“At the heart of branding is the promise that is made by the organization to the audience. The brand promise tells the audiences who you are, what you believe in, and what unique value you provide.”
– Dave Holston from Brand Strategy Development, a HOW Design University Online Course
Dave Holston, author of The Strategic Designer and an instructor for HOW Design University’s Online Course Brand Strategy Development, perfectly addresses why brand building is so critical for a designer to master. Business professionals rely on designers to create a strong identity that resonates with their targeted audience, establishing a foundation for their business’ prosperity.
Not only does he point out branding’s critical role in maintaining a profitable business, he provides detailed steps on how to intelligently and strategically generate a widely recognizable brand.
See below for Dave’s 6 Phases to Developing a Strategic Brand, an excerpt from his Brand Strategy Development course.
Developing a Strategic Brand Identity
The brand process is built around seven basic phases including: brand team development, business analysis, audience analysis, brand positioning, creative and messaging development, implementation, maintenance and measurement.
Phase 1: Brand team development
Successful branding initiatives start with the creation of the brand team. Brands are developed from imperatives created by the organization’s leadership, but they’re articulated and carried out by the people who make up the organization. Pulling together a cross-organizational team to create the brand not only helps provide valuable insight into the organization, but it will make launching and maintaining the brand easier through their initial participation.
Phase 2: Conduct business analysis
By understanding what the client hopes to achieve, their strengths and weaknesses, their competition and the environment in which they are conducting their business, designers can begin to develop meaningful solutions. This can be a challenge, as getting clients to express their needs is often difficult. Clients are sometimes “too close” to their work to be objective, and designers often end up getting partial or misdirected information as a result. But through questioning, designers can help clients discover brand solutions that are aligned with their business goals.
Business analysis centers on three key areas: mission, competition, and the business environment. There are plenty of basic business analysis tools that can be adopted by designers to gather valuable insight into these areas, including: vision and mission statements, SWOT analysis, PEST analysis and goal prioritization. These tools provide a common language between designers and business owners and help to frame discussions around strategic questions.
Phase 3: Conduct audience analysis
People are the reason that businesses and organizations exist and ultimately they determine whether an organization succeeds or fails in the marketplace. As organizations look toward branding for a strategic advantage a greater emphasis is put on understanding how brand design motivates audiences. When combined with business analysis, audience research fills in the “who,” “what” and “why” of the brand puzzle.
Phase 4: Develop a brand positioning
Positioning speaks to the competitive nature of branding. By providing a unique value to audiences, organizations carve out a piece of the marketplace that they try to own and sustain. Determining the organizations’ point of differentiation is the core of the branding process. Positioning also speaks to the promise an organization makes with its audience—defining a unique value to an audience, and then making sure that it can consistently deliver on that promise. The ability of the organization to follow through on the promise essentially makes or breaks the organization/audience relationship.
Phase 5: Create a consistent messaging and visual style
The visual design and messaging that goes along with a brand plays a critical part in the overall branding process. The visual and verbal elements that communicate the brand position attract, intrigue, and convince audiences to engage with the brand. They are the culmination and articulation of the brand positioning and promise. Verbal elements include the vision and mission statements, the name of the brand, the tagline and the brand positioning statement. The visual elements include logo, typography, colors, shape and the overall look and feel of communications and environments.
Phase 6: Launching and evaluating the brand
One of the biggest challenges in implementing a brand positioning is getting the organization to buy into the direction, and adopt the messaging and creative direction prescribed. This is why it is extremely important to make the branding process as collaborative as possible, inviting all areas of the organization to participate in defining the direction. The simple truth is that people will support what they help create. Implementation includes communicating the brand position and brand verbal and visual assets to the internal audience. Along with style guides and online access to brand assets this phase also requires brand education to take place.
Once the brand is implemented the focus needs to shift from creating to maintaining the brand. One of the most common issues organizations face is the degrading of the brand over time, as the organization becomes tired of the same messages and the same designs. One rule of thumb to remember is that when the organization is battling brand fatigue, that’s usually the point at which their audiences are just starting to make a connection to the brand direction. Branding is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s important to make sure that the health of the brand direction is maintained, all the while being aware of subtle changes in the competitive environment that may need to be considered.
To learn more about strategic branding, register for the Brand Strategy Development course.
The Strategic Designer
Design is no longer only about color, type and image. The industry is in the middle of a major transition to the idea of big design thinking. To stay viable in the future, designers must improve their strategy skills right now. The Strategic Designer is written to help you do exactly that, with clear advice and helpful case studies.
Containing interviews with some of the most respected names in design (Dave Mason, TimLarson, Stefan Bucher, Ellen Shapiro and more), The Strategic Designer helps creatives become experts in strategy, not just design. By adopting a process that includes collaboration, context and accountability, designers become strategists rather than just makers of things. Get the book here.