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Brand Marathons Take Too Long, How About a Brand Sprint?

Patrick Hanley
Jun 30, 2020 · 7 min read

Great ideas don’t just happen overnight, they can actually happen in an hour and a half.

Why Am I Talking About Branding?

“Hey I have this really good idea, here’s what it does, this is why we need it, but…what should we call it? What does it even look like?” I hear this a lot, and usually I can refer to my network of brilliant people who have tons of ideas on how to help. Originally, when I would get this question, I’d ponder it on my own, google search for inspiration, open photoshop, and doodle on an artboard to get the creative juices flowing. That’s a great process when I have the time, but what if instead, I pull inspiration from the idea of “give someone a fish, feed them for a day, teach them how to fish, and feed them for a lifetime?” AKA turn my thought process into a framework: Brand Sprint. I have used this framework with internal teams in my company, externally with local communities, as well as with some freelancing lads.

The Brand Sprint

Before I continue, I’d like to shout out Jake Knapp and “The Three-Hour Brand Sprint” for being my main inspiration for accelerating others in the brand identity space, as well as, having a framework structure to leverage and evolve to meet the needs of my clients. By no means am I claiming this sprint as my own.

  1. Why, How, What: Why does your company exist?
  2. Audience: Who does your company serve?
  3. Values: What key words describe your company?
  4. Word Association: What “things” do you imagine when you think of your values?
  5. Personality Sliders: What attitude does you company uphold?
  6. Competitive Landscape: Who else are you competing with?
  7. Deliverable: Draw inspiration from everything above.

How to Start

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The first thing you need in order to start your own brand sprint is the right group of people. In the room you will need a decider to make the final decisions, and you will need subject matter expert(s) who already embody what your company stands for. Ideally you have 2–5 people for the sprint.

Next, you need to find a space to capture all of the insights from the group that you’ve gathered. I find that a big wall with a bunch of markers and sticky notes (color coded by section is my preference) works best since it’s in-person, everyone’s up on their feet, and all thoughts are physically captured in front of you.

Now that you have the right people in the right space, it’s time to start your brand sprint!

1. Why-How-What

Known as Golden Circle, Why, How What, is a framework created by Simon Sinek which allows us to gain insight into why some leaders and organizations have achieved such an exceptional degree of influence. They do this by inspiring action from the inside out instead of manipulating people to act. Teams can utilize this strategy to focus in on WHY they do it, rather than the WHAT they do, in order to better convey that message to their stakeholders.

  • Why: is all about your purpose, cause, or belief. WHY does your team/product exist? When an organization effectively articulates their WHY, an emotional connection forms, and we go above and beyond to include their offerings in our lives.
  • How: is often given to explain how something is different or better — some companies and people know HOW they do and WHAT they do and depict it in their “unique value proposition.”
  • What: is the simplest part to identify — describe what the company or team provides or the job function they have within the system.
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  • Draw 3 circles within each other (like a target), and label each circle from the inside out “why”, “how”, then “what”
  • Individually write down on stickies why your company exists, what it does, and how it does things
  • As a group, synthesize these stickies into one cohesive sentence. To help create it, below is a template to follow: “We believe __(why)__ by __(how)__ in order to __(what)__.

2. Audience

This is where you surface all of your stakeholders and users. It is important to understand who is interacting with your company and how they are doing so. What you can do from there is prioritize which stakeholders are most important to target/whose opinions you care about the most.

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  • Everyone writes down one stakeholder per sticky and puts it on the board
  • Prioritize stakeholders from most important to least important
  • Identify the top 3 most important stakeholders

3. Values

Successful companies have values they live by or hold themselves to. You can use these values to your advantage in order to represent your core beliefs and leverage them as inspiration when creating your brand and identity. The goal is surface your top three values to use them as focal points through the rest of the sprint.

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  • Individually write down the value you believe your company upholds. One value per sticky
  • Cluster and theme if necessary
  • Vote on the top three values. You can put a dot on the value(s) that you believe in the most

4. Word Association

Now, when you look at brands, you may ask yourself “how did they come up with that?” Nike Swoosh is always one that fascinates me. The inspiration came from their values of speed, movement, power, and motivation. Now that you have your values, what you can do is identify things that you associate with those values. Think of nouns, verbs, imagery, feelings, etc.

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  • Underneath each of your top 3 values, list each associated word for each value. One word per sticky
  • Find repeated themes that emerge

5. Personality Sliders

Personality sliders are used to determine the attitude of your company as well as to refine your “aesthetic” to you primary stakeholders.

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  • On a whiteboard, write polar opposites of each other and draw a line between them.
  • Then, as a group, decide where the dot should be placed. The closer it is to a word, the more it associates with that word.
  • Some can be in the middle, but more extremes will help define your companies’ image.

6. Competitive Landscape

There are most likely companies that do similar work to you. Take this opportunity to think about what other companies occupy the same industry as yours and how you might want to differentiate yourself from them.

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  • Write down a list of companies in the same industry. One company per sticky.
  • Create a 2x2 matrix to place your stickies on. The “y” axis being “expressive” vs “reserved” and on the “x” axis “classic” vs “modern”
  • Assess where each company belongs on the matrix and place them there
  • Lastly, place your company on the matrix. Does this make sense based on your Why-How-What, Values, Audience, and Personality Sliders?

7. Deliverable

The grand finale, coming up with your name, logo, color guidelines, and/or whatever else you are looking to get out of the sprint. This last step is open ended and conversation based.

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  • Review the sprint
  • Confirm and validate work produced
  • If handing off to someone for design work (logo, icons, other visuals) list deliverables, and set due dates

Conclusion

What a RUSH. Typing this out isn’t nearly as fun as running a brand sprint, but hopefully I enabled you to try this on your own! I hope you enjoyed this step by step walkthrough of the Brand Sprint. Remember, you can always refer back to this whenever you are making any brand, product, marketing decisions and see if your choices align with your companies’ identity.

About me: I’m a Product Experience Design Manager on the Fusion team at Optum. We strive to accelerate key leaders across the globe towards their goals and to enable them to become market differentiators by shifting their practice to the right tools and frameworks. Using business and design methodologies, we step into the shoes of our users and conduct ethnographic research, synthesize that information into useable insights, and leverage them in a think tank-like environment full of experts to develop the best actionable solution. Want to know more? You can find me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-hanley-11097b125/

A Fusion publication. We are employees of UHG and these views are our own and not those of the company nor its affiliates.

Fusion

Fusion is an accelerator, empowering teams across UnitedHealth Group.

Patrick Hanley

Written by

Design Thinking | Product Strategy | Brand Specialist | Inventor | Doodler

Fusion

Fusion

Fusion is an accelerator, empowering teams across UHG. We empower teams to define a bold vision, get in the mind of users, and deliver products and experiences to market, faster. We are employees of UHG, and these views are our own and not those of the company nor its affiliates.

Patrick Hanley

Written by

Design Thinking | Product Strategy | Brand Specialist | Inventor | Doodler

Fusion

Fusion

Fusion is an accelerator, empowering teams across UHG. We empower teams to define a bold vision, get in the mind of users, and deliver products and experiences to market, faster. We are employees of UHG, and these views are our own and not those of the company nor its affiliates.

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