One of the first questions that we ask clients when we speak to them is to define their brand. While some clients can talk (and talk) about what their brand means to them, what the product does, why the service is needed, how people will feel when dealing with the company it is much harder to narrow that down in a clear and concise manner.
Obviously, that is our task as a branding agency, to be able to effectively pinpoint unique attributes of a company, product or service and use that to create a brand name or develop a long and, ultimately, create, develop and build a brand. It is nevertheless an important question to ask.
The reason why we ask clients to define their brand even though we know we might not get a straight or clear answer is to help both us (and them) understand their brands better. The phrase ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ springs to mind when it comes to clients and their own brands in the sense that they become so involved in their own company or business they can easily forget about their brand.
What we achieve by asking a client to define their brand is an open dialogue which, whether we are building a brand from scratch or rebranding an existing business, allows us to begin to get into a brand’s bare bones and begin to answer the ‘define your brand’ question.
That is part of the process of working with a brand agency and while all agencies will have different methods they all will need to know your brand and your own definition of it too in order to be able to deliver whatever tasks may lie ahead for your brand.
It is also a good exercise for businesses large, small or just starting out to help establish a clear path for your brand by really establishing who the brand is (therefore personifying it) rather than just what it does.
There are a number of techniques you can use to help with this brand definition, all of which we use ourselves.
The ‘all words on’ method
We call it the ‘all words on’ method because it is literally just that. We ask clients to write all the words they can think of about their brand on a piece of paper. Make sure the paper is fairly large so the mind can wander and there is enough space to get down all your thoughts. Then write. It helps to keep the time down to a few minutes, five maximum in order to have a defined time frame for the exercise.
Afterwards, you should have a lot of words, phrases and even doodles on a piece of paper. If you are a team of founders or a management team take a look at what your colleagues have written. Often there is a degree of disparity, even between founding members, of what their business and brand actually are. We help to sift through this conflict and get to the bottom of a brand in order to help facilitate a successful re-branding or initial branding phase.
The Questionnaire Method
This method words well for larger businesses or enterprises but works just as well for smaller businesses and startups too. If you are struggling to define your brand ask some questions, write down important questions that you should really know like your target market, ideal customer, what your business is good at, bad at (this exercise also helps narrow down business strengths and weaknesses) etc.
What this exercise does is to give more structured answers to brands. It helps you as a boss or a team know what your colleagues are thinking and you can highlight areas that require more focus as well as being able to see clear brand pathways.
This method is useful if a client has a pretty clear idea of who they are as a brand and allows us to make the necessary tweaks accordingly when building the brand. From an employer’s perspective, it is a good way of knowing your employee’s thoughts on the brand and see whether they ‘get’ it. And if no-one ‘gets’ it, then you might not be delivering you brand ideals to your staff in a coherent manner.
The Compare and Contrast Method
Many people can easily answer what their favourite colour is but answering exactly ‘why’ it is is another question entirely. If red is your favourite colour then Why not blue? Why not green? This method takes a brand’s direct competitors and asks you to define them, who they are and what they do. Then you can compare them in the context of your own brand. Green and Blue symbolise tranquillity while red symbolises passion! Seeing your brand in the context of others is a good way to define or re-define your USPs as well as clarify brand direct and establish yourself as a truly different player in the industry or marketplace you operate in.
Many methods more
There are, of course, many more methods to defining your brand. Some clients can easily chat about their brand and define keywords or characteristics about their brand while for others it is more difficult. Employing a range of different methods or mixtures of methods is a good way to go when it comes to defining your brand. And, if you’re stuck, we’re always happy to help build good businesses into great brands.