In uncertain times, it can be hard to know where to invest your budget. One place to do so that you might not be thinking about? Your company’s brand.
A brand is not just a logo; it’s a full identity system comprising a number of core elements that span messaging, creative, and internal and external communications. Successful companies know that brand value does not stop at marketing; from HR to Product, IT to Sales, all departments of a company benefit from a solid brand strategy.
What exactly does a strong brand look like? Take a look at the sustainable footwear company, AllBirds, as a model. From the company’s homepage to their social presence, there’s no confusion about AllBirds’s mission of providing sustainable footwear. You can see sustainability in their natural imagery, their chosen color palette, their consistent imagery and tone, and their storytelling about their sustainability initiatives. They are sustainable footwear. That level of clarity around brand storytelling drives profit.
When companies invest in their brand strategy, it helps build trust and loyalty with their clients, increases recognition, helps to differentiate them from their competition, and helps to attract and retain employees.
Typically, we recommend doing a full brand refresh every 3 years at a minimum. In the meantime, brand audits and brand workshops are a great middle way and the first step towards larger brand refreshes in the future, especially when creative support and brand management are not in-house. In fact, audits and workshops are effective at determining when that larger brand refresh should happen. They also help to identify how to evolve the brand identity, positioning, and storytelling in smaller but important ways.
What is a Brand Workshop?
Brand workshops are interactive sessions that bring together a group of people, usually from within an organization, to define, refine, or evolve their brand. Through brand strategy workshop exercises, brand personality workshops, and brand storytelling workshops, organizations gain a deeper understanding of their brand and its values, and learn how to communicate those values effectively to their target audience.
During a brand workshop, participants are typically guided through a series of exercises and discussions that explore various aspects of their brand, such as its mission, vision, values, and unique selling proposition. The workshop facilitator may also help the group to identify their target audience, the brand’s personality and voice, and the key messages that they want to convey.
Brand workshops are often used to develop new brands, but they can also be used to refresh or reposition existing ones. The goal is to create a unified, cohesive brand that resonates with customers and effectively communicates the organization’s values and mission.
Overall, brand workshops can be a valuable tool for organizations that are looking to build a strong brand identity and improve their marketing efforts. By involving key stakeholders in the brand development process, organizations can ensure that everyone is aligned and working toward a common goal, leading to a more effective and successful brand.
What is a Brand Audit?
A brand audit is a process of evaluating a company’s brand and its position in the market. The brand audit process involves examining all aspects of a company’s branding, including its logo, visual identity, messaging, and overall brand strategy. The goal of the brand audit framework is to identify areas where the brand is strong and areas where it could be improved.
During a brand audit, a company will typically analyze its target audience and how they perceive the brand. They will also evaluate their competitors’ branding strategies to see how they compare. The results of the audit can then be used to make informed decisions about how to improve the brand, including updating the logo or visual identity, refining the messaging and brand positioning, or developing new marketing strategies.
Overall, a brand audit is a valuable tool for companies looking to strengthen their brand and improve their market position. It allows them to identify their strengths and weaknesses and make data-driven decisions to enhance their brand’s overall impact and effectiveness.
Why invest in a brand workshop or brand audit?
Strong brands attract other strong brands
Strong branding opens the door to brand partnerships, which can be an excellent way to raise all ships. A classic example of a brand partnership made in heaven is the long-running GoPro and Red Bull partnership. Both have well-established brand stories around adventure and pushing the limits. With such aligned missions, it feels almost inevitable that they’d partner to fuel each other’s success. But that partnership could only happen thanks to the clarity of their missions and storytelling.
The cost of not investing in your brand
Brand is at the heart of what a company is. Not investing in your brand story diffuses your mission in the minds of customers, making it difficult to understand what you do or how it’s different from what more established or competitor brands do.
And if your customers’ perception of your brand is different than what you intended, or something you don’t have visibility into at all, that makes it less likely for them to engage, because your messaging will be missing their core pain points. It also makes it more difficult to acquire or retain them. Customer loyalty, after all, comes from customers who really understand and are on board with who you are.
Not investing in your brand also creates confusion for employees, who lack clarity on what their priorities should be, let alone the mechanics of how to go about telling the story of your brand. This is where we often see employees creating their own resources to fill the vacuum. Sometimes, by the time brands turn to us for help, there are dozens of pitch decks with different messaging floating around, not to mention visual assets that look and feel entirely different from one another. This leads to an atmosphere of disunity, and even apathy — certainly not the “all-hands on deck to serve a unified mission” kind of feel that most companies strive for.
Empower your employees with clear brand guidelines and templates
The best way to mitigate all of the above is to empower employees with clear brand guidelines, which are one of the key assets produced in brand workshops and audits. These guidelines serve as a pillar for both employees and any contractors you might bring on to immediately get up to speed on the company’s branding. It also allows creative professionals to develop turn-key templates that are on-brand, professional, and mission- and message-aligned, rather than turning to hastily whipped together stopgaps. This in turn creates well-oiled operational processes to produce consistent, clear, uniform customer perception of a universal brand experience that they can trust to be the same wherever they engage with it.
Need an example? Just think about walking into a Starbucks… pretty much anywhere in the world. Sure, the brand is great at adding some local touches wherever they go. But whether you’re in NYC, a rural town in Texas, or in so many countries around the world, when you go into a Starbucks, it feels like a Starbucks. That kind of consistency is only accomplished by clear branding, and operational processes and resources for all employees to engage with efficiently to produce assets that shore up that brand perception.
Some examples — and counter-examples
Take a look at the companies listed in this article from Harvard Business Review on brand confusion. You probably know that Mastercard and Visa are different credit card companies, but can you really say how what they offer is different without looking at the fine print? Do you know the difference between Mobil and Shell — and do you care? How about L.L. Bean and Land’s End? Left without a clear differentiation, these companies are left to compete mostly over pricing and sales.
In contrast, look at a brand like Yeti. When Yeti first entered the market, getting people to buy $300 coolers wasn’t exactly a sure bet. But Yeti was on a mission to provide high-quality equipment to those who love the outdoors. To brand the company, the company’s founders put their own love of the outdoors front and center with imagery of the woods, lakes, rivers, and mountains. They’ve kept this story consistent throughout their social channels while adapting to each platform, featuring Yeti products in the outdoors and stories of Yeti customers that feel like outdoor documentaries. This consistency means that when you see a Yeti product, you know exactly what you’re getting. And chances are, you’ll be moved.
Yeti found its market, carved out a new niche in a staid industry, and convinced consumers to change their behavior. These days, Yeti is worth more than $1.7 billion.
Solid branding can also help businesses weather economic downturns. Come what will, come what may, fans of Costco (and believe us, they are avid) remain fans no matter which way the economic winds are blowing. Unlike other big retailers, membership fees are a solid, stabilizing profit center for the company. But to retain and grow membership means offering all-inclusive benefits, and the feeling that the company is low-cost specifically to benefit the membership, not the company itself. That’s present in the company’s wide open warehouse feel, which is reflected on its no-bells-and-whistles website. It’s a low-overhead mission and feel, and that keeps customers returning.
In the hustle and bustle of launching a company, pleasing customers, and keeping an operation afloat, it’s easy to push branding to the side. But great branding is the secret rocket fuel needed to propel a company through the stratosphere.
We’ll help you get there!