What are the Steps in the Branding Process?
As a strategist and graphic designer who have worked with over 100 small businesses, Bianca and Mara have decided to share their best advice for solopreneurs in these bi-weekly episodes. In the third episode of Sunbird Brand Bites, Mara and Bianca break down the steps in the branding process. Here are some of the highlights:
Some general branding advice for you:
There is no branding “formula.”
Before getting into the actual steps, Bianca makes sure she lets our listeners know that there is no specific branding formula. It isn’t really something that’s taught in schools. She explains branding “is really more of an art than a science.” This is why there are so many different approaches to branding.
Branding is unique to you.
Mara says that branding is “so much informed by your worldview, how you see people, and how you understand business.” It’s also different depending on the size of your business. Big businesses and small businesses won’t brand the same. They have different goals, missions, and budgets.
You are merely co-creating your brand with the world.
Sure, you put all the work into creating your unique brand identity, but Bianca explains “it’s really not fully finished yet because you have to share it to make it real. Some people do even say that brands exist only in the minds of the customer.” This is because what other people have to say about you—your reputation—influences your brand just as much as all the work you put in. You can’t guarantee that someone (even your ideal customer) will love your brand. But you can make it much more likely by creating a high-quality product, providing great customer service, and presenting a clear message. By being thoughtful about the customer experience, you’re directly influencing the way your brand is talked about out in the real world.
It’s a lot easier if you don’t do it on your own.
Mara and Bianca have met never anyone who was able to conquer all the steps of branding on their own. It can get overwhelming. Bianca explains that this is because “you’re missing that outside perspective.” It can be very helpful to have a consultation with a branding professional. Hearing what they have to say can give you insight into things you’ve never thought about before.
Common branding approaches:
The Intuitive Entrepreneur Approach
The intuitive entrepreneur is brave and confident enough to take on all their branding on their own. They usually have a good sense of what their business and brand stands for, so it makes sense to try out the process on their own. But Mara says the problem with this approach is that, “you really quite frequently feel the limitations.” This is because you don’t have that outside perspective to see what your brand looks like “from the other side.”
The Traditional Marketing Approach
This is when marketing professionals are attempting to approach branding as if they were executing a marketing strategy. They’re thinking a lot about numbers and how to reach sales goals with their branding. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not what branding’s all about. Mara and Bianca both agree that this approach doesn’t focus on the bigger picture. They’re not truly “nurturing their customer base long-term.” Bianca finds this approach “hard to connect with as a consumer.”
The Designer Approach
Mara confesses that, “in those early days before I was able to think outside of a designer, to me it was just all about the visual results.” She wasn’t thinking about the actual brand strategy, so she would often have to go back and fix the brand guidelines she had created when new information about the business would come to light (such as the preferences of the target audience or problems with the brand name).
The Copywriter/Strategist Approach
Bianca explains that as a copywriter and strategist, “you create a very deep, meaningful idea. But trying to get people’s attention quickly and keep it” can get pretty difficult if you’re not thinking about style and design. You tend to forget that people’s visual experience with a brand is just as important. Visuals create an immediate emotional impression, giving key information about what kind of person the message is for and where to look first. Language takes advantage of the attention the visual has grabbed, driving the message home.
The Sunbird Steps:
1. Figure out your brand strategy.
This comes from asking both the client and the internet the right questions. Bianca creates a business’s brand strategy through three specific groups of information.
Reflections on the business owner’s own purpose, passion, and mission.
Research on their competitors.
Defining their target market through questioning the client and market research.
These three groups work together, as Bianca says, to help “you understand how you’re bringing value to a specific group of people, and how that value is not possible any other way.” That’s the foundation of your brand identity.
2. Decide on a brand name.
After you’ve developed that detailed brand strategy and you’re confident in exactly what your business and brand stands for, you can give it a name that does it justice. Although Bianca acknowledges that most people have a business name way before even starting the branding journey. She advises only changing the preexisting name if it really conflicts with the brand strategy you just created. What matters most is that your brand name “evokes the kind of feelings you want in your target market.”
3. Create your brand guidelines.
Bianca explains brand guidelines as “a rulebook for the world that your brand lives in.” It involves your Style Guide (including logo, fonts, and colors) your messaging guidelines, your voice guidelines, and everything else that is foundational to your brand. Mara explains that this part, when effectively combined with your strategy, helps you create an “emotional connection” with your audience.
4. Share your brand with the world.
Before this step, your brand only exists to you. But your brand isn’t for you, it’s for your customers. So share your hard work with them. Let them be impressed by your story, your message, and your visuals. They are the ones who are going to strengthen your brand and spread the word.