Your Brand Development Guide (from start to finish)
Whether you are a small business, an established company, a startup or a non-profit organization, you must show your audience:
- Who you are: your authentic brand identity
- How you are different: your key differentiators, and
- Compelling reasons for people to part with their money: your value proposition
For example, let’s take a look at a non-profit organization based out of Missoula, MT, the Montana Food Bank Network. Their messaging reads:
We are Montana’s only statewide food bank. We work with the national hunger-fighting organization, Feeding America, and have developed several programs specifically to address the unique challenges of accessing food in Montana.
We distribute food from Heron to Wibaux, Eureka to West Yellowstone and everywhere in between.
We partner with neighborhood food banks, community pantries, social organizations, homeless shelters, schools, and hundreds of other organizations.
We believe that together we can end hunger in Montana.
On their “About Us” page, they include an impact statement that let’s me know as a donor exactly what kind of an impact my money is making:
With a $1 donation we are able to provide enough food for 3 wholesome meals.
This messaging covers the basics (who, what, when and where) but also articulates a compelling reason for me as a potential donor to part with my money:
I can be part of a movement to end hunger in my state. Now that is pretty powerful.
By creating a brand voice that is uniquely yours, you set yourself apart from everyone else and create immediate value, as with the above example.
Expanding into the larger brands like Nike, Apple, BMW and Ford, they’ve built household names that are unforgettable: Just Do It. Think Different. The Ultimate Driving Machine. Built Ford Tough. This reputation building, however, is not just reserved for the branding giants, it can be built for any business, if done right.
So what do these companies, like Nike and Apple do when it comes to branding? They step outside of the box and think differently (pun intended). It takes knowing that a successful branding idea might seem crazy at first, but having the creative courage (and intimate knowledge of your audience) to forge ahead anyway.
Take Starbucks for example. In 2011, to mark their 40 year anniversary, the iconic Seattle coffee company decided to go through a rebrand, and simplified their logo by dropping the word “coffee” to open up new growth opportunities for their company.
Fast forward to today and we all know that Starbucks is so much more than a coffee shop. To deviate from an internationally recognizable brand was seen by many as a major risk. With this decision, Starbucks could have jeopardized their identity and potentially lost their cult-like following. But Starbucks was not the first company to broaden its horizons by shortening their name. Apple did the same thing many years ago when it dropped the words “Macintosh” and “Computer” from its brand.
In the end, the risk was worth the reward, and by dropping those initial branding phrases, Apple and Starbucks alike expanded their brands to be so much more.
So how can this line of thinking work for your company?
Now what do I mean by that? Create a brand that sets you apart but does not limit your opportunities. Consumers have a need to identify with the products and services they buy, but they tend to do it in the strangest of ways. Whether through look, ease, concept or integration, creating a brand that is bigger than simply the product (like with Apple and Starbucks), allows people to identify with it, in-turn increasing a brand’s accessibility.
Visibility, whether through mass communication, advertising, media or mouth-to-mouth, is key to a successful brand. But the message must be one that is clear and concise; otherwise people forget. According to the American Marketing Association, studies show that the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day, so being unique will help you to be remembered.
The same brand principle is true is for nonprofits. A person looking to give their money away wants to do it with an organization with a positive reputation. Many equate reputation with brand visibility and good design. Public awareness builds credibility and credibility builds reputation, and together they create the BRAND.
Your brand is the single most public piece of your company, and it is often the first impression and interaction a person has with you. For this reason, carving out dedicated time for your brand is a business imperative.
As you begin this process you may be wondering:
- How do I start?
- Where do I start?
- What if my plan sounds crazy?
- Can I be successful?
- What does my brand idea look like and how to I make it stand out?
The first step in brand planning, begins with establishing clear goals and milestones. Your brand plan should be a roadmap that includes:
In establishing a clear vision, one needs to take the brand idea and translate it into something that is easily digestible, understandable, and most critically, marketable.
PURPOSE & GOALS
Identifying a brand’s purpose and goals will help you determine the kind of experience you want people to have with your brand. You’ll want to consider the following:
What do I want people to think about when they hear my organization's name?
What emotions do I want people to have when they see my logo?
What feelings do I want people to experience as a result of interacting with my brand?
STRATEGY & TACTICS
Your brand plan needs to have a clear strategic direction (i.e. what customers will you be targeting? What financial benchmarks represent success in the market? What products/services will you be bringing to the market? What new areas do you intend to expand into?)
Gathering this information can be overwhelming, but worth the work in the end, to create a fully informed brand identity. Engage key stakeholders and conduct market research to help you secure answers to these questions.
Once you’ve reached a point in the information gathering process where you feel like you have established a clear vision and overarching strategy, then you can identify tactics that will help you achieve your benchmarks for success.
These tactics could include executing certain marketing activities throughout the year, such as content marketing, social media marketing, live events, webinars, etc. Whatever you choose, you’ll want to map out and schedule each tactical piece according to the direction you’ve set for your company.
Brand Identity: The RIGHT direction?
How do I know if I’m moving in the right direction? I know, we all think that we are moving in the right direction, but I’ll even admit that there have been times when I realized that forward was not the direction I was moving. There have been moments when I realized my company was sitting stagnant, but those moments were short-lived and quickly addressed, and the evolution of our brand and company have been key to our growth.
To determine which direction your company is headed, and to see if your company is staying true to its brand, the first thing you want to do is perform a brand directional analysis.
BRAND DIRECTIONAL ANALYSIS
During this analysis, you will take a step back and look at the overall mission of your organization and ask yourself if you are headed toward that mission, or if you’ve become distracted with a different goal, tool or technology. You’ll also want to assess, does my brand reflect my future growth goals?
New businesses that want to make a difference quickly and establish themselves in the market, can become distracted by new ideas and possibilities. Though this is not always a bad thing (to make pivots in the market), jumping from one idea to the next and abandoning a core vision, will likely cause brand continuity issues and confuse people.
Your brand can be lost in its many directions, such that people do not know how to interpret it. Without a clear, consistent brand voice for people to rally behind, it is hard to build a movement that will last.
Continuity and consistency are key to building a strong brand. Take Brooks Brothers for example, a clothing company with a 200 year brand legacy.
CULTIVATE CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS
Finally, taking the time to interact with your clients and/or donors is critical in helping them develop a positive relationship with your brand.
As business owners, we do our best to predict who will use our products/services, but we are not 100% accurate. These interactions will provide you with important user data that you may not have considered before, illuminating powerful insights.
Knowing more about your clients and how they interpret and interact with your brand, is critical in growing your reach and improving your overall business impact.
Every organization depends on its brand identity to connect with the outside world. The creation of a lasting brand is made possible by developing a solid vision and direction, focused strategy, and carefully mapped out tactics. When you combine these elements with beautiful design, you have the foundation for a brand with true lasting power.
As a creative agency, we work closely with our clients to create a brand strategy and marketing plan that amplifies their message and impact in the market. Making sure your brand is on point is just the start. Contact me at Drew@affariproject.com for a free initial consult to see how we can best serve your brand in 2018.
Young girl - Parents.com
Elderly Woman - Todd Cravens on Unsplash
Nike Logo - Nike
iPod Gif - Giphy.com
Starbucks Logos - Starbucks
KIND Ad Campaign - KIND Snacks
Goodwill Ad Campaign - Cole Lab
Business Meeting - Haley Phelps on Unsplash
Business Meeting with Group - Confirmit.com
2015 Brooks Brothers Ad Campaign - Models.com