When building a sustainable brand with any level of complexity, it’s important to build it based on a sound and solid structure or framework. By creating consensus from both internal and external stakeholders as to what the brand truly is and stands for, the process of execution and adoption will become much more streamlined.
My Framework for Brand Creation has been designed to enable the creative development process to become more informed. This will assist in the decision-making process – enabling stakeholders to judge and support the work based the brand’s true identity not individual personal preference.
> DISCOVERY AND DEFINITION
The first and most critical phase of the Brand Creation process is Discovery and Definition. This phase establishes:
- Key objectives and timing
- Market situation
- Mission and positioning
- Overall benefits and offerings
- Value proposition
- Stakeholders and audience
- What’s working and performance gaps
The reason this phase is so important is because all of the work that follows will be judged against what’s agreed upon in the final Discovery Document. It’s developed through research documents and background materials. The document is also compiled through other sources that are uncovered through brainstorm sessions and interviews.
This work along with research and insights will inform all of the creative and brand work to follow. This is why it’s important to have accurate, agreed-upon documentation that has buy-in from executive leadership all the way through to the day-to-day marketing team.
Once the Discovery Document has been completed and approved, it will serve as a North Star for creative direction. This will influence and inspire the Creative Exploration, which moves us into the next phase.
> CREATIVE EXPLORATION AND SELECTION
This is the phase where ideas and concepts of what the brand could look and sound like in the marketplace takes shape.
A series of unique creative ideas and tactics are shared with the company’s leadership and marketing teams. This work will take the form of concepts in advertising, social media and design.
The Creative Exploration presentation typically consists of three unique creative directions which include:
- Logo design & possible naming options
- Tag lines
- Overall look and feel (Imagery, Color, Typography, Persona)
- Communication mock-ups such as:
- Home page designs
- Collateral such as business cards
- Marketing Emails
The concept selection process is aided by referring back to the Discovery Document. This helps in the judging of the creative work and allows each stakeholder to objectively react to each concept based on the agreed upon core objectives and findings.
Reactions and feedback are shared with the teams and they in turn help inform the decision making process. Generally several rounds of adjustments are made before the lead creative direction is finalized. Once that happens, and the brand direction has reached final approval, the creative is ready to move into development.
> BRAND DEVELOPMENT AND EXECUTION
Now that the concepts, ideas and creative directions have been approved, it’s time to begin to tackle the core assignments. At times it can feel like we’re building the plane while we’re flying it. That’s because that’s just about what we’ll be doing.
Key marketing projects and initiatives will inform future assignments. Implementation of design, photography, illustration, fonts and messaging will be taking shape and help us understand how the brand functions in different media channels.
It will be important to prioritize the work in phases and decide what’s needed immediately and what can wait for a later phase.
The first round of the Brand Guidelines will begin to take shape and an asset library is usually created to enable the execution process to run smoothly and consistently. This will also provide internal and external resources with the ability to contribute to the brand’s development and execution.
Language, value proposition, imagery and formats will be executed and begin to be distributed to printers, media partners and online web channels. This soft launch phase provides a window into how the branding functions both technically and creatively.
> BRAND DEFINITION AND ADOPTION
At this stage the Brand Guidelines become more detailed. This is because there will be a series of in-market communications to draw from. These guidelines will assist both creative and marketing with the right tools to maintain brand consistency.
This is also a great opportunity for internal team building. Given the nature of branding or re-branding, the creative shouldn’t look like every other company's in the category. Because of that, many existing team members may not fully agree with or understand the new creative direction. In some cases they may want to go back to the previous way of doing things.
To build adoption both internally and externally the brand needs to be socialized with small events, giveaways and team meetings. This builds affinity for the company by emotionally connecting stakeholders with the new brand and the effort behind it. This enthusiasm brings everyone on board and inspires them to become brand advocates.
> BRAND LAUNCH AND IMPLEMENTATION
The implementation of the new work isn’t the end but the beginning of the brand's development. This phase allows for us to identify efficiencies in creative development such as templates and messaging structures. It can also help inform the volume of work ahead and to determine prioritization.
This phase helps us to view the work beyond concepts and see how it performed in market. It’s a good opportunity to check in with customers, business partners and employees to see if people are noticing the new brand and what it means to them.
Public reaction can inform the future work and help with market research in the next phase.
> MARKET RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS
Soliciting the public’s opinion of the new brand is a good idea. It’s important to see how target markets view the work and if it’s performing according to plan. This can be done through online surveys, polls and focus groups. This review can help identify any gaps that could be missing in the overall brand structure. More importantly, it could also confirm and support the decisions that were made throughout the whole brand development process.
> ONGOING CREATIVE REFINEMENT AND CONTINUITY
A brand, just like an individual, grows organically. Once the analysis from the research is understood, the team can determine the adjustments that need to happen in order to optimize the brand’s overall performance in the market – helping it grow.
In addition, new projects and assignments will come up where the creative solution may not have been addressed earlier. It’s important to stay on course and develop creative directions that both maintain and evolve your new brand.