Startups, Stop Investing Too Many Resources in Branding!
Many of us know that a branding project can take from two months to even years, requiring commitment from stakeholders at every critical stage.
It takes a lot of time and resources to invest in branding, especially for startups, up to the point that many founders don’t even see a point in doing so.
All companies need to build a brand along with their product right from the start. Branding is the bridge between the customers and the products. But, unfortunately, in most cases, investing in branding is not possible in the early years.
3-hours of Brand Sprint > Weeks of branding
The Brand Sprint process was created at Google Ventures by Jake Knapp, Laura Melahn, Daniel Burka, and John Zeratsky. They believe the usual branding process is a long and uncertain journey, where many things can have a turn-around, and companies have a hard time implementing the new changes to all the aspects of their company after the project is done, many creative ideas remaining left out of the picture simply put that stakeholders’ decisions weren’t so preeminent in the process from the start.
Brand Sprint is a series of exercises that take no longer than three hours and help every team member align on the big picture of the company.
“The point of these exercises, it turns out, is to make the abstract idea of “our brand” into something concrete. After doing the exercises, the team gets a common language to describe what their company is about — and all subsequent squishy decisions about visuals, voice, and identity become way easier.” — Jake Knapp
The best thing is that the Brand Sprint process can be used by every type of business, it doesn’t matter if you’re a seed startup or an established company.
Here’s how Brand Sprint can help companies better than traditional branding processes do:
1. Workshop, not endless talk
Brand Sprint is a workshop, with no more meeting discussions and taking notes after just so that decisions can be taken days or even weeks later.
- Instead of listening & forgetting later, you vote on ideas: Every idea is written down on a sticky note, then they are grouped together, and voted on. After that, the decider chooses the solutions which are put immediately into action.
- Huge time-saver: Because decisions are taken on the spot, the necessary steps to implement an idea can be put into action immediately afterward.
- A decider from stakeholders: Because we want to decide right on the spot on fresh ideas, and not weeks later, we need a decider from the client’s stakeholders to decide which ideas work the best for their company.
- Every idea is taken into consideration: Team members stop thinking “the CEO should answer this because they know better, not me”. Ideas are not expressed out loud but written down, this makes things so much easier for everyone to state their unique ideas.
“Often, meetings are more passive than workshops — attendees spend most of the time speaking or listening — while workshops encourage active participation in activities such as sketching, brainstorming, or artifact creation to organize and capture group progress.” — Kate Kaplan, Nielsen Norman Group
2. Act fast on fresh ideas
Many ideas are lost in the traditional branding process due to its complexity and duration, and when’s time to act on them, it requires even more preparation just to remember everything that has been talked about.
- Time-box everything: You’re pressured by time to act, once you established with the team your business framework you are able to put all the ideas into practice.
- Everything is done step by step: The exercises were meant to proceed in a logical way, you start from point A and move gradually to point F. You won’t forget a detail from the plan if you act instantly, then go to the next point.
3. Align with your team on the same vision
Even though you all work together for a long time, it doesn’t mean you work towards the same goal. Brand Sprint allows every person to state their ideas on sticky notes without being influenced by their team members, reaching clarity of everyone’s vision of the company much faster.
- Clarifying the possible misunderstandings: After every person has written their vision on sticky notes, they all come to the objective conclusion that everyone around them has a complementary opinion to theirs.
- Having the same common language: Brand Sprint enforces team members to vote on a single vision, in the end, one that makes sense for everybody. That way, everyone will understand how to present their brand to future employees and customers.
- Finding your motivation: Once you’re coming up with your own point of view, you feel like an individualistic person that doesn’t complete the CEO’s sentences. This is how team members should feel during the branding process, being able to continue on this path and to constantly improve the company.
“Organizational success is often linked to inspiring vision, clear mission, and strong values. But without employee buy-in, these concepts are worthless. Employee engagement is essential to an organization’s success, and alignment is arguably even more important.” — Art Johnson, in bizjournals.com
4. Team members will become pioneers in what you do
Bringing the key stakeholders into the Brand Sprint workshop will make them feel a lot more confident in their roles inside the company. It will be a huge accomplishment for them knowing that their own ideas are being used in developing the company, and they will feel like the brand culture is their responsibility.
- Pioneers: The CEO won’t be the only one to know the brand culture, doing this workshop, employees will become the ones to talk about it and present it to the customers further.
- Brand ownership: Everyone will feel included in shaping the brand even more than before.
- Increases employees’ loyalty: By feeling like they are a part of the brand’s story, they will become even more loyal.
“Companies lose good employees primarily because they do not recognize their talent in time. The employer should be aware that he is dealing with a skilled person and motivate him to engage in the development of the company.” — Piotr Sosnowski Co-Founder and VP at Zety
- Increases employees’ happiness: They get bored after a couple of years, but having a time where their ideas are even more respected increases their happiness at the workspace.
“Unfortunately, according to recent data from the EY Belonging Barometer, 40 percent of employees surveyed report feeling isolated in the workplace. And this sense of isolation can lead to disengagement or cause employees to go so far as to find new jobs.” — Adam Robinson, in inc.com
5. Discussions about visuals get easier
Because the client’s team and designers are one and the same team now, it’s easier to talk about creative decisions when everyone was evolved in the previous decisions.
- Everyone presents their visual tastes: During the personality sliders exercise, everybody labels the company based on some adjectives that describe real popular brands (for eg: “playful”→ Spotify, “serious”→ Apple). In our case, we use “Personality Lightning Demos”, where everybody’s browsing for real images from other brands, creating their individual mood board. Finally, everyone votes on the idea that they liked the most, taking into account their company goals and if it fits their customers.
- Everything is more tangible: Designers and the client’s team collect design images together for creating mood boards, so they already know what style to move towards before creating the proper designs.
“If you let people talk out loud very much, the whole thing will be a disaster.” — Daniel Burka, Google Ventures
6. The brand is being validated
The traditional branding process follows an inside-out brand development process, meaning that their insights around the brand, their business, and their competitors are taken into consideration, but not the one that the brand is built for, the customer itself.
But pairing the Design Sprint process with Brand Sprint, can help test, iterate, and implement what the customer wants and expect before you launch.
- An outside-in process: Brand Sprint requires customer validation on every prototype, after the feedback, the necessary changes are applied, and then it is tested again.
- No more launching and waiting for customers’ reaction: No more wasted time, now you are able to come up with different ideas for your product and learn something new each time you validate those ideas with your customers.
- Aligning team members & customers at the same time: This is the powerful combo if you want your business to grow faster and didn’t know how to find out what your customers really want.
“User testing will show you exactly which parts of your design frustrate people, where they get confused, and what keeps them from converting. It’s a perfect complement to A/B testing and analytics, because it provides insights into why your users do what they do. That way you can make changes that have the biggest impact on your conversion rate.” — Spencer Lanoue, in usertesting.com
7. No more customer persona, you ask the customers directly
In the traditional branding process, designers collect adjectives that were used by the CEO, or any stakeholder, to describe their company, then they create a customer persona of their ideal client.
“Personas are mostly made up and not reliable. In the rare occasion that they are based on research, there simply isn’t enough research to make them valid.” — Lisa Ross, in invespro.com
- Asking the right person: If your decisions are made based on the wrong customer, you craft the wrong product. Asking the right person, you’ll have clarity on your target customers’ needs.
- The website isn’t built on assumptions: Many times, websites are developed by designers, developers, or managers without focusing on customers and their needs.
The traditional branding process leaves a lot of empty spaces when the problem could be resolved immediately by creatives and their clients. Doing Brand Sprint workshops, the core of the brand is developed way faster, leaving the client with an aligned team on what their brand is, what it does, and on what they should work on towards the future.