An email came in the other day with a simple introduction and then the question: Why do I need a brand? It got me thinking. Here’s my reply:
My first response: of course, every company (no matter the stage of development) needs identification to help them stand out in this noisy business world that we’re all operating in these days. And I do believe that every vertical and every market is noisy unless you’ve developed the very first pastry that Martians and only Martians will love. And, if you’ve got that idea, I’d like to help you market it!
Then I wondered if the question isn’t, “Why should we pay X-thousands of dollars for a logo?” And that is a fair question, after all, done well this can be an expensive endeavor.
We believe that new companies are born out of an entrepreneurial spirit. That spirit demands a unique definition and expression that amplifies the company’s unique proposition through look and voice. On occasion (probably more than we realize), that original spark gets lost in the chase of profits, efficiency, growth, etc. That’s a whole other question.
Okay, here’s the short version answering why a company needs a brand:
- Claim your space
- Stand out in the crowd
- Introduce the singular brand promise
Here’s the short version of why a company should allocate budget:
- Every business is fighting a perception issue; if your company looks, reads, and sounds cheap then you’ll probably be passed over for the company that appears put together
- How will people know you’re out there if they can’t identify you? Secondarily on this point: how will they know you’re better/different than the other companies in this space if you look like everyone else in this space?
- It’s a declaration that the company will be around and investment in the future.
Here’s what goes into building a brand in our experience:
First things first: a brand is not just a logo. Let’s get that out of the way. A brand, or at least the way we think about it here, is the culmination of who you are as a company, how you want people (customers/industry/employees) to perceive you, how you communicate your singular message, what communications devices you use to convey that message, and yes, what you look like.
Any company can hop on the internets and pay someone $5 to draw them a logo. That’s not a brand.
A brand is an outward expression of a company’s promise.
Okay, how do we build a brand? Research, communication, exploration, execution, and launch.
A brand is equal parts product and people. To make sure we deliver a product authentic to those two pieces, we take a deep dive into a company’s culture, strengths, and weaknesses. We survey as many employees as possible, interview the executive team and key business leaders, and lead brand workshops at corporate offices.
At the same time, we take a macro look at the industry to understand where our company fits in the greater scheme, assess the competition, and check out branding trends.
We take that information and start to focus on consistent company values and aspirational brand qualities. Often we’ll begin to get a sense of what looks and voices will be successful.
Our experience is that branding or rebranding exercises can be emotional experiences for management and staff alike. So, we always recommend an active corporate communications effort with full transparency to help inform everyone about what’s happening.
We believe in the Democracy of Good Ideas concept of agency and client relationships, meaning that we believe ideas can come from anywhere, and it’s more important for the best approach to win than our concept. So, we expect our clients to be active participants in the process and value their perspective and industry expertise.
Democracy of Good Ideas also helps as we work together through the approval process. Critical and honest feedback is invited, revisions are delivered, and the path forward becomes obvious.
Research informs all. So, we make sure to share what we’ve learned with our clients and add to that research as needed. Then we have an internal huddle to talk about the challenges, opportunities, and information we have on hand.
Our design team will often create dozens of ideas, looking at safe and whimsical looks until a handful or so begin to rise to the top. At the same time, our copy team starts developing a brand voice. There’s a constant sharing of ideas to uncover the best available options.
We are not interested in creating brand identities that only entertain our designer compatriots and us. Every single brand that we deliver must meet critical business needs, be forward-looking, and fit the company’s culture.
Design exploration includes logo marks, wordmarks, typography, color, iconography, styles of photography and videography, collateral materials, swag, and digital applications. The intention is to ensure that our deliverables work on every application.
At this stage, our creative team is ready to present options to our client’s decision-makers. Not only do we show off design and discuss brand voice, but we also explain how it fits in the industry, how it works strategically, and how it sets our clients up for the future.
Often a couple of options become front runners, and we head back to refine, investigate color options, and make sure that we meet every client requirement.
We’re not going to walk you through every pixel-moving exercise or grammar check. But, at the end of it all, here’s what you should expect to receive:
- The logo in a multitude of formats so that it’s easy to adapt to an application
- An identity suite (business cards, stationery, presentation templates, etc.)
- A detailed Brand Book that helps a company stay true to the original creative intent and deliver its brand voice and design everywhere. This Brand Book should include things like typography, iconography, a color palette, brand messaging platform, ideas for how to communicate the brand voice, and more.
Many clients ask us to create websites, videos, social media messaging and creative, advertising campaigns, brochures, catalogs, etc. at this stage of the process. We often work in conjunction with PR teams to deliver the brand news to external outlets.
Let’s have a party! We want employees, clients, and the industry to be excited about the new brand, so we often plan a company-wide celebration where new cards and swag are given out to increase immediate buy-in. Advertising and communications campaigns are great ways to let clients and the industry know about the new look and feel.
If you can, it doesn’t hurt to introduce your new brand at the New York Stock Exchange!
Not so humble brag: this is our work!
Branding projects are a lot of work. But, when done right, it’s a process that will help define or refine a company’s value and promise and then set it apart from the competition.
We love this work because it enables us to help build bright futures for companies that are just starting or are stuck or are merging.