I like this graph by Rusty Grim, Founder of Owen Jones, a branding and creative agency. This graph simplifies a complicated branding process: from conducting brand audits to completion of a brand guide.
Branding and rebranding can be overwhelming experiences, but companies have many options to shorten or skip some of the stages. Enterprises follow a process based on a number of factors ranging from timeline, company size, budget, and company’s maturity level.
Start with a Brand Audit:
I like Josh Miles definition: “The purpose behind a brand audit is plain and simple: to gain a fundamental understanding of where your brand stands in its current state.” There are a lot of ways to assess the current state of your brand. Josh provided a thorough category list for creating a framework for a brand audit.
- Brand Values
- Unique Selling Proposition (USP), brand promise, or brand essence
- Product / Service positioning
- Corporate Identity – logos and other brand elements
- Collateral-brochures, print materials, trade show displays, etc.
- Social Media
- Content Marketing and other assets – blogs, white papers, case studies, articles, books, etc.
Systems and Infrastructure
- Corporate identity/brand standards
- HR policies/on-boarding process
- Sales processes/touch points
- Internal systems
- Customer service systems
I’d add ‘talking to your customers’ and ‘assessing the competitive landscape’ as part of your brand audit. It’s important to get a solid sense of how your customers perceive your brand and any recommendations they have for improvements. Your customers are your BFFs. The competitive assessment includes the analysis of products and services to determine if there is a product segmentation gap. The helps in the development of branding personas, value propositions and even new product roadmaps and product logos.
A comprehensive audit requires a team to gather information from various internal and external sources. It also requires time to conduct an extensive analysis and reach conclusive findings. The time spent can last from 2-3 weeks to 2-3 months.
Reality: Obviously, a complete brand audit is expensive. The extensiveness of a brand audit is heavily dependent on budget. You need to determine what criteria is critical to shed light on the current state of your brand.
Positioning, brand values, unique selling propositions, voice, product positioning and corporate culture is easy to obtain. It’s vital to talk to your customers directly to gain insights and review feedback and comments from your own websites and social media channels and customer services. Your brand audit report will drive the creation or tuning of brand persona and attributes.
For brand audits, I found the following resource helpful:
Craft Brand’s Attributes and Persona
You would use certain adjectives to describe a friend’s personality. Likewise, each brand has a personality and you should use specific adjectives or nouns to describe it. When thinking of Toyota, BMW or Chevrolet, you’d be unlikely to get these brands confused. That’s because marketers carefully select specific images, intended story approach and deliberate copywriting to reflect the essence of their brands. If brands do a good job over a long period of time, you will subconsciously associate them with specific words and attributes.
In addition to dictating creative development and copy writing of your marketing communications, brand personas will also reflect a company’s values and corporate culture.
Reality: When you work on your brand attributes, you need to visualize the associations you want customers to make in the long term. You also need to drill down to what makes you unique and how your brand differs from competitors’. Have a list of attributes and go through them one by one. It takes time and efforts to select 2-5 attributes that are unique to your company.
Some interesting read:
Pick a Name for your Products or Services (optional)
Choosing a name for a brand-new product or service can have a significant impact on its success. Since a lot of names are already taken, it can be hard to pick a unique one. Sometimes an existing word can add value in association with your product. Other times you can create a new name that becomes inextricably associated with your brand.
Here are some examples:
- HTC’s phone: Hero
- Toyota’s truck: Tacoma
- Intel’s server processor: Xeon
- Dell’s computer, Inspiron
To avoid any potential trademark violation, some start-ups cleverly create funky names such as Tinder, Yik Yak, Flickr, Tumblr, Etsy, Twitter, Sumome, just to name a few.
Reality: It’s important to involve Legal to run a global search to make sure that the name doesn’t violate trademark infringement.
Check out naming rules from these three links.
Create a Branding Guide
After all the work above, it’s time to bring the branding to life with visuals and voice. The goal is to deliver a consistent look-and-feel to help your audience associate your brands with specific attributes. It’s hard to tell designers how to design your print ads, but you can set up guidance on the color palette, typography and placement of logos. That’s what the brand guide is about. It provides direction: where will the logo be placed on a print or banner ad? What are the typograph fonts that we should use? What is the messaging framework for our products? What are the image selection criteria for social media? It can go as far as the aroma and music selection for a retail store.
The purpose of a branding guide is to provide direction so that there is no confusion about what your brand stands for.
Key components of a brand guide:
- Company vision
- Brand persona/ personality
- Unique value propositions
- Product messaging
- Target audience
- Logo guide
- Color Palette
- Photo selection guide
- Digital and web guidance
- Voice and tone
Check out these interesting links:
Reality: You need to determine what topic to include in your brand guide. Ask your marketing team for input and prioritize and select the most relevant topics.
Now, it’s time to launch…
Launching or announcing a new brand, or rebranding, is a big deal which involves both internal communications to employees and external communications to the media (especially global brands) and customers.
There are a million details that need to be thought through when launching a brand, including business cards, building signage, product packages, websites, sales training templates down to new hire orientation booklet. Basically, everything that your logo touches will need to be considered.
Reality: You will need to work with various departments to make a list of items that will need to be addressed. Then, create a timeline to update all the assets. It’s a lengthy effort which usually will take 2-24 month to complete depending on the size of a company.
You also need to have a branding training plan to make sure that everyone understands the essence of the brands and has a clear call-to-action to accelerate the branding transition.
Check out these two articles for post-launch.
The branding journey never stops…
With the rise of social media and ubiquitous mobile devices, everyone can make their voice heard and access information real-time. Branding is no longer a one-way street. Here are some challenges for modern branding:
- Customers have a Voice with social media platform
- Customers are ON all the time
- Customers, if they choose to, can hijack your brands
In the 21st century, branding is the perception of your company in your customers’ eyes. It’s the sum of the overall intentional and unintentional experience you and others offer online and offline. To nurture your brand, you need to continue to cultivate the online and offline experience. It goes beyond PR and marketing. Ultimately, branding is everyone’s job.