The phrase “brand building” has become so overused, its true meaning and importance has become diluted and almost lost on those hearing the words. To many, “brand building” is now synonymous with logo design and brand identity. The tragedy of this leap is that the unwitting participant is fooled into thinking that a successful brand equals a nice logo and then ignores all of the vital steps needed before a logo should ever be thought about.
Logo in hand, the business owner leaps into marketing tactics and campaigns with barely a thought about their company’s differentiators, position, unified vision, audience profile or goals. A brand, as I’m sure you’re gathering, is more than a logo and more than a color scheme. While these elements are byproducts and outputs of a brand and its strategy, they alone do not constitute the all-important brand.
A brand is the sum of many things: your customer and employee’s perception of your company, your ideology and your vision, your products or services, your ability to execute on your promises and everything the public thinks about when they hear your name. Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it. It’s fixed, but your brand exists only in someone’s mind.
If your brand therefore only exists in someone else’s mind, how do you create a brand, how do you manage a brand and control its destiny? This is where the brand strategy comes in. A brand strategy takes the unified vision, audience profile, product/service elements and crafts a tactical strategy to marry the rational needs and goals of a business with the irrational decision making of its customers to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Part of this tactical strategy will involve a logo design or refresh, a visual language and identity among other tactics, but not until you are crystal clear on your company’s core beliefs, ideology, differentiation, target audience and goals.
Ross James Nicholls, the owner of Nerd Brand Identity and Design has this to say:
I have been asked countless times to produce identities for small start up businesses who do not have a business plan. How can I produce an identity for a business who doesn’t even know its brand? Designers cannot dream up your brand for you.
What this reminds us is very important: if we don’t know or understand our own brand and brand strategy, not only will the designer not know how to best represent it, but how will your target customers understand who you are and why they should care.
Whether you’re a startup thinking about a brand strategy for the first time or a mature brand struggling to increase sales, starting with a well thought out brand strategy is essential to align all stakeholders towards your articulated goals.
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