A strong brand is one which is consistent across all media – in fact, it’s consistent in every way: from its messaging, to positioning, vision, values, tone of voice, purpose and personality. It’s what makes today’s global powerhouse brands instantly recognisable. But, if you have a great product or service, does your business’ branding really matter?
The answer is yes.
Brand identity and positioning are directly linked to winning customers – and retaining them. By building and maintaining a solid brand, your business will not only be clearly positioned from your consumers’ point of view, you’ll also differentiate yourself from your competitors and solidify your position in the marketplace. Plus, you’ll establish yourself as a credible, reliable business, too.
Brand positioning and development isn’t just for market newcomers. There are also circumstances which mean you may want to reposition your brand later down the line. For example, if market conditions change, significant social or political evolution has occurred, or simply a lot of time has passed since your brand’s original launch. Whatever the reason, if you’re seeing a drop in engagement within today’s more competitive market, you may need to reconsider your brand identity. Repositioning your brand can lead to renewed interest, and a rekindled relationship with your customers.
After 40 years in the brand development business, we have a well-defined approach to building and positioning our clients’ brands to give them the competitive advantage. So, here’s the P+S rundown of how to approach brand development.
Find yourself: Discovering your brand identity
Whether you’re starting from scratch, or repositioning your brand, it’s important to form a strong foundation of research before moving ahead to build your brand identity. The more research you do, the stronger that foundation, and the easier it will be to position and develop your brand for long-term success, and to scale your business moving forward.
Performing SWOT analyses or market research is a familiar practice to many business and marketing leaders – but that’s barely scratching the surface, here. Fundamentally, you’ll want to gather as much information as possible, not only from external sources such as your audience, your competitors and your market, but also internally; from any pre-existing brand assets, plus your employees and stakeholders. This might include conducting desk research (SWOT analyses, brand asset estate audits, current positioning and identity analyses, strategy alignment), internal research (current internal brand engagement reviews, analyses of group brand relationships), and audience research (current external brand engagement reviews). It’s a huge undertaking, but the rewards are even greater.
When conducting internal research, it’s important to understand from both your senior stakeholders and on-the-ground operational staff what they think about your brand. This, in addition to the associations made, and evoked responses: You’ll be exploring the emotional connections, as well as psychological motivations behind your people-to-brand relationship.
Your brand’s logo, typography, colour palettes and graphic language are all examples of visual identity that you will need to explore and develop. And they will all be affected by your brand’s personality and purpose – no matter the product or service you offer.
There’s no better example than our client, LIGNIA: a sustainable and durable timber company. When a product isn’t something traditionally desirable, like a luxury or an entertainment purchase, it can be difficult to develop its personality – and its brand. And in this case, we were working with a company which sells wood. But for P+S, we knew this was the opportunity to work with a company who could change the world.
We conducted comprehensive research into LIGNIA’s target market – the construction and marine yacht-building sectors – and also spoke to the internal team themselves, to discover what mattered to them, what problems they solved, and what connection they had with the brand.
Another interesting research methodology is brand semiotics. This is the cultural interpretation of signs and symbols which drive deeper meaning for your brand. For example, many financial businesses will use the colour blue, as it’s used to represent trustworthiness and reliability, whereas green has more associations with ecology and health, making it an ideal match for environmental organisations. Shapes also have meaning: rectangles suggest sturdiness and stability, whereas circles demonstrate holistic or celestial experience.
Language, sound, symbols – there’s so much which can effect the interpretation of your brand. Just as McDonald’s has its ‘Golden Arches’ and the ‘I’m lovin’ it’ whistle, are there signs or symbols which embody (or could embody) your brand identity? How could these be interpreted?
For both your external and internal research, there are a number of research methodologies you can – and should – use to gather both qualitative and quantitative data. Just some of these methods include face-to-face, telephone or web-based interviews, and online or telephone surveys.
Your plan of attack: Brand strategy development
Now you have all the information you need to make a start, it’s time to apply this knowledge and develop your brand strategy.
Holding stakeholder workshops is an efficient way to define important brand qualities such as your core values, alongside your visual design and creative identity. By providing space for back-and-forth dialogue, these live scenarios are often the best environment to develop your brand’s most integral identifiers.
Again, at this phase of your development, there are a number of approaches you can take to develop your strategy. Brand architecture modelling is particularly important if your company has multiple brands within its portfolio, or you’ve recently completed a merger. Without it, your ‘header’ brand may not reflect the same messaging as your sub-brands, leaving customers confused and distrustful.
When working with LIGNIA, this is something we needed to consider when developing their brand guidelines. With their three main products serving three different needs, how could we allow targeted marketing down the line, without compromising on brand recognition? Our answer lay in developing the brand architecture.
By identifying LIGNIA’s personality archetype, we were able to take each product and align it with one core value: “Made for whatever life throws at you.” Only then could we develop their full marketing collateral – including a website – later down the line.
That core value – the thing which helps to underpin brand architecture – also ties together the rest of your branding portfolio. It works by developing your core brand idea: the instituting concept which sits at the heart of your brand. This is important no matter the size or location of your business, or the sector your company works in.
From your target audience, to your market positioning: you’ll need to make decisions about how to differentiate your brand from others in your sector, and about how you’ll attract your desired audience. Even armed with your research, there’s still further opportunity to narrow the focus of your positioning – with (the P+S favourite) a test, learn, refine approach.
To do this, you’ll need to identify target KPIs for a number of factors: brand awareness (recall, site traffic, followers, reach, impressions), consideration (appreciation, semiotic resonance, relevance, esteem, perceived quality, associations), commitment (engagement, preference) and loyalty (satisfaction, referrals, staff retention). Having targets means you will be able to measure your performance – no guessing games – and adjust your strategy where necessary.
Ready to launch: Your finalised brand strategy
By now, you should have developed a clear brand architecture, key messaging strategy, messaging architecture and audience map: in other words, you should have clearly defined who you are, what you do, and who you do it for.
To develop well-defined and sufficient brand guidelines that ensure consistency no matter where or when your brand appears, you’ll need to bring all of these elements together with the elements of your visual identity, too. This is how the most positive brand associations are established: through long-term focus, and versatile brand applications.
The elements which are involved are extensive: brand logo, colours and typography are just scratching the surface. There are guidelines and best-practice recommendations for a brand’s illustration and photography use, personality, purpose and graphic language. Plus, some of the more design technical elements such as application templates, including digital application considerations and environmental branding. The point is, everything should come together to form one comprehensive set of guidelines; and more importantly, one complete identity. Working in harmony, these elements will promote better brand recall from your customers, as well as increased credibility through consistency, while reducing the likelikhood of brand dissonance.
Engage and ignite: Marketing activation
It’s go time! Whether this is an all-new brand launch, or a re-envisioning of your current identity, it’s finally time for you to engage directly with your customers.
This could be an event launch, a film or an immersive experience – whatever form it takes, this is the moment (or series of moments) which will activate your customer-brand relationship, forming a connection with your audience. This includes making clear your vision, mission, values, personality and objectives.
Of course, this isn’t just a generic blast of information. This is a carefully planned, data-driven, directed act, allowing complete precision in targeting the right customers at the right time – and on the right channel. And it’s not only your external engagement which matters: internal brand anticipation matters too, so identifying an internal communications strategy is key.
It’s no good just launching your campaign and forgetting all about it either: once you’ve executed your brand launch, you’ll need to maintain these levels of engagement, as well as (you guessed it) measuring and refining your campaign based on your pre-determined KPIs. Feedback from both your analytics and directly from your consumer base will enable you to increase your impact even further.
Your launch phase is when you’ll discover just why it’s so important that your brand is positioned correctly and confidently. It’s a powerful tactic which will see people identifying with your values, objectives and ambitions – and ultimately, have customers buy into your brand over your competitors’.
Get ready. Aim. Fire! End-to-end, successful branding with P+S
For clear positioning, you need equally clear brand guidelines, and a fully-fledged strategy to accompany it. Only then will you win your customers’ trust and their loyalty.
A lot goes into making a brand, ensuring its messaging, visual identity, ethos and values are completely aligned. The result is a cohesive, memorable brand that customers will trust – and ultimately, buy into.
P+S have more than four decades of experience working with companies across the globe, managing everything from brand conception, to design, strategy, and execution. Our approach means we only use evidence-driven, measurable results, so we can continue to help you refine every campaign.
Get in touch today to find out more.