October 13, 2021

August 23, 2018

Why Start with Branding?

Strategy
Brand Identity
Popular

October 13, 2021

Why Start with Branding?

Strategy
Brand Identity
Popular
Branding is the building block of a great business. It's the foundation that guides a company's culture, its growth plan and all of its future marketing and communication efforts.

We talk a lot about branding. That’s because branding can be a building block of a great business. It’s the piece that shapes all the other pieces. It’s the foundation that guides a company’s culture, its growth plan and all of its future marketing and communications efforts.

October 13, 2021

Why Start with Branding?

Strategy
Brand Identity
Popular
Branding is the building block of a great business. It's the foundation that guides a company's culture, its growth plan and all of its future marketing and communication efforts.

We talk a lot about branding. That’s because branding can be a building block of a great business. It’s the piece that shapes all the other pieces. It’s the foundation that guides a company’s culture, its growth plan and all of its future marketing and communications efforts.

What is branding?

“Your brand isn't what you say it is. It's what they say it is.”
– Marty Neumeier

Let’s talk about what branding is.

Branding gives your business an identity, but it does so much more. After undergoing an exploratory process, it defines who a business is, identifies who its customers are. Then, it tells the story of that business in a clear and consistent way. It ensures that communication and business strategies align. It also makes those connections with consumers through thoughtfully designed creative content, giving a business more control over what people say it is.

What does it do?

The branding process gives you clarity about what you’re doing and why. It tells you who your customer is and why they should care about your business. It guides creative direction for your logo, tagline and other deliverables. And it does a lot more. Even after your initial marketing pieces have been created, this clarity and understanding of your brand will serve you throughout the life of your business. It will act as a roadmap for strategic decision making. It will guide your business over the years on a variety of decisions, like employee hiring, establishing a company culture, positioning you against your competition, goal setting and informing any communication that goes out your door. “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization.” Marty Neumeier

Why is it important?

We encourage businesses to take the time to go through a branding exercise. That’s because without a clearly defined and accurate brand, you may just be taking a shot in the dark with your marketing efforts.

That being said, it’s never too late to go through a brand exploration exercise. In fact, engaging in a branding exercise can be extremely valuable for businesses that are a few years old. After a few years in business, you will have the information you need to craft and define your brand.

Having an intentionally crafted brand gives you a guide for your marketing efforts. It gives you control over your brand and allows you to take ownership of it.

Some things you may have noticed if you haven’t been building your brand with intention:

• Inconsistent experience between different touchpoints with your customers
• Customers not understanding what you do and why you do it
• Customers don’t emotionally invest in your story
• You don’t know how to talk about/sell your business
• The people talking about you don’t have tools to talk about you (they don’t have a shareable story)

Our Process

When we meet with clients to create or define a brand, we take them through a two-step process that includes strategy and design.

Strategy:

First, we engage in brand exploration. We partner with a client so that we can thoroughly understand what they do and why it matters. This phase includes a lot of listening. We listen to our clients as they tell us about their business, themselves and their clients. They tell us about their business’s history and the future they hope to have for it. They tell us about hurdles and goals, strengths and weaknesses.

During this process, we’re not telling business owners what to do. Instead, we take what they already know about their businesses and customers and help position them to be more successful.

We use a variety of tools during this process, including personas.

Personas:

A persona is a fictional representation of an ideal customer based on information collected during the brand exploration phase. It includes information about that imagined customer, including name, age, hobbies and career.

Fork and Spoon Persona
Example of a Fork & Spoon Persona

Another step we take during the strategy process is the creation of a value proposition. This value proposition clarifies a business’s value. It defines what your brand’s value is to your customers by clearly explaining what a business does and why it does it. A value proposition is useful for targeting customers, as well as employees, suppliers and anyone you are choosing to work with. The value proposition should have the ability to influence new employees and motivate existing employees to support the business goals and plans.

During the strategy phase, we also define a business’s “X” factor, the one thing that makes your brand special and separates you from your competition. Think of this as your ace in the hole or the golden nugget that makes your business amazing.

Also during this process, we work with our clients on brand positioning. Brand positioning is a marketing strategy that determines where a brand fits in the marketplace and in the mind of the customer. This is done strategically to ensure that a brand is positioned properly from the get-go, because once a brand is positioned its very hard to reposition it without destroying its credibility. In a previous blog post, we included an example of JC Penney’s move to reposition itself and what happened.

Finally, we create a brand story for your business. This story takes all of the information from the brand strategy phase and distills it into a brief narrative that encompasses the facts and feelings about your brand.

It's not too late to create a great brand.

A strategic and carefully designed brand will create a deeper connection with your customer. It will forge a deeper understanding of your business for you, your employees, your customers and anyone else who interacts with your brand.

Branding can be done at any time during the life of a business. Existing businesses can benefit greatly from the branding exercise as a way to check in on their brand to see if it is still serving them. If a business has recently made changes, gone in a different direction or expanded, exploring the brand will tell you if your messaging is still on track.

Brand Identity Design

After we have thoroughly gone through the exploration and strategy, we move into the brand identify phase. What does this business look, sound and feel like?

During this phase, we begin creating and testing communications pieces that mirror the information we received in the first phase. Then we solidify who they are and what they look like through their brand assets.

During this process, we meet, review, get feedback and revise. We work through iterations of creative pieces with clients, providing clarity and back-and-forth communication at every step.

Some of the steps in the design process we use to steer effective design include:

Moodboards:

A moodboard is a collection of curated images, fonts and colors that capture the feeling or “mood” of a business. Before we create anything for a client (logos, taglines, etc.) we must set the tone of our creative direction. This is done through the use of moodboards.

Fork and Spoon Moodboard

Logo design:

Based on feedback from workbook and moodboards, we begin creating logo concepts in black and white. This allows us to test the weight of each concept before it eventually gets polished in a finished logo.

Fork and Spoon Logos
Fork and Spoon early logo options

Brandboards

A brandboard is like a moodboard in that it is a collection of images, fonts and colors, but it differs in that it is a more client-specific based on the information we gathered in the strategy phase. A brandboard includes logos, photos and art styles and determines the look and feel of the brand. It also includes conceptual mockups of brand materials to help clients visualize their brand options. A brandboard is our most powerful design tool because it allows us to experiment with and eventually define the brand’s visual language.

Fork and Spoon Stylescape

These are just a few of the steps in our design process that we use when creating a brand.

"Branding is the process of connecting good strategy with good creativity."
-Marty Neumeier
want to chat? give shane a ring

We’re always eager to talk branding with interested business owners.

You might also be interested in...

December 4, 2020
October 13, 2021

How to Define Your Target Market

read More
May 29, 2019
October 13, 2021

How to Launch a Rebrand

read More

About Us

Like our work, the Hardy team is an embodiment of the perfect balance of strategy and creative. We’ve cultivated a team of certified brand specialists and strategists, designers, copywriters and marketing professionals who are ferocious about helping you succeed.

learn more

Expertise

 Check out the four key areas of branding that, when they work together, empower you to own your brand, build strong bonds with your customers and crush business goals. 

learn more