“We need a logo.” “We need a website.” “We need print collateral.” “Can we get some radio ads going?”
You probably do need, or could use, all of these things. But you don’t need them first.
There is no shortage of services willing to help with any of the above needs. I can go to fiverr.com and get a “logo” for a few dollars. 99designs tells me they can design my website for a couple hundred dollars, or at moo.com I can simply add my name and contact details to a business card template. Easy? Sure. Quick? You betcha. Turnaround times are a few days at the most. Easy-peasy.
Contrast that with working with an experienced designer or developer. The questions an experienced designer asks will be very different from those asked by the likes of the aforementioned providers. Instead of being asked what colors you like or which other company logos appeal to you, you’ll be asked such “esoteric” questions as, “What does your business believe in?” “What is the greatest outcome your clients experience as a result of doing business with you?” “Describe your aspirational audience avatar,” and, “What is the category segment of your services?”
Harder to answer? No doubt. Some businesses never answer these questions. Why pay thousands of dollars for a logo when you can get one for five bucks? Why allow months for the completion of a website when there’s an option for a 3-day turnaround elsewhere? Because you want a different outcome.
Building a business isn’t easy. Failure rates are high, and it’s not a mystery why they fail. Most businesses build products or design services and then look for customers to buy them. A successful business understands its customer’s need and sells the solution. Not just any solution, but a differentiated, demanded, preferred solution.
Sound easy? It’s not. It means you need to understand your potential customer intimately – the explicit need they have – and why you are uniquely positioned to fill that need in a way nobody else can compete with or rival. This is the difference between a five-dollar logo and a five-hundred-dollar logo, between choosing your color schemes and identifying your customer’s needs. This is a brand strategy. This is a deliberate process that can take weeks to months but is the only thing that can ultimately inform your branding – the outward facing manifestation of your brand strategy.
They sound like similar things, but they’re very different.
We rush to branding because it’s easy. We run from a brand strategy because it’s not easy. It takes a long time to see anything tangible, it’s hard to measure initially, it seems to be preventing us from making money in the early days, other companies don’t seem to worry about such things, and on and on and on with the excuses. However, this brand strategy is the greatest creative brief you can ever hand to a designer.
Purpose-driven companies have outperformed the S&P500 for a reason. By their very nature, their purpose is to identify a need in the world that they are uniquely positioned to fulfill, and then they go out and fulfill it. This requires a tremendous understanding of more than just a bottom line – they must understand their people, their customers, their communities. But of course, this makes sense. Businesses only survive when the needs of all of their stakeholders are being met.
Before you rush to branding, consider what has informed your decisions. Do you know enough about the true needs of your stakeholders? Are these answers a result of your decision making or did you see a cool logo yesterday that you want to replicate? Commit to a brand strategy before branding and you’ve already dramatically increased your chances of success.
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Barry Chandler is the co-founder of Storyforge, a brand strategy company focused on helping companies discover their purpose to allow them to achieve their vision, build preference and drive margin. Barry has been building award-winning businesses since launching his first company in Ireland in 2003. His last company, a digital marketing agency, was acquired in 2012 by a California-based publicly traded entertainment company which then hired him as Chief Marketing Officer. It is his belief that the greatest brands seek to change the world, improving the lives of their associates, partners and customers.