(In this post, Sitegeist is proud to welcome our friend and guest blogger, Chuck Kent who will continue our series ‘branding on the cheap…’. Chuck is President and Creative Director of Creative on Call, Inc., and author of the branding blog, Copyklatsch.)
Would you build a house without a foundation? Many of the companies I work with, both large and small, feel they cannot afford the time or money it takes to do the quantitative and qualitative market research ideally utilized to create a well-informed foundation for brand building (What problems does the marketplace have which your product/service solves? What are the operative rational and emotional needs to be served? How does your brand meet those needs relative to the competition? And so on.) Nonetheless, creating a solid foundation – a reliable brand platform – is absolutely essential to developing a meaningful brand. Do you want a brand that’s flat, or fully-dimensional?I always encourage clients to at least do what I call the express version of “3D brand positioning,” which accommodates, in streamlined form, the three essentials of our 3D brand positioning process:
- DISCOVER the attitudes and needs of all parties involved
- DEFINE the brand essence
- DEVELOP a differentiating positioning statement and master communications strategy
Whomever you hire to create your brand identity may well have someone on their team to lead this process. If not, hire a strategic or creative consultant to come in and provide objective, independent guidance as you look to:1. DISCOVER
- Review competitive marketing materials and content
- Assess your existing marketing research, materials and content
- Interview key customers: ideally at least 10-12 in 30 – 60 minute phone calls, which they should ask permission to record
- Interview key non-marketing staff (e.g., when creating a brand positioning and identity for a division of Motorola, we first interviewed all of the engineers on the project). This is particularly important if you do not have any fresh research.
- Lead your core, cross-discipline management team in projective exercises to ferret out the real brand stewards’ sense of the brand’s key elements – not just features, but also personality, voice and combined rational/emotional benefits. (HINT: Start the sessions by handing out pads and pencils; ask all attending to answer this question by writing one brief sentence “What business are you in?” You’ll be surprised at the range of descriptions, reactions and discussion it will engender.)
2. DEFINE. Based on what’s learned in the steps above, your consultant should be able to create a “brand map,” defining the key elements that shape the brand, including the brand’s products/services, organization, personality, symbols, essential benefits and core brand value to its end users.3.DEVELOP. At this point your consultant should create two written statements for on-going guidance of all marketing efforts, internal and external:
- Brand positioning statement:a concise, highly-focused, big picture statement of what key, differentiating benefit the brand provides to users – your brand’s simple truth. This sentence (and please discipline yourselves to keep it to one concise sentence, free of jargon) should be as competitively unique as possible.
- Master communications strategy:a document to guide and unify all identity work and communications, defining the overall business objective, common communications objective, audience description (demographics and attitudes), core benefits (both rational and emotional) and key considerations for creative executions (tone/voice, look, etc.). Make this document as brief as possible – I use a one page “Short Form Creative Strategy”
Are there more thorough processes available for effective brand positioning? Certainly – and much more expensive ones, too (OK, so part of me misses the big-budget days when I’d traipse around the country with a team of people for a dozen or more focus groups at a time for the likes of GE, etc. ) My real point is that building a successful, lasting brand depends on first creating a reliable strategic foundation – and there are ways to do that on almost any budget.