What to Expect: Branding
Learn about the basic steps in a typical branding process.
I blogged last month about how to know when you need to rebrand. This month, I’ll go through the steps in a typical branding process. Every project is different but these are some basic best practices to look for.
1. Background and Research
Often called “discovery” this stage is all about absorbing knowledge. Your design firm needs to get to know your organization: where you’ve been, where you’re going, and what your goals are. Expect a learning session where you provide your designer with answers to all of their questions about your sales process, your audiences, and what makes you different and better than your competitors. They’ll also be asking you some technical questions about how your new identity will be used. Will it be used large on billboards? Will it need to be printed small on golf balls? Does it need to lock up to a tagline or descriptor line? Does it need to fit into a family of brands?
Get the gang together
If your organization is larger than just you, this is a great time to get the whole team together. Your identity has to represent the entire organization, not just the marketing department. Sales will have direct knowledge of customer needs, operations will be able to see how all the pieces fit together, IT will know any technical limitations to keep in mind, and senior leadership will provide insights into the long term goals of your brand. Bring them all to the table at this stage. Their opinions are valuable and if they are part of the process they will more likely embrace the brand in the end.
Depending on the size of your organization you also might want to consider some market research at this stage. Qualitative and/or quantitative research can be done to find out more about your customers, their needs, and preferences.
Report the findings
Your design firm will also spend some time on their own researching your marketplace and your competitors. Depending on the size of the project and budget, you may get a recommendations report or a design brief back at this stage. This will summarize everything the design firm heard and make sure everyone is on the same page. It will have key attributes identified that you can use to judge the concepts in the next stage.
Your designer will then take all of this background knowledge and develop a series of identity concepts for you to review. The number of concepts usually depends on your budget. You probably will be overwhelmed if you see 50 but four to six will provide you with enough range to see where your organization fits comfortably.
When you see the concepts remember your initial response to them. What was your gut feeling? Your customers will have a similar response. Then, take some time, a few days, and see how you feel about each concept after you’ve lived with them awhile. Are any of them growing on you? Your customers will experience the identity this way too. They’ll live with it over time and it will become very familiar to them. Taking these two responses under consideration, go back to the brand attributes you came up with in the research stage and determine which concept fits best.
3. Refinement and Implementation
Once you’ve selected the best concept to represent your organization you may want to do some refinement. Tweak the color, change size relationships, refine an icon. This is a normal part of the process but don’t get carried away. Make sure the changes you are making are for practical reasons and not whims or personal preferences. Go back to the design brief and ask yourself if changing the identity from orange to red will make it stronger for your customers. Will it differentiate you? Or do you just like red?
Share it with the world
Your designer should give you electronic files of your identity in a variety of formats for various uses (web, print, PowerPoint, Word, etc.) and in any color variations you need (black, white, 4-color process, spot color). Now you’re done. Right? Not quite.
A new brand signifies a change in your organization. You’ll need to explain that change to your internal and external audiences. Make a plan to launch the brand to your employees first and then the world. Systematically update all of your customer touchpoints with the new logo: business cards, website, forms, collateral, signage, etc. You won’t be able to do it all in a day so have some messaging prepared to explain the change. If you take the time and steps to communicate your new brand, your audiences will be made comfortable with the changes you are making and join you on the journey.