Before we can craft the perfect tagline or design a logo that fits your brand like a glove, we first need to discover who your brand is. To do this, our creative team takes time in the development process to dissect your brand down to the bones, discovering what features, benefits and values make your brand unique. We start this by asking you questions about what your brand represents and how you want it to be perceived. Therefore, it’s essential for our clients to walk into the branding process with a clear understanding of what it means to be a brand and what it means for their brand to have an identity.
A brand isn’t a tagline, a logo or a name. Yes, those are elements that help support a brand, but they aren’t actually the brand itself. A brand is a feeling. It’s a way of thinking, acting and believing.
However, like a reputation, these feelings aren’t simply controlled internally by a company. As brand design legend, Walter Landor, said, “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” This means that a brand isn’t just how YOU think about your company, but instead how your AUDIENCE thinks about your company.
Take Nike, for example. If you separate the company from the brand you’ll see two different entities. Nike, the company, is an athletic apparel and equipment manufacturer. Nike, the brand, is a reflection of inner strength, motivation and achievement. Nike’s audience chooses to buy Nike because of how they feel wearing the label, not necessarily because of the product itself. They choose to support the brand because of what it personally represents to them.
So how do you build a good brand? Besides providing great service and products (which is all on you), it begins by establishing a strong brand identity. Building this perception is crucial to brand success. For example, a recent Edelman study found that once millennials find a company or product they like, 70% of them will keep coming back. Therefore, beginning your relationship with a great first impression can act as the launching pad to shaping your company into the brand you want it to be. This is where we come in.
As brand specialists, we love and respect every detail that goes into the branding process. From beginning to end we work to build an image that fits you and sets you apart from anyone else. We want you to take pride in your brand and your brand’s identity—but most importantly, we want your target market to feel the same after their first impression.
How do we do it? For starters, we dig, pull and explore the depths of your company. This allows us to capture the essence of your company and collect pockets of insight that will lead us to design and develop brilliant identity elements. We call this time the “discovery phase.”
This phase generally begins with a kick-off meeting where both our teams come together to talk, chat, probably laugh and do a lot of learning. During this meeting our goal is to get to know your company, the people, the methods, the values. To do this, we ask a lot of questions and do a lot of probing. The questions will range from structured to abstract. This variety will help us delve toward the core of your brand and help us move forward in creating an all-encompassing image.
Okay, now that you get the gist, let me paint a picture of this scenario. You’re sitting comfortably in your office, where the BatesMeron team has come to kick off your company’s branding project. Starting with the basics, we might ask questions like:
Who is your audience? What are their lives like? What is important to them?
What are your key strengths? What benefits do those strengths offer your target market?
Moving into a conceptual direction, we’ll begin asking you metaphorical questions like:
If your brand was a famous person (living or dead), who would it be?
If your brand were an ice cream flavor, which would it be?
These questions might seem silly and pointless, but they can be very helpful in our creative process. For instance, if you tell us that your brand is Will Ferrell, we’ll know that you envision your brand as very outgoing, fun and forward. If you tell us that your brand is Clint Eastwood, we’ll understand that you think of your company as gruff, confident and heroic.
We implemented this methodology while developing the brand for our client, Tax Technology Group. During the discovery phase we learned that TTG wanted to be identified as a trusted guide—working in tandem with every client. This information led us to design a logo that represents the TTG journey to success with a gradually ascending spiral stair.
The brand we developed for TTG was based on the company as a whole, not the personality of its founder (though he is a pretty cool dude). We find that this confusion often happens when owners of a company have difficulty separating their personal characteristics from their company’s characteristics—especially when they believe they “are” their brand.
Imagine, for example, I am having a discovery meeting with Mr. Walt Disney and ask him, “Walt, if your brand were an ice cream flavor, which would it be?” Although his personal preference in ice cream might be vanilla, he shouldn’t use that as his answer. The Disney brand is the furthest thing from vanilla (which would imply his brand is down-to-earth and conventional); therefore, a more appropriate answer would be cotton candy-flavored ice cream (which would imply his brand is cheerful and different).
Although you and your brand may have similar characteristics, it’s important to understand that your brand isn’t you. It is a standalone identity with core values, philosophies and (hopefully) loyal patrons. This means that throughout the discovery phase you and your team need to constantly keep in mind the goals of your company and the feeling you want to communicate to your audience. These feelings can easily translate into strong relationships that keep your customers intimately connected to your brand—they start to see your brand as an entity that says something about them. They admire you (crucial for B2B brands—professionals want to buy from someone they respect).
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that even though you may admire a brand like Apple or Target—your brand isn’t Apple or Target. Trying to replicate a successful brand’s image won’t do your brand any good, especially if that image has no correlation with your services, products or company methodology.
By having a clear vision of what your brand should represent, the creative elements (tagline, logos, advertising) we develop will be more successful in supporting those ideals—allowing your company to shine as a true brand.