It’s a Process, not a Project.
Brand Development, as most experienced marketers know, has long been a nebulous, almost definition-less term. Sometimes used interchangeably with the term “Branding”, Brand Development means something different depending on who’s doing the talking—and who’s listening.
At Wit & Craft, much of our focus is on initiatives related to “branding” (and, yes, those quotation marks around the word “branding” are certainly intentional). Whether for naming, logo design, campaigns or collateral, our clients come to us to help them create or cultivate their brand stories.
We’ve encountered countless companies, startups and non-profits in need of brand-related work. It’s wonderful. In fact, it’s our favorite. There’s a certain thrill for both our team and our client as, together, we imagine what a brand could be and where it could go. But one reoccurring stumbling block we encounter is the chasm between what companies want (and when they want it) and the process and time that’s required.
Brand Development requires a discipline in strategy and tolerance for the time needed to find and formalize the building blocks of your brand.
It’s because true Brand Development (no quotations, this time) is more than designing a logo and putting together a brand standards document. Brand Development requires a discipline in strategy and tolerance for the time needed to find and formalize the building blocks of your brand. To start with asking WHY, and then HOW, and WHO, and all the rest.
Don’t get us wrong; we love to create identity systems. But, what good is a pretty logo if it doesn’t connect to our client’s unique promise, personality and purpose?
A (Sometimes) Linear Process
When we’re in the early stages of engaging a new client with brand-related work, we outline our preferred process. It always starts with Discovery. It always includes Strategy. Eventually we’ll get to the Creative phase—where we design logos and make decisions on typography, iconography, colors, etc. But it’s what’s happening in those early steps that truly make a difference in our work’s success. Here’s a brief rundown of how we recommend companies think about the Brand Development process:
Research and information gathering on all internal and external inputs that could affect your brand. Who’s your competition? Who’s your audience? Why are you launching (or relaunching) your brand now? What obstacles will you face? Questions like these help us fully understand the world we’ll bring your new brand into. And help us navigate any potential pitfalls.
This strategic phase challenges stakeholders to dig deep, uncovering the foundational underpinnings of the brand. This is where key differentiators are decided upon and where the brand truly begins to form. Commitments are made as to what the brand will be and how it will behave and why it exists.
In this phase, we can begin to attach visual and verbal markers to the brand. With a firm understanding of the brand’s purpose and position, any creative ideas conceived in this phase have a strategic origin. They’re not just well designed. They’re designed to work.
Here, we recommend a dedicated exercise in creating and organizing the messages that you’ll share about your brand, and to whom. Building a solid message strategy helps brands achieve marketing goals and avoid indecision in the future about what their targets need to hear.
Your consumers will change, your competitive landscape will change. Your company may even evolve its products/solutions or venture into new markets. Your brand needs to be able to adapt to changing environments while still remaining true to its core principles. Planning for careful evolution over time helps brands stay relevant.
Why Process is so Important
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, we talk to companies all the time who need help with brand projects—individual pieces and parts, such as logos, website design or collateral, that each have a hand in shaping their brand. It’s our job to make sure every tactical element is consistent, relevant and authentic to the brand. Without a deliberate foray into Discovery and Strategy, it’s impossible for us to know if what we create is right. Is it authentic? Will it engage your audiences? Will it work?
Without a deliberate foray into Discovery and Strategy, it’s impossible for us to know if what we create is right.
As you can imagine, what’s outlined above just skims the surface of the work and thinking that goes into building a strong and lasting brand. As you prepare to embark on your own Brand Development journey, we encourage you to slow down and to set aside time to go through the tough thinking to get it right. And to remember that you’re not alone. We’re here and we’d love to help.
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