Nervous About Branding or Rebranding? Is "Creative" Branding A Potential 300-lb Gorilla?
If you're thinking about branding in 2023...
...or, God help you, shopping for a brand consultant or agency -- glazed-over with their PDFs or Websites or PowerPoints...
...and they list "Branding" under "creative services," chances are you need to ...run away!
Most branding efforts focus on a fresh logo and website graphics... and is primarily driven by graphic design. Maybe this is a surprise to you -- but that's a 300-lb. gorilla!
If you're branding or rebranding, what's wrong with good logo graphics?
Don't get me wrong -- I love me my good creative and graphic design with a passion. I thrive on developing good creative, and have a shelf-full of awards from my professional peers to support that claim. And I think that logo and tagline are absolutely vital first impressions. I think it's important to work hard at these components. Screw these up, and you miss the boat!
Is my stance on this part of the program quite clear so far?
That said, I've shuddered at a few networking events, when good design firm reps explain that their "strategic process" for company branding and site design is asking clients what they like, and offering options. A-r--r-g-h-h! Is this the "value" professional marketing firms add? Don't you think a marketing for design firm should be adding a visual vocabulary that's way bigger than what websites your client happened to find and like? And is building a business only about good design??!!
A great name/logo/tagline and website are not secondary, they're primary. They're often the drawbridge over the buying moat. But, sorry...but by themselves, they don't sell.
Me, I'd whither on the vine...be parched in the desert... go loony-bonkers...if not for the strategic thinking that should drive brand identity.
Shhhh! Creative Branding That's Missing Real Strategy Is The 300-lb. Gorilla!
When it comes to the "strategic thinking" side of branding, "strategy" must come first. And second. Then you can start crafting brilliant graphics which directly support those directions.
Here are some key brand identity components to work on, so you don't slip on the giant gorilla's banana skins!
NAME. It's what prospects need to remember, to do business with you. It should get them to your website so they can sniff out your monkey fur.
So when people speak your company name, is it a snoozer like Advanced Technology Solutions...or something with more energy, like TechVelocity Partners? Do you want your company name to be Signs In A Day (a decades-outdated benefit)... or SuperSignsSuperFast? (Yes, these are examples of company renaming we've done.) You always want the name to clearly represent what he company does!
Logo. It's that visual doodle that triggers your noodle to remind you of all the impressions you have of the company's products, services, delivery, and more. Your logo has "content" and personality . Are you showng a cool graphic… or are you showing a graphics that suggests what yhthe business does right away? Is your logo more like Jimmy Fallon...or Woody Allen? Is it boring, like "chewing the fat"...or an energetic "True, dat!"?
Tagline. That little phrase near the logo, that conveys a focus or value. This can be conveyed many ways.
Is it more like "Optimized Technology, Delivered"....or more like "Your Smarter IT Trajectory"?
"Your Go-To Production Company"...or "We shoot it. We kill it. Your audience eats it up."
Is it more like "Practical Approaches to the Cutting Edge"...or "Empowering Techies. Accelerating Business"?
(Yes, we created the"after" examples above, based on our branding process.)
Is Name & Logo & Tagline...enough? HELL, NO! The next part is even more important.
So let's say you somehow come up with a sharp company/product/service name, logo and tagline (likely not, since you skipped doing real "strategy"!) — okay, great -- that helps get the customers into the store. But are your shelves empty... or is the stock outdated or disorganized?
Your products and services offering needs to be thought through. Frequently a tweak in the delivery of the service is a marketplace differentiator of high value to prospects. And you also want to thank though these offerings, in order to find out what the heck will be influencing your branding umbrella. It should influence the company name / logo / tagline.
From there, the website UX should be based on what prospects and customers really want (y'know, specific content they want to get from an authority source, for example)...and if you only did a quick brainstorming session or filled out a form from the graphics department, you don't have much to go on to distinguish and describe your offerings.
That seminal input comes at the start of the process... it's not something you should shoehorn in later. (And a number of my clients have innocently and hopefully suggested "We need sales now... can't you just do our website right now, and add the branding later?"
Well, you could do that...but only if you want to destroy your company brand. Or if you'd like your company brand, products and services to sound like the meandering rambling of residents from "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"? (That'd be a "Hell, no.")
And don't you think -- that if we thought through all the strategic stuff, and we figured out some breakthrough ways to deliver your products and services to your customers -- that it might influence your company description and brand identity? (Can I get a Hell, Yeah!?)
Your products and services are what brand represents, right? It it fair to assume that you would not want them to be communicated all helter-skelter higgledy-piggledy and such, harrumph, yo. You want all your inbound and outbound marketing, and all sales and marketing presentations that deliver those communications, to speak with one voice. To kill it from the get-go, so that your company is automatically on the short-list, if not on top of the list.
Don't just "look busy"...And don't waste everyone's time when you ask The Wrong Questions
Your Company Branding Process: What Questions Ae You Asking...What Are You Thinking?
"Thinking through your branding" means... thinking. Thinking = Good. That's not filling in the blanks in a mandatory corporate branding exercise. One size doesn't fit all. So, for example...
There's a difference between going beyond questions like "What do we offer?" (which is an internal corporate orientation)...and "What are the benefits to buyers? How do THEY think about it?" (which is where the rubber meets the road).
There's a difference between "What do our customers want?" which could be answered with better products or lower prices or faster deliver or whatever...and exploring "What are their buying motivations?" which deepens your selling perspective with all kinds of corporate and personal considerations.
If you include strategic planning that has real value in your program. there's a difference between only addressing "customer needs"....and also including "owner and employee team needs," which are just as important.
The point should be obvious — well intentioned questions if asked wrongly are a big problem: You come up with crap. And knock the wind out of everyone's sails.
If Branding Is So Damn Important, How In The World Do You Evaluate & Measure Your New Brand Strategy
Fair question, glad you asked.
Certain programs can be measured accurately. Branding is trickier, and while you can take it into the in the realm of beancounter evaluation, it's tricky to research, and you have to go with a combination of objective strategic thinking, and your gut.
Even if branding is difficult to measure, it has to work. I'll admit to working with some of the best agencies in the advertising world -- producing work that's is measurable -- Direct Response/Direct Marketing. While it can be a bit nerve-wracking at times, trying to move the needle, I got the blood-thirst for inching up response rates. And I've learned that the best way to move the needle in your marketing programs is with a combination of big-picture strategic branding thinking, and attention to tactical marketing details.
So it should be more obvious that on-target branding is a strategic/creative endeavor that drives success...not just a detail to check off later. And while "creative" ideas can come from anywhere, they need to be evaluated by people who have experience in how these reverberate across a roll-out in the marketplace, across a range of inbound, outbound and sales programs, and potential line extension.
So I appreciate that devil is in the (big picture and the) details. And you don't want the devil to look like a 300-lb. gorilla, who grunts "Branding is creative." Because it is...but it's more than that. Even if the guy in the gorilla suit, who was walking on his knuckles, is the division President. Even if the ad agency you've hired for the rebrand gives you all the free bananas you can eat during the "creative branding" sessions.
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You might also want to take a look at or blog post on the value of your brand.
Joel Alpert has nothing against gorillas. He was trained and worked with some of the top bananas in the world of strategic thinking, direct marketing, and human potential. He loves creating the name/logo/tagline triad...after we monkey around with smarter strategic brand thinking....so our foundation has "some place to go" for your prospects....and your products and services support and integrate with the brand. Yep.
His signature PowerBranding process is a hybrid of the innovative strategic tools of Robert Fritz, Inc.... and years of developing effective, award-winning creative work. for large and small companies.
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