Your identity (logo, fonts, colour palette, imagery and other visual elements) is what defines your appearance and the tone of your language, yes your voice is part of your identity. Your brand is what defines your relationship with your audience, we can design strategy that builds this relationship, but we can not design your brand—you must earn it.
Using both cleverly is how you reach out and garner a following…
I will touch on some of the exercises that help us set the key building blocks of the relationship we want to build with your audience. To keep things simple lets call the combination of these exercises a Brand Workout.
All kinds of things (most often budget or time) can put constraints on our workout and therefore the number of exercises we have time for, selecting the most suitable exercises will ultimately drive the best results.
We can use stage of business as a guideline as to how rigorous the workout needs to be.
Workout: Brand Creation
Stage: The earlier the better, hopefully during R&D
Whether you are a small business or a startup, there are all kinds of things that take precedent over brand, things like keeping the lights on and developing a great product!
But neglect your brand at your own peril: take a shot at selling an MP3 player with one button at the dawn of the new Millennium, with no brand. Or try your hand at selling some black sugary liquid with no brand.
If you are familiar with the startup space or have read anything about lean, you will have heard of Minimum Viable Product. MVP is the minimum amount of features that will drive adoption, and ultimately test your idea. If we adopt that mindset and use Minimum Viable Brand, we can test your identity and the tone of the relationship you want to build with your audience.
So what exercises are critical to MVB?
First you need to ensure you are solving a problem or making people’s lives easier—that you have something of value!
There are tools such as lean canvas that will help you do this nice and quick, the big thing here is to ensure product market fit—that you have something that has not been done before, that you have an advantage over the competition and most importantly that you have a market (as in people) who want this thing.
Phew… now that’s done we can set about our first crack at Brand Positioning:
what is your purpose?
what are your beliefs and values?
who is your audience and what relationship do you want to have with them?
You will need to create a few drafts here, and it will never be the final one.
Now we can set about designing your identity, an identity that is worthy of your organization that speaks with your voice and inspires your audience.
Workout: Brand Refinement or 2.0
Stage: You have something, now lets build on it
You have some customers, you may even be making some money, even better than that you have started to earn some brand equity.
Now that you have had some airtime there is a wealth of interactions and data that you can shine a light on: this could be analytics sure, but it could also be the look on little Richie’s face last week. Chances are that everything has not been perfect, so for this audit lets look at what has worked and what hasn’t.
Time to refine that positioning, fine tune the specifics of your relationship and create something even stronger that you can stand by—a platform that you can build on, one that will position you as a leader in your market.
Depending on where you choose to build your relationships, we would define a strategy that outlines the flow of your audiences interactions with your organization, ensuring they know you care.
For example: Lets say you have a shop that sells ice cream, naturally the ice cream needs to be good, the shop spotless and glorious in it’s ice cream decor. But the thing that will keep little Ritchie coming back will be the numerous complimentary taste tests, the occasional freebie and the fact that you always post a pic of the days special to Instagram.
Workout: Brand Refresh
Stage: As soon as things start to feel a little stale
A refresh is often required as time goes by, but your core brand won’t change at all — your products promise the same quality and your audience still have the same needs.
We need to figure out if the best places to converse with your audience are still the same, do you have a teenage market that is suddenly spending every waking minute on Snapchat or the like? Does your voice and appearance still resonate, or have things gone a little stale? Drop shadows and gradients just aren’t cool right now. Perhaps your tongue in cheek language is coming across as just plain cheeky?
Whatever it is, your interactions need to have the right tone and happen in the right places.
Workout: The Pivot
Stage: Something isn’t clicking
The market has changed, some open source tech is no longer available, your margins are just not good enough — but you have a captivated audience, sweetened by some of that valuable brand equity.
What problem are we solving again? What are our customers needs? There are other ways that we can serve them and keep them engaged with our brand.
Workout: Born Again
Stage: You have lost your way
Unless you have successfully lost your way, you wouldn’t bother going down this road.
But you have done it, you have an empire and are raking it in, whooha! (Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman.) Something is missing — the fulfillment and satisfaction you were so sure your success would bring.
Time to travel back in time and remember why you did this in the first place, dig out that very first brand positioning draft and ask your younger self: What type of company do you want to build?
Brands often need a workout, selecting suitable exercises will trim up your brand and have it fighting fit again.
Never forget your values—always work with a team you like and trust—never cheat when it comes to brand relationships—you will be kicked out of bed forever…
…unless your brand is super sexy and ferociously fit.