by Julie Barber
Creating a brand doesn’t just mean the fonts and colours you use, but your values, the image you portray, your tone in the way that you speak and write as a company, the customers you choose or choose not to work with. All of those things are part of your brand. So how do you avoid creating a ‘brand’ that means nothing to your business?
There are several points in the life of a business, when creating branding, or re-branding is a vital exercise: first, when you launch the business and build your very first brand, and then at various ‘change’ points – those ‘change’ points could be moving into new markets where the brand isn’t appropriate (Marathon-now-Snickers we’re looking at you) or when the business takes a directional change, and wants to rebadge itself (i.e. the Facebook parent company rebranding itself as Meta, to reflect a wider set of interests). Mergers and acquisitions can drive rebranding exercises and even the addition of services can be cause for a change of brand (Andrew’s Washing Machine Repairs becomes Andrew’s Appliance Repairs when he adds dishwashers and tumble driers to his repertoire).
An effective brand will support every evolution of your company, but how do you ensure that it is effective? We believe it’s all about being clear on your vision for your company, and the strategy for how you will achieve that vision.
Defining a business vision is done badly all over the world. Vague, unspecific statements that no-one understands or can aim towards. Yet, if you want a Brand to speak powerfully for your company, you need to be super clear about what type of company you want to be. How big in terms of revenue and staff, what services you want to deliver, who you want to work with and in what locations. And, on the ‘softer’ side of things, how you want to be seen by your customers and your industry, what you want to be famous for, how you want people to describe working with you. If you can describe that vision as clearly as if you were there in the future, seeing that vision run all around you, then you’re in the right space. Once you understand what you want to achieve, you need to know how you’re going to get there.
Waltzing into a branding agency saying ‘we need a brand, can you sort one out?’ isn’t going to result in a valuable engagement for either party. Likewise, calling in the branding team to your SME and telling them ‘it needs a bit of a refresh’ gives no-one anything to go on.”
Building a real strategic plan, with achievable milestones, clear ownership and the ability to easily track progress doesn’t just enable you to go through a branding exercise successfully, it helps you make your whole business run better. But why does your business strategy affect your branding? Well, I mentioned above that brand requirements can change as a business grows and changes – new markets, new products, etc. If you can brief your brand agency clearly on not just your ultimate vision, but the strategy with which you’re going to get there, it can drive some really valuable conversations around how long the current brand should be expected to last for. It may turn out that a ‘refresh’ level update is appropriate for now, but when you start targeting the US market in 2025, the brand will need revisiting to take account of the US market – which helps you spend effectively now and in the future on your branding needs.
Ultimately, making sure you’re #BrandReady before engaging with your branding agency is going to make life easier for you and them, and produce a result that makes real impact for your business, in the most cost-effective way.
Time to get busy on the whiteboards with your team….