Are you heading in the wrong brand direction?
WITH SO MANY LOCAL PRINTERS, FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNERS AND DESIGN COMPETITIONS PLATFORMS LIKE 99DESIGNS.COM OFFERING BRANDING, OR $5 LOGO DESIGNS AVAILABLE AT DISCOUNT SITES LIKE FIVERR.COM, I WANTED TO SPEND A MOMENT TO CLARIFY THE DIFFERENCE AND THE VALUE THEY OFFER TO SMALL AND MEDIUM BUSINESSES.
These definitions are not what you will read in a text book. These are my jargon-free straight talk ‘street definitions’ from working alongside thousands of different business owners helping them build their brand over the last 12 years.
Most clients come with a logo from one of the sources mentioned above, and usually I am able to tell if they had a logo made from an online discount marketplace, local graphic designer, or from a creative agency.
So, let’s dive in and explore a few key ‘working definitions’ to give you, the business owner, a clearer understanding of who offers what and what factors to consider when it’s time for you to freshen up your brand.
A brand is the market’s opinion of your company. How they ‘feel’ about your business and what they ‘expect’ when they deal with it. The key here to be aware of is that it is outside of your direct control.
This is the business’ efforts to influence the market’s opinion of their brand. It could also be just
to increase awareness or it could be to make them be seen as the most innovative business in their industry, etc.
Sometimes called strategic direction, brand strategy spends time looking at the most effective brand position a business should take. Why did VB start saying they are the, ‘Beer for a hard earned thirst’? Who suggested Microsoft Surface Pro change their message from, ‘We are better than iPad’ to ‘We are the only tablet that can replace your laptop’?
When you speak to a graphic designer, they will in most cases be asking for the strategic direction you want to take your brand. They will be asking ‘who’ do you want to be seen as in your market place, but will seldom ask why. They bring the visual creative to your idea. In many cases simply making your idea look good, they hold the paintbrush and you guide it.
Platforms like 99designs.com and DesignCrowd.com will offer a similar service to a graphic designer, but will typically spend no time getting to know your business, simply taking all the direction from you and your feedback. The quality of the design will vary depending largely on the budget you set.
The most expensive mistake I see is when a business owner decides to do the strategic branding themselves. Typically really great at what they do, in terms of delivering their company’s product or service, they decide that they are also an expert in creating a brand that really speaks to their marketplace. They spend very little, or usually no time at all in research to find evidence that the brand direction will appeal to their potential clients, only to throw thousands, if not, tens of thousands of dollars into marketing to promote their new brand with dismal returns and then turn around and say that their marketing is not working.
To add clarity to all this, I like to use the example of hosting a fancy dress party.
Imagine that you plan to host a party to attract all of your neighbours. Without spending any time to consider the likes and dislikes of your guests, you decide that the theme for your party will be to dress up as your favourite American presidents from the 1600s.
Regardless of how great your graphic designer is and how amazing the invitation looks, you could spend thousands of dollars on radio ads, letterbox drop flyers and Facebook campaigns, but I doubt that your party will attract many guests.
Conversely, rather than just guess what your guests will want, you hire a brand strategist to look at what your neighbours are interested in, they make some calls and ask them, they look into all the recent dress up parties to see if any themes have been overdone to gauge if there is still interest in them and the level of competition for a particular party theme and determine, through evidence and research, a dress up theme that not only excites your neighbours but also appeals to a longing part of their inner child that they can’t wait for your event – a pirate theme!
Now you go out and get a designer to create your invitations, but they easily know from the brand strategist’s brief what is required visually to support the theme. You send out your invitations with a notice of limited guest available and the RSVPs come flooding in!
Take the time to find out how your brand is being perceived in your marketplace. Look at what other ‘brand personalities’ exist in your category and see which of them are getting tracking with their marketing and which ones are struggling and find out why.
Getting your brand direction right will save you potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years,
so ask an expert and get it right.