Developing your brand: internal knowledge or external expertise?
A brand is a lens through which the world sees a business. Part physical, part associative, it embodies what the organisation stands for, what it does and how it does it. It’s the personality, style, values and image of your business. If you want to be taken seriously in your marketplace a robust brand isn’t just important, it’s absolutely critical.
That’s why if you need a brand created from scratch or refreshed, it pays to pull in expert help. Even if you’re one of the few people with the right creative skills, an external expert perspective is essential to get the job done well.
There are thousands of marketing agencies out there with sharpened pencils, ready to craft shiny new identities. Most won’t match your expectations in terms of scale, capability, experience or personality. Many will want to charge a small (or maybe not so small) fortune. A few will be just right, but to get the best results at a reasonable price it helps to have a good understanding of what’s involved so that you can prepare and input effectively to the process.
So, external expertise may be vital, but you can make an enormous difference yourself. Here’s how:
- Get under the skin of your brand. Pinpoint your business’s strengths, attributes and uniqueness: these will form the wireframe of your brand. Express them as a set of brand values: words or ideas that describe the fundamental, unchanging beliefs of your business. Boil down your proposition to a short and snappy statement. Distil it still further to an essential one-liner: simple is beautiful.
- Select a good partner. There’s a huge choice of willing agencies out there, but none will be right for every business. Look for sector experience, and people who understand marketing as well as design. Set a realistic budget and prepare to share all your secrets: a good agency will ask difficult questions!
- Identify your customer types. Imagine your customers as real people, not just names on a spreadsheet. Create personas for them and describe their pains and needs. Find out what media they consume, what kind of content they like and how they like to buy. Make your brand attractive to them so it makes it easy to find you and purchase.
- Scope the marketplace. Pinpoint where your brand competes for mindshare and market-share. What does the market look like now and how is it changing? What are your arch rivals up to? What can you learn from them? Position your brand so it stands out from the crowd of competitors.
- Make your brand future-friendly. Your brand will need to be fit for purpose now and in years to come. Try to anticipate changes in your business or the wider market in the coming months and years. Will you be entering new sectors or geographies? Why incur the expense of tweaking your brand time after time when you can future-proof now by planning ahead?
- Consistency time after time after time. Consistency in your brand’s appearance, tone of voice, messaging and imagery reinforces its meaning over time and makes it easier to recall. Apply simple rules and stick to them.
- Manage your brand tightly. Draw up written guidelines that enshrine your brand and document how it should be used correctly. Appoint brand guardians to keep control and prevent misuse. Register trademarks where possible to protect your brand name and distinguishing designs from lookalikes and imitators.
- Canvas opinion. Creativity is a subjective beast so test your ideas on friends, colleagues or trusted customers. You don’t have to resort to expensive focus groups to see how people respond differently to your prototype brand. Don’t be afraid to be challenged.
- Adapt and evolve. The law of the jungle dictates the fittest survive by adapting successfully. Don’t preserve your brand in formaldehyde: allow it to grow over time. Keep it fresh and relevant.
- And finally, live the brand. Your brand and your business should be symbiotic. Keep your people onside with your brand’s values and the behaviours they engender. Without the support of your employees your brand is just a hollow promise. So help them to live it and love it.
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