As Brand Strategists we often get asked how to build a brand.
Business owners and marketers often look for tried and true formulas when learning how to build a brand. The reality is, there isn’t a universally accepted way to do it. Different companies in different industries go about building a brand in many different ways, but most will follow a similar structure where there is plenty of room to make it their own.
At Branding For The People we have a clear and structured process for building brands. It’s a 5 phase approach we hope proves valuable to you as you think about branding or rebranding.
(To learn more about the brand building process, we recommend you check out my book Your Brand Should Be Gay (even if you’re not).
Phase 1 – Discovery
The first step in any brand development process is to gather the information necessary for optimal brand positioning. This requires defining the business problem that branding will help solve. If branding won’t solve a business problem then chances are branding isn’t necessary or valuable for your current business.
Discovery involves evaluating your current brand materials, and auditing your brand..
An audit serves to assess what is currently working and what is not within your brand. This is an important step for building a brand as you want to leverage what is already working, and identify what is not so that it can be fixed.
Phase 2 – Positioning
It’s hard to say any one phase is more important than the others as they are all critical in the development of an industry leading brand, but positioning is where you build a brand of substance.
Phase 2 is about exploring, defining and crystallizing your brand’s position, so that your brand is unique in its space. This work is what guides the development of the following phases, providing the focus necessary to build visuals, messaging, and other brand elements that are created with vision and purpose.
Phase 2 is where you will work developing your brand’s Purpose and vision, Messaging Matrix, Brand Platform and Brand Architecture amongst other key components.
Phase 3 – Creative
Many people think that creative is branding in a nutshell. However, without phase 1 and 2, creative work will be all style with little substance.
Great creative work is always done with positioning in mind. A logo is made to highlight your brand idea or purpose, sub-brands are created in accordance with the Brand Architecture, and messaging is created to communicate how your brand is different from your competitors.
Phase 3 is where the brand identity design process happens through visual and verbal expression.
- Visual Identity: The imagery and graphics that express a brand.
- Visual Guidelines: Guidelines (often in the form of a Brand Style Guide) that define how a brand can be shown.
- Verbal Identity: The articulation of your brand through distinct and focused language.
- Verbal Guidelines: Guidelines for how a brand is expressed through grammar and tone. This is often expressed through “what we do say” and “what we don’t say” statements.
- Brand Assets + Files: Logos, imagery, and documents that are pre-approved to be used by the brand in all channels.
These brand identity expressions are created strategically, and all are coherent with the brand’s positioning.
Phase 4 – Activation
In Phase 4, it’s time to “activate” your brand, meaning it is time to create the brand touchpoints that your customers and prospects will see and interact with.
The first step of phase 4 is the development of a brand launch plan. This is a crucial step as the introduction of a new brand, or the transition to a rebrand must be done strategically, and communicated effectively to your customers and prospects so that they understand why a rebranding is happening, what is different, and what this change means for them.
The brand is then implemented across high priority touchpoints such as your website, marketing, social media and other tangible brand touchpoints. If customers and prospects interact with your brand in a physical space (like a shop or office), creating a brand experience that is in line with the overall brand strategy is also a critical touchpoint to address.
Phase 5 – Management
A brand is not static. It is a desired perception, and as such it lives in the minds of your customers. You don’t really own it. This means that in order to maintain the desired perception you want customers and prospects to have of you, you must constantly evaluate, foster, and manage the brand over time.
This requires market research to understand how the presence of new competitors affects your position in the market as well as research to understand your target markets shifting desires, wants, needs, and perception of your brand.
These 5 phases are essential for building a brand, and we hope by sharing our process you now hopefully understand the importance of branding thoughtfully and thoroughly.
Good branding is about putting trust in the process. This process takes time, effort, and a consistent message. Perception works like that. But once you have built a brand that says everything you want it to, your business will never be the same.