The Stages of Branding: A complete Brand Building guide

Stages of Branding
“A Creation begins with thinking out of the chaos, not the box.” 
What is Branding?

Branding is a creative, collaborative process, and brand experiences are carefully and intelligently birthed and grown. A brand is much more than a name, a logo, and a color palette. It is synchronicity between your brand strategy, brand message and brand appearance that align consumer perception with what you want your brand to represent.

Why is Branding necessary?

If you want to build a business that extends beyond the basic products and services that you offer, you need a strong brand. Branding provides your business with the foundation for your unique “voice” in every form of communication, from television commercials, print ads and digital marketing to in-store signage, social media platforms … even the way you answer your phone. Proper branding allows you to position your brand to reach your desired target market and resonate with your audience. It differentiates your business from millions of others and makes it instantly recognizable.

Consistent branding builds a long-term relationship with your customers, encouraging brand loyalty and repeat business. Every website, radio ad, social media profile or tweet directly impact your business’s bottom line. If these things have the power to sell a product or service, then failing to brand them properly is self-destructive.

When potential customers consider purchasing a product or service, they think of the brand that left the biggest impression on them. It’s what is known as being on top of the mental shopping list. Sometimes, it’s accomplished simply by spending the most on advertising. But here in India, that’s usually not an option. We must create a brand that is strong, compelling and works harder than brands that can outspend us. A brand that resonates with us is trustworthy and delivers on its promise is the key. That’s why you buy Coke® instead of another cola. And it’s why you call a dishwasher soap Vim®.

What is the right time to get serious about Branding?

If you’re in an organization that holds to the adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, then your brand is already doomed to the slush pile. In an era where the speed of innovation is faster than anyone company can keep up with, the right time to position brands is seldom obvious. How you position your brand is less important than When you position your brand. Every brand has a cycle of development, growth, and decline. Every brand lives in an ever-changing and unforgiving marketplace. Brands live in a constant cycle of stable states to unstable states. Sometimes it’s just not obvious to brand owners where they’re at in the competitive life cycle of their brand. It is in the periods between stability and instability that branding is most possible and necessary.

How long does Branding take: The Stages of Branding
Laying the groundwork

Whether you are launching a new business, product or service, or rebranding an existing one, clarity is the key factor for success. Clarity creates interest, grabs attention, and calls for action. Both your clients and employees will better understand and respond to your mission and purpose. Gaining that clarity requires insight and understanding into what truly drives your business. (And it’s not your products and services!) We call it finding your pivot point.” Once you know it, you can build your brand around it, create a following, command a premium. Then life becomes more enjoyable. People around you, customers, staff, vendors, begin to “get it.” When you are clear, everyone else gets clear, and you find yourself in a different space… no longer battling the competition, but leading your company in new and innovative directions. Once you identify the key stakeholders for your branding process and determine your project budget, it’s time to dive in.

1. Gather – Collect the background info

The branding process begins with a meeting of the key stakeholders. This is where a client tells us where the brand stands now in the market. You may have some ideas and thoughts already formulated. There might be names that you loved but couldn’t use for various reasons (i.e. trademark conflict, the domain was taken, etc.) Or you may just be at a complete dead end, wasting too much valuable staff time. In this meeting, we discuss the recommended timelines and milestones. You can also forward powerpoint presentations, creative briefs, business plans and any other supporting documentation that would help explain and convey your marketing objectives. At this point, we’re here to listen, gather, and ask lots of questions.

2. Analyze – Determining the pivot point

Rather than jumping to a competitive analysis of others in your industry, we first question what industry you are in. Sounds obvious, but it isn’t. Before branding a company, product or service, we dig deeper to determine the end benefit, the true value proposition, so that the branding remains anchored, relevant and timeless. We call this “finding your pivot point,” or that central theme that resonates throughout everything you do. And it’s typically not your products and services. It usually lies in how you deliver those products and services. We work to make sure your brand identity is properly aligned with your company’s core strengths. That way, when your industry goes through cycles, you don’t necessarily suffer the fate of that cycle. It’s not just strategic, it’s brilliant.

3. Specify – Writing a creative brief

Now that you know your pivot point, your central theme and mission in life, how do you want to convey that message? Do you want to sound bold and innovative or tried and true? Do you want to engage and excite or educate and inform? What is the personality/temperament of your brand and how do you want it to be perceived? Who is your primary and secondary target market? What type of messaging will most appeal to them? We’ll ask these questions and summarize them in a document for your team to share and discuss. This will help further guide the naming process.

4. Prioritize – Creating the brand criteria

To keep the process on track, we work with you to prioritize which items in the brand strategy are most important and deserve the most consideration. Is it the overall sound and feel of the name? Is it the meaning behind the name? Is it the need to be unique? Or have an exact matching .com domain name? Typically there are several drivers in the branding process, but without identifying them, and prioritizing them, the least important factors can inadvertently take precedence over everything else. By agreeing early on that the brand must communicate x, y, and z, it puts the emphasis where it belongs and avoids the tendency to use individual subjectivity as the basis for judgment. This is especially important where group consensus is involved.

5. Ideate – Concepting and developing brand identities

Once we know what business you are truly in and what message you want to convey, we look at how best to convey that message. There are several branding strategies, each with their pluses and minuses. You may want to start with a blank slate, something you can own, so we would explore invented or “empty vessel” brand names while working with you to determine which branding strategies best suit your needs. Then, we go to work to find those names. We search through hundreds, (and often thousands,) of potential brand names to find that ones that best reflect your pivot point and brand message while meeting your brand criteria (i.e. ease of spelling, pronunciation, available trademark, etc.) Once we have a set of 12 to 15 names that meet these objectives, we share a document with you and your team and arrange a time to review. Each potential brand name comes with two to three matching tag lines, a rationale statement detailing how the name could be used to further support and position you in your market, the status of the domain name (i.e. available, parked, for sale, or secured on your behalf) and a preliminary check on the IPI database.

6. Refine – Reviewing and refining

It’s often in the discussion of the brand names that the team gets the “ah-ha!” moment. Someone will share a new twist or insight that transforms a good name to a great one. Or one name sparks a train of thought that leads to other possibilities. That’s the purpose of this process, to help find and define the essence of the brand. Once in a while, a name will pop right out, but more often, one or two of the names begin to rise to the top and make more sense with each discussion. The “story” behind the brand will begin to emerge and the name will gain traction.

7. Select – Selecting the winning name

Typically it requires one to three “rounds” of names to find the right candidate. And often the name will be from the first list, simply because it requires contrast and comparison to see the value in a name. Some of our best and brightest brand names were initially passed over in the early stages of the process, only to be revisited again and again. This is where it helps to air out each idea… how will the name be used, where will it be seen, how will it be used in a sentence, does it have “verb potential,” etc. There are usually several names that will meet the branding criteria, and then it’s a matter of choosing the one that feels the most fitting and comfortable.

Based on the specifics of the project, we can also provide comprehensive trademark research, name validation testing, and linguistic evaluation to further assist you in your decision.

8. Develop – Developing the marketing platform

Rather than stopping with a name, tag line, logo and domain name, we’ll work with you to develop a marketing “lexicon” or language set to further enhance and support your brand message. By developing this language set, you will be able to create a more meaningful and congruent brand message, one that highlights your core strengths. This gives your brand message more substance and makes it more engaging and believable. It also helps when it comes time to write headlines, ad copy, and web content.

9. Visualize – creating the corporate identity/logo

Once we have the name, tag line, and domain name, we work with you to create a matching logo identity (if that was part of the package.) We’ll ask you for examples of logos that you admire in other industries, and we’ll help determine the best logo treatment to reflect your overall brand message. We’ll provide three to five logos per round, and gather feedback on which one(s) you like best. From there we fine-tune the logo designs until we have one that compliments your brand name. For some clients, it’s all about creating something “eye-popping” and highly visual. For others, it might be more important to communicate trust and credibility. So we tailor the logo to match the specifics of each assignment.

10. Finalize – Finalizing and transferring all branding elements

Once the logo is approved, we then forward all the files in various formats for use in printing, web design and signage. We’ll also specify the logo font type and the specific PMS colors for future reference. We then transfer over the domain name and provide all necessary information for immediate access. At this point, you are good to go. You will have all the basics you need for a brilliant brand.

Are you looking for your business to gain online awareness? We’re here to help.

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