it, it must be important indeed. It’s increasingly important as consumers today are quite different from consumers even 20 years ago. They are compelled quite differently in some ways than people seem to use to be. They are looking for, they need an added dimension. People are genuinely interested in the beliefs, ethics  and practices of businessesConsumers are no longer just looking for value in the products, they are looking for values in the purveyor too. This is never more true than where they feel they have many choices. This is why brand purpose is important.  It sets up uniqueness, differentiation and in its wake, loyalty and love.

How to Define your Purpose Driven Brand

We are none of us machines and there is no cast iron process that answers how to define brand purpose. The Why is a great question once it is installed as our Purpose but when it comes to defining the purpose in the first place, then all of the other Ws are just as important – what, who, how, when, where, when. 

What’s the problem you help solve or relieve? Why are you best placed to solve it? How could you be better placed to solve it? What’s the joy/gain/help you bring? What is your remarkable difference? Why is it remarkable?

What do you as a business, as a brand believe in? Why? What do you stand for? What will you never stand for, and this is just as important? Who do you as a brand make or deliver your offering for? Why them? Why those offerings? How do you do it, and why? Why do you love it? How could you love it more? How could they love you more? Why? Is it all aspirational? If it’s not, what’s limiting it?

Are you satisfied your products are seen beyond features and as benefits? If not, which pivots might get you there? Where is the satisfaction? Where does dissatisfaction rankle? 

Write it all down – in a granular way and workshop it with your teams. Themes will start to emerge. A picture will start to form and if it’s one that resonates you are on the home straight. If it does not feel or sound right, keep going until it’s recognisable, relatable and resonant.

It may be that your purpose is already evident in some of the things you do and some of the ways and it needs to be elaborated on. It may be unclear or muddled but the beginnings of it are undeniable. Grasp and embrace that and begin to build it, then live and work by that why visibly and with clarity and honesty.

Then it’s time to go to church, so to speak.

Research for Purpose Clarity, Positioning and People

You’ve workshopped it, you’ve brainstormed it, now it’s time to underpin it, assure it and prove it. Yes, in order to fully define your brand purpose, it’s time for research!

What is the purpose of competitors in your field and even of others in the same value chain? How does your purpose stack up in terms of uniqueness? How can you be sure that your purpose will attract the people you want to do business with? Will the purpose show your uniqueness?

Get the answers, rework until you get to the right answers and then power everything with the clear view of your purpose, from your positioning to your people.

How to be a Purpose Driven Brand in Practice

Create a Brand Strategy

Once the purpose is locked down, it is the time to share this widely in the organisation through seminars and training. Then create your brand strategy. This will bring your purpose alive in the business and keep you honest!.

Match strategies and actions to values and principles.

Live your brand purpose and values in your operations and process, especially with regard to how you treat and nurture your people.

When it comes to business change or a new marketing campaign, always have recourse back to your purpose. Always consider how you protect your brand. Always consider how you support your people to support the campaign or the transformation. Be aligned to your brand strategy because that should always depend on your purpose and is built on it. Walk your talk and leave no room for hypocrisy – if there are gaps in your capability or diversity and inclusion that belie your purpose, well, they will let down your brand. Fix that!

Have a Brand Risk Management Framework

For adverse events, blind spots, reputational damage and crisis, have a robust and test plan for crisis communications and risk mitigations for whenever the brand deviates from its stated purpose in a way that is likely to go public and have a negative impact if it does. What might bring these types of adverse events about? How can they be avoided? How can they be resolved?

Focus on your people and the Employee Experience

Get the right people in your organisation, people who fit with your values and can believe and work for your purpose. Value them and interact with them in positive ways aligned to your values. Honestly assess gaps in your current organisation that mean there are operational or procedural risks that will undermine your purpose and business objectives and remedy those. Attract the right people and keep them to reduce the risks of negative reports and rumours. Understand the opportunities for improving the employee experience within the business.

Focus on your Customers and the Customer Experience (CX)

How much fun is it, how easy is it to interact with your organisation currently? How accessible and available are you? Is it sufficient for your customers? Is it acceptable? Will they leave you given the chance because it is such a faff to get someone to talk to? If switching costs aren’t high, are they disgruntled and likely to speak negatively about you or ask others not to adopt your service? Honestly assess areas where you are not delighting the customer and consider how and when these can be improved through technology, digital or business transformation. Then find interesting ways to engage and entertain customers through the digital opportunities available.

Find out the things and activities that your customers are interested in and get involved in it but only if you care about it, or somebody in your organisation with the emotional intelligent and social nous cares about and can champion it, rally a team to sustain it, and will not get bored spearheading it, and will not be a liability.  Do good visibly and consistently.

Strive for Excellence

Keep an eye on your competitors and how they are changing or improving their delivery or fulfilment processes and consider how this changes the options for your customers so that you can make the moves required not only to maintain your customers but increase opportunities to gain more business and acclaim.

Protect the brand during Business and IT Transformation

Change and business transformation is increasingly necessary for all businesses. Ensure that your brand and impacts to it brought about by new projects are not dealt with as an afterthought. They must be front of mind.

How to Design a Business Logo

Logo Design in 23 steps from Holistic Brand Experts

We often get questions about how to design a business logo and have written about how to design a business logo in response. Logos should be like leaders – powerful, aspirational, striking and hugely ambitious, and as holistic brand experts, we know that learning how to design a business logo as part of your company’s branding is possible if you apply the requisite elements of the logo design process and accept that although a great idea is an asset in creating a memorable logo, much more is required. It’s hard work!

Just as your sense of smell plays a big part in your desire for and appreciation of food, the steps to design a business logo is dependent on several factors, not just a great idea, or great design skills. You don’t just see it, you feel it. Strong logo design is almost as a much a science as much as it is an art which is why there are some rules and best practices for the process.

A fabulously designed, lush logo very rarely just springs from a vacuum and to properly understand how to design a business logo, you need to understand and follow the process.

As holistic brand experts, we follow an in-depth process. We want to know about you -your business vision and aspirations and include steps that take into account considerations around running a successful project and convening effective teams.  It is rarely a solo task but it is always a rewarding one and also fundamental to the design of a great logo. Many companies do not expect it, but the ideas and questions raised in a good process can contribute positively to the brand and business overall.

The Holistic Brand Experts Process

When considering how to design a business logo for your company’s branding, it’s helpful to know that good logo design has a life cycle and that the elements of logo design revolve around the brand backstory, personality, architecture, culture and psychology. This is one reason why many companies will use a logo design agency to manage and deploy this process.

For any work on a company’s branding, it really does matter that some initial foundation and discovery work is undertaken to find out what the company does and how. Because of our holistic brand approach, in our view, it’s indispensable to seek insights on these. Sometimes, businesses are looking for a unifying brand for a stable of sub-brands, so there is an existing brand architecture to take account of; or it may just be one large entity based on a super product that has a name that already means something in the market. Whatever it is, the brand backstory, what the company does and why, requires careful consideration when you are thinking about how to design a business logo.

Logos in or out of the context of the brand, and the audience’s familiarity with a brand, have wholly different emotional weights and power, yet the work and thought that goes into the aesthetic is very valuable and must be approached correctly.

If you want to understand how to design a business logo, it helps to understand that there are several approaches to creating great logos and great guidelines for logo design as well as tests to help optimise the chances of getting to the one that is right.

Creating logos, brand and marketing collateral, as much as any other part of marketing, should have a focus on best practice. Our best practice is based not just on our experience and the intuition you develop through several creative processes but also on The Laws of Branding, per Al and Laura Ries. More of that below.

Creativity is not a linear process and that’s part of its power, but finding and depicting that perfect logo – perfect for your company, for who your company is in the world – is the result of a series of processes carried out with structure, great feedback and validation loops and the driving and framing document – The Brand Manifesto. This encapsulates the brand’s purpose, occupied or aspirational positioning, target audience segments, habits and personas, the brand values, personality and promise, and is a key deliverable in branding design.

I always remind clients that everything should start with the brand strategy and that’s the main impetus behind our holistic brand strategy that is premised on discovering, designing and transforming from the inside out. Designing a logo is absolutely no exception. Some designers will start putting abstracts down based on nebulous ideas but we believe that inspiration for branding should have a foundation in the brand ideals, and what is at the heart of the business. This is the heart we seek to express graphically, and it should drive how you design a business logo.

The ethos described above is why if you choose to go down the route of getting help, you should seek out holistic brand experts.

Helpful guidelines on how to design a logo

How to design a logo is one of the most frequent questions we are asked. We are happy to share the answers and the tips that we use as holistic brand experts . There are quite a few of them but using them will help to design a stunning logo and help complete some significant strategic work into the bargain!

Holistic Brand Experts - brand is end to end and logo is never solo

Discovery

1. Brand strategy should drive all of your visual and verbal identity work. Think of branding as BRAND+design. The brand comes first. What is your brand, who are they in the world, what do they stand for, who they stand for, and whose love and attachment are they aiming for? Know that before you start.

With a brand strategy to underpin, drive and give credibility and pedigree to any marketing collateral, including a logo, and with that strategy agreed, we have a core part of the brief in place for ideation to begin.

2) As part of the above process, we isolate the brand’s purpose to determine fit and harmony with primary brand ideas.

3) Brand purpose is the first stage but then we must learn or ascribe, at least foundationally, a brand personality. This will have ramifications for the logo style in many ways – shapes and fonts, for example. Purpose and personality provide a framework for ‘fit’ and traceability to the logo and whether it represents or conflicts with these ideas

4) Start to flesh out a brief. This is a core part of how to design a logo. From the brand deep dive, the brand’s positive difference or uniqueness should be understood, especially as it relates to positioning and designers should be considering in the background, all the ways they could capture the essence of the brand as it is uncovered.

5) The existing visual identity landscape, however disparate and diffuse within the company’s branding, are helpful for collating initial signals – current logos and symbols – preferred styles, shapes and colours, even as generalities, g and things the owner or staff are attached to. It’s also instructive to understand any reasoning behind ‘sacred cows’ in terms of what they don’t want to change or want to live on in some form.

6) Determine which LogoModels appeal. Sometimes when clients approach us, they already have an idea if they want a Wordmark/Logotype, perhaps just their name, emblazoned on a plain background for example or an image intertwined with text or symbol-based logo model.

Many have a hybrid in mind because they want their name attached but once the brief is fleshed out, initial ideas may start to crumble and this is why it’s so important to do the research and deep dive and fully flesh out the creative brief.

Preparation

7) Know your target market and what they are likely to be attracted to.  It’s valuable information  to know who they are, what they like  and might become attached to. This  information could be easily incorporated into not  just the logo but any other collateral that may be put together for the company’s branding.

8) Icon Trajectory Discipline. This is about knowledge, expectations and understanding the effect that time and performance has on a resonant brand. Apple was Apple before it became ‘the Apple’ and Nike was Nike before the became the ‘the swoosh’. Having an emblem with the name did allow these companies to be recognisable as icons yes, but this took decades. It’s important that when building new brands this is understood and companies don’t imagine they can leapfrog into icon just by having the right configuration of emblem and word play. It’s iequally mportant to think long term in choosing your logotype or emblem because changing it may be problematic in the future if your brand’s strategy is sustainable and the brand is successful. It’s important to take things step by step.

9) Don’t expect a smooth or linear process. It very often is not smooth, and it is NEVER linear. You may need to repeat several steps.

Research

10) What does the competition look like?  Like all strategic work, which branding is, it’s so important to know what your rivals are doing so you can gauge uniqueness and reinforce your positioning. The other thing is that quite easy to unconsciously ‘channel’ brand ideas that have made an impact on one into your own creative work and it’s important to avoid this unconscious channelling and if that’s not possible, at least to catch it. There are two schools of thought – you could look at these in advance to avoid this, but some believe it’s more likely that you might unconsciously copy if this is used beforehand. As an agency, as part of our research, someone in our team would do this work and ensure we are steered away from any potential conflicts. On top of that, we will still do a peer review exercise at the end of the ideation process just as a doublecheck.

11) Understand perceptual tendencies and shape and colour rules. Logotypes do come in an array of shapes and sizes and they can come in an infinite panoply of possibilities but not all shapes have the same value in terms of ‘stickiness’, appeal or recallability. Horizontal shapes are easier on the eyes. Legibility is critical and this consideration trumps almost everything else. There’s power in the name and how that is rendered is important but there must a balance between reflecting a brand’s attributes and choosing a font face that is legible.

Teams

12) It’s a team event – many more heads are better than one especially when it comes to capturing the brand essence.

13) Stakeholder Involvement – ensure that all the right people in the organisation are involved in the process. Whoever you will need sign off from must be included. How to design a logo is not nearly as important as how to get it signed off sometimes, if there is a difference of opinion!

14) Building a team spirit and culture quickly Creating teams to deliver something in a short space of time requires a specific and special skill of building high performing teams in artificial conditions sometimes but it’s necessary to do this. Ideation is about the freedom and ability to experiment and reframe ideas. It’s also about courage and communication and it is only good practice to foster an environment where everyone can share ideas open and constructively. If budget allows, consider bringing onboard holistic brand experts.

Execution

15) Brainstorm!!! This can involve frenetic energy or calm paced conversation, it really depends on the team, but ideas must be recorded and collected, and consensus must be pinned down and homed in on. The outcomes of the process may breach some of the rules. While this can help to open minds and enable people to understand the options they have, it can lead to a sort of paralysis too as the options suddenly open a vista of possibilities.

16) Rejection is a key part of the ideation and brainstorming process. It’s just as important to know what is desired as much as what is not

17) Review key themes, reiterate some of the guidelines and decide how they can be reconciled or make a decision to carry on regardless

18)Apply the following guidelines to emergent themes

19) Rule of shapes – distinctive shapes are registered and retained by your brain far quicker and with more facility, and so shapes will need to be discussed and shortlisted. Trademarks as much as possibl should be paired with the name. As a shortcut, once established, the trademark may be sufficient but  your logotype should include both components for recallability.

20) The rule of colours – Colours affect emotion, attention and attachment and really can attract or repel and therefore it’s important to know your market. If you are in a hotly contested space, your brand and logo colour is warfare and should be chosen carefully and strategically. Primary colours are generally better and they are all perceived differently.

21) The rule of contextualised text – how does any text on the logo hit? Can configuration changes alter impact and power?

22) More Brainstorming! Remember, it’s not a linear process.

23) Create a shortlist. The initial design brief encapsulates criteria and a list of requirements for the logo which can be validated and discounted in this process.

Testing

24) The mono and colour test. Check all ideas in black and white, colour and greyscale with colour.

25) Ubiquity and collateral applicability tests. Once a consensus develops around an idea, don’t be afraid to parlay it into all the different forms and applications within which that logo will need to exist and be reproduced.

26) Produce representations as cheaply and quickly as possible of the shortlisted ideas so they can be visualised and discussed. It’s important in this process to try all possible permutations. Sometimes the one discounted in theory makes the strongest impression when fully rendered.

27) Testing – this is a broad process and none of the categories is necessarily mutually exclusive as a measure of iteration is necessary.

a) Temporal and trend tests – will the components and the whole stand the test of time. It might look super trendy, but does it lend itself to being updated and refined as time goes on while keeping the primary elements stable?

b) Recallability tests. A key function of brand marketing is to effect recallability of your brand. Visual branding naturally is fundamental to this, so while testing, this is one of the measures that should be tracked.

 

Cross Reference, Fit and Validation

Holistic brand experts put great store in cross-referencing to brand ideals and personality fit and validation.

28) Brand soul reference – do the candidates, reflect and support the brand ideas and values?

29) Brand Personality Fit – explicitly check that the candidate logos match the brand personality and voice/affect

30) Marketing Testing – Audience Research. The tests above can be done both internally, to arrive at the final choices but during audience tests, some should be repeated. Target responses are extremely valuable if you can afford outreach to them.

31) Post the testing process, it’s time to choose the final candidates and throw everything at it to really bring it life.

32) Produce the final candidate again across all channels, variants and applications

33) Finalise the logo

37) Masterfile management – create and collate master data for all file formats. Create master files for all formats and get them signed off from the primary decision-makers.

Hopefully, this is a useful resource that will help you create a logo and be knowledgeable about the process if you are embarking on and thinking about being part of a process to create a stunning logo. Remember that meaning to anchor your logo is critical to relatability, longevity and that comes from within the minds, purpose, dreams and culture of the business. If you can uncover this, it will go a long way to ensuring what you create is relevant, now and in the future.

 

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