Laying the groundwork
Whether you are launching a new business, product or service, or rebranding an existing one, clarity is the key factor for success. Clarity creates interest, grabs attention, and calls for action. Both your clients and employees will better understand and respond to your mission and purpose. Gaining that clarity requires insight and understanding into what truly drives your business. (And it's not your products and services!) We call it "finding your pivot point." Once you know it, you can build your brand around it, create a following, command a premium. Then life becomes more enjoyable. People around you, customers, staff, vendors, begin to "get it." When you are clear, everyone else gets clear, and you find yourself in a different space... no longer battling the competition, but leading your company in new and innovative directions. Once you identify the key stakeholders for your branding process and determine your project budget, it's time to dive in.
1. Gather - Collect the background info
The branding process begins with a meeting of the key stakeholders. This is where you tell us the "state of the union," and just where you stand now in the process. You may have some ideas and thoughts already formulated. There might be names that you loved but couldn't use for various reasons (i.e. trademark conflict, the domain was taken, etc.) Or you may just be at a complete dead end, wasting too much valuable staff time. In this meeting, we discuss recommended timelines and milestones. You can also forward power point presentations. creative briefs, business plans and any other supporting documentation that would help explain and convey your marketing objectives. At this point, we're here to listen, gather, and ask lots of questions.
2. Analyze - Determining the pivot point
Rather than jumping to a competitive analysis of others in your industry, we first question what industry you are in. Sounds obvious, but it isn't. Apple is not really in the "computer" business, but in the digital lifestyle business. If they acted like they were a computer company, they would be marketing against Dell and Gateway, and they wouldn't be where they are today. Before branding a company, product or service, we dig deeper to determine the end benefit, the true value proposition, so that the branding remains anchored, relevant and timeless. We call this "finding your pivot point," or that central theme that resonates throughout everything you do. And it's typically not your products and services. It's usually lies in how you deliver those products and services. Brands such as CompUSA are product defined, while BestBuy is more attribute defined. We work to make sure your brand identity is properly aligned with your company's core strengths. That way, when your industry goes through cycles, you don't necessarily suffer the fate of that cycle. It's not just strategic, it's brilliant.
3. Specify - Writing a creative brief
Now that you know your pivot point, your central theme and mission in life, how do you want to convey that message? Do you want to sound bold and innovative or tried and true? Do you want to engage and excite or educate and inform? What is the personality/temperament of your brand and how do you want it to be perceived? Who is your primary and secondary target market? What type of messaging will most appeal to them? We'll ask these questions and summarize them in a document for your team to share and discuss. This will help further guide the naming process.
4. Prioritize - Creating the brand criteria
To keep the process on track, we work with you to prioritize which items in the brand strategy are most important and deserve the most consideration. Is it the overall sound and feel of the name? Is it the meaning behind the name? Is it the need to be unique? Or have an exact matching .com domain name? Typically there are a number of drivers in the branding process, but without identifying them, and prioritizing them, the least important factors can inadvertently take precedent over everything else. By agreeing early on that the brand must communicate x, y, and z, it puts the emphasis where it belongs and avoids the tendency to use individual subjectivity as the basis for judgment. This is especially important where group consensus is involved.
5. Ideate - Concepting and developing brand identities
Once we know what business you are truly in and what message you want to convey, we look at how best to convey that message. There are a number of branding strategies, each with their own pluses and minuses. You may want to start with a blank slate, something you can own, so we would explore invented or "empty vessel" names (i.e. Xerox.) Or you may want to convey a key attribute of your business as in Sir Speedy. Other strategies include positive connotation names such as OnStar and TruGreen, as well as metaphors such as Jaguar and Amazon. We work with you to determine which branding strategies best suit your needs, then we go to work to find those names. We search through hundreds, (and often thousands,) of potential brand names to find that ones that best reflect your pivot point and brand message, while meeting your brand criteria (i.e. ease of spelling, pronunciation, available trademark, etc.) Once we have a set of 12 to 15 names that meet these objectives, we share a document with you and your team and arrange a time to review. Each potential brand name comes with two to three matching tag lines, a rationale statement detailing how the name could be used to further support and position you in your market, the status of the domain name (i.e. available, parked, for sale, or secured on your behalf) and a preliminary check on the USPTO data base.
6. Refine - Reviewing and refining
It's often in the discussion of the brand names that the team gets the "ah-ha!" moment. Someone will share a new twist or insight that transforms a good name to a great one. Or one name sparks a train of thought that leads to other possibilities. That's the purpose of this process, to help find and define the essence of the brand. Once in a while, a name will pop right out, but more often, one or two of the names begin to rise to the top and make more sense with each discussion. The "story" behind the brand will begin to emerge and the name will gain traction.
7. Select - Selecting the winning name
Typically it requires one to three "rounds" of names to find the right candidate. And often the name will be from the first list, simply because it requires contrast and comparison to see the value in a name. Some of our best and brightest brand names were initially passed over in early stages of the process, only to be revisited again and again. This is where it helps to air out each idea... how will the name be used, where will it be seen, how will it be used in a sentence, does it have "verb potential," etc. There is usually several names that will meet the branding criteria, and then it's a matter of choosing the one that feels the most fitting and comfortable.
Based on the specifics of the project, we can also provide comprehensive trademark research, name validation testing, and linguistic evaluation to further assist you in your decision.
8. Develop - Developing the marketing platform
Rather than stopping with a name, tag line, logo and domain name, we'll work with you to develop a marketing "lexicon" or language set to further enhance and support your brand message. For our client TKO Surgical, it was about standing up for their clients, championing their cause and being in their corner. For our financial planning client Freedom Peak, it was about "reaching for your goals," "climbing higher," and "gaining a higher perspective." By developing this language set, you will be able to create a more meaningful and congruent brand message, one that highlights your core strengths. This gives your brand message more substance and makes it more engaging and believable. It also helps when it comes time to write headlines, ad copy and web content.
9. Visualize - Creating the corporate identity/logo
Once we have the name, tag line and domain name, we work with you to create a matching logo identity (if that was part of the package.) We'll ask you for examples of logos that you admire in other industries, and we'll help determine the best logo treatment to reflect your overall brand message. We'll provide three to five logos per round, and gather feedback on which one(s) you like best. From there we fine tune the images until we have one that compliments your brand name. For some clients, it's all about creating something "eye popping" and highly visual. For others, it might be more important to communicate trust and credibility. So we tailor the logo to match the specifics of each assignment.
10. Finalize - Finalizing and transferring all branding elements
Once the logo is approved, we then forward all the files in various formats for use in printing, web design and signage. We'll also specify the logo font type and the specific PMS colors for future reference. We then transfer over the domain name and provide all necessary information for immediate access. At this point you are good to go. You will have all the basics you need for a brilliant brand.
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