Part 1: Diagnosis – what’s your brand problem?
You may think a shiny new branding strategy can help put your organisation on the right path to success. And it can, when implemented correctly as part of your business plan. However, the most effective way to find out how it can help is to explore your challenges fully with a capable branding partner. This article explores common pain points, examines how they affect your branding journey and considers the traps of thinking your business problems are always linked to your brand….
To use a medical metaphor, when you get sick, your symptoms help doctors identify your condition, how severe it is and what the cause might be. Then comes the right treatment to help you thrive again.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to claim that branding is as complex and critical as a medical evaluation. But drawing upon the similarities: both involve asking questions and looking for key clues and insights to define and solve problems that come knocking at the door.
Diagnosis helps both experts in brand and businesses in need figure out if partnering will help correct the business problems that surfaced.
A pandemic of problems
Perhaps your business isn’t hitting growth targets or you’re attracting irrelevant sales leads. Maybe you and your colleagues can’t accurately or consistently articulate what your business does. Maybe your systems for making creative assets aren’t fast or effective enough (or you have no system at all). And maybe the communication assets you have (such as your website, sales decks, etc) simply aren’t well executed.
We see many prospects and clients share the same challenges. Sometimes such problems are due to poor organising between teams and the need to upgrade standards. But sometimes problems are bigger, more abstract and may require many changes business-wide to make them right.
Before you seek help from the outside, connect with managers and executives across your team to gather insight about what works and what doesn’t (your symptoms, if you like). It might be a few difficult conversations, but it needs to happen to build the case for change. Not only does this help your colleagues or investors co-operate and support any new branding investment, but it also helps your agency to help you the best they can – the more information you supply the better the outcome.
Identifying your branding partner
When you approach branding agencies, make sure you gain a good understanding of their capabilities and the extent to which their service offerings can really serve your needs.
Agencies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are laser-focused on a sector or competency (digital, experiential, sales promotion etc.) while others offer broader, interconnected services, from employee engagement and management consulting to cutting edge 3D motion graphics and web3 asset expertise.
Nothing is more effective than a proper diagnostic conversation with an expert to determine what you actually need. You may start out thinking you need a better logo and finish realising that naming, revised architecture and a new sub-brand are the real antidotes to your challenges.
Mapping the brand journey
Let’s skip the sales approach as every agency and client has their philosophy for how to manage new business, participate in pitches and create proposals.
You’re on board. Time to start your brand journey. Every brand journey follows some kind of plan usually known as a scope of work: an agreement on the order of steps to take together in building your brand and on what is delivered. It helps anchor expectations and keeps teams on track.
How you decide what goes in, at what price and how quickly varies based on your agency’s capabilities, capacities, talent, and other competitive variables.
Most agencies will have their own process or methodology for how they carve up the journey from input to outcome. Our next few articles will dig deeper into the creative process stages that we use at Structure: Discover (research and insight), Define (positioning, strategy, tone of voice), Design (identity, system, brand guidelines), Deliver (key outputs e.g., website, collateral)
The bias to brand
The big question is whether branding can actually solve your problems.
When you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. More important than recognising when branding can help is recognising when branding definitely isn’t the answer. There are some problems that branding simply can’t fix.
It’s true that often a new brand can flatten reputational crises and help rationalise chaotic business decisions. But a company with a toxic culture won’t U-turn morale or performance just because you changed your name. Sexy rebrands alone can’t overhaul common understandings of notoriously poor customer service.
Furthermore, if ‘it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Don’t decide to change your brand lightly. This is particularly true for brands living with price extremes or fanatical audiences, such as luxury fashion where the brand itself represents the most value. Your perception of the problem may be a short-term goal and there could be a risk of undoing years of positive progress
The best way to figure this out is to ask a branding expert.
Start with a valuable consultation
There’s a saying that brand strategy is just business strategy in disguise. Component brand experts will have a good understanding of all the ways your brand threads through your business, reaches audiences and influences decision-making.
It pays to choose a partner with this practical experience to diagnose your true needs – whether it’s with them or another specialist.
Martin Reid is a Senior Strategist at Design by Structure.
Structure creates relevant and compelling brands for next-generation tech companies.
About this series
Your guide to brand transformation
Most branding projects are like taking a journey with an experienced tour guide. Over the years we’ve developed our own outline for running a project, which takes your brand from insights to strategy to creative execution.
In our Branding 101 series, we’ve mapped out our methodology as a sequence of articles that correspond to different stages of the branding journey: The 6 Ds Process.
Article #1: Diagnosis: Your organisation might face challenges unrelated to your brand. A typical scope of work is informed by the pain points clients encounter regarding their business and brand. This can be a very revealing process for the client, unearthing things they may not have seen or even considered previously.
Article #2 Discover: Project accepted, we then dive into interviews, insights, research, competitors, categories, trends… The start of every project begins by unearthing the findings that determine how to make the right changes to your brand.
Article #3 Define: From insights to strategy. We examine how findings distil into a plan of attack for your brand – a positioning that articulates the problem to be solved. Then we explore the frameworks, messaging approaches and useful concepts that make the case for change.
Article #4 Design: Translating strategy to creative. The ideas of the strategy get expressed with copy, logo, design language and other elements that represent the brand. We explore what it takes to build your brand identity and formalise rules as guidelines for partners and teams to use.
Article #5 Delivery: You’ve got your assets and artwork. Now go forth and start branding. We explore some of the key outputs where your brand identity gets applied, such as your website, sales decks and launch campaigns.
Article #6 Discipline: Branding isn't a one-time thing. It's an ongoing health check to ensure that everything remains consistent, clear, and change-ready. In this final article, we explore brand management and maintenance - how to stay on top of your brand's potential and identify opportunities to keep your brand competitive and compelling for your audience.
If you’re a business leader ready to embark on a journey of brand transformation, then get in touch.