What’s your brand got to do with it?

Mark Busse – No Comments

We recently conducted a webinar about branding your firm. This was our most successful webinar to date, and we had a number of people interested in learning more. Here are a few of the most asked questions from the webinar, along with some content we didn’t get a chance to cover.

Define a brand. Words are such a huge component of a robust brand. So are visuals. And they must align. So, we often use word association and experiment with verbal and visual language to help identify what a brand is, and often more importantly, what it is not. This is the key to defining your unique positioning.

Competitive reviews are helpful, but only to a point. Examining the landscape against which you’re competing is important, but it should NOT be the only key step in researching brand. This is a super common approach with graphic designers and too often leads to reactive solutions, not authentic or meaningful ones.

Effective brands are only created when an organization honestly analyzes what it does best, where it stumbles, and the internal and external forces it faces—a SWOT analysis. But a SWOT analysis is of little use if it’s just what you think you do best. For this reason, collect opinions and perspectives from external stakeholders, interview partners and past customers (perhaps they fired you), and even ask your prospects or others who you might not be working with but who know your or your industry.

What’s to hide? It often surprises us how unwilling clients can be to give us access to past customers considering how valuable that info can be and how much profit potential lies in those exchanges. Don’t worry about what they’ll say. Good or bad, it will only help you in the end.

Marketing TO people (or AT people) does not really work anymore. But brand stories or narratives that engage people, reaching right into their hearts, giving them something to talk about, are powerful. Modern audiences are well-informed, empowered and flighty. And brand decisions are not simple, linear or fact-driven, but motivated by the interplay of emotions, experiences, and sensations.

No business just happens.  What is your origin story? Why was the company formed? Who is the brand hero? Give everyone who comes into contact with your brand something to experience, a journey, a story they can picture themselves a part of. The best stories are the ones you don’t tell—others do.

Keep it going. Capture stories from employees that express brand values and propagate them early and often, even before a new identity might be launched. This makes your brand story ongoing and allows it to more easily be distilled using graphic design and service design. It also gets defined through internal action. In a nutshell, live all aspects of your brand and you will be rewarded.

Measure your success. Regularly ask stakeholders how they think the company is living up to its brand promise. Ask your employees how you are doing. Literally, this can help you assess overall brand health and performance.

Be patient—building a brand takes time and resources. Lots of it. A brand must be consistently applied in all areas of the business and monitored, measured, and fine-tuned over time. Real branding is about building relationships with an audience, and these days that audience demands the best out of us. Remember, a designer can’t build your brand—only you can. In fact, a brand isn’t finished. Ever. Branding is a verb. Go do it.

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