We live in a world where consumers have everything they need, at the touch of a fingertip. Ease is everything and everybody has competitors, so how do you stand out? Well, it’s our belief you find your place in the world. Then you own it.
It’s more than just a quirky name or pretty logo, brand strategy is the key to carrying meaning that can be felt and resonated with across everything you do… It’s the way you behave, the reason you exist and your look & feel rolled into one. It’s how a business or organisation defines and articulates its offering to its target audience in the broadest, yet most succinct way possible. It’s basically everything, in one.
Like a really, really full burrito. Mmm, burritos.
So, anyway, defining and articulating your business’s offering for your target audience in this way is a hugely valuable exercise in its own right, even if you never go on to communicate it externally through advertising at all. Sounds weird, but isn’t.
Here’s why – the process of branding requires all key business stakeholders to consider, discuss and agree what their business is really all about. Most larger businesses already have some key brand strategy documents in place such as a Mission Statement or a set of Company Values but many small to medium sized businesses do not. Having a clear, audience-focused definition of what your business is all about sounds obvious and relatively easy, right? But take it from us; it’s surprising just how often we uncover drastically different points of view at a senior level when we undertake branding work.
Gaining internal alignment on what your business really offers your target audience is invaluable, and having it written down (and visually and verbally expressed) is even better. Internal branding documentation can guide and shape a number of business decisions from new product development, to website UX design, pricing, and of course, advertising strategy. Branding helps a business say yes quickly and easily to the things that will make it stronger, and no to the things that will take it off in random, confusing directions (usually wasting time, money and employee support).
Externally, branding can be the difference between business obscurity and business stardom. When a brand has a clear consumer-facing articulation of what it stands for and offers, their target audience can very quickly decide if the offer is for them or not. Most consumers don’t have time to weigh up all the options along with their pros and cons, so making your offer clear, succinct and compelling makes their life about a bazillion times easier. If it’s not clear what you offer (and how you are different/better to your competitors) then your audience will simply walk on by. Unfortunate.
Clear branding, repeated over and over again (in however many different placements, formats and media channels) makes your business easy to recognise and ensures every single penny you put into advertising and marketing (including signage, livery and packaging) builds towards the same thought in your audience’s mind. This helps them remember you with clarity and even think of you first the next time they need to make a purchase in your category.
So back to our original question – ‘why is it important?’ Does helping your target audience remember you and think of you first (above your competition) when they have a purchase to make sound important? Aye, us too!
Often, the best time to undertake branding work is when a business is starting to transform from being a small, entrepreneurial start-up, to a small-to-mid sized business. This usually coincides with hiring new staff, which makes it a great time to get clear on what your business is all about, because you’re going to need to start explaining it to your new hires and empowering them to consistently plan and implement activity, themselves.
Another great time for fresh branding is when your business is considering making any sizeable investments in external, consumer-facing activity; this could be new signage, product packaging, a new website or any consumer marketing and advertising. If you don’t have your brand clear at this point, then you run the risk of your investments being disparate and disconnected. With no clear brand running throughout, each investment will be working on its own, rather than pulling together.
Finally, branding can also be really useful when a business wants to start taking a new direction and/or launch a sub-business or sub-brand. With any new business endeavour like this, it’s always a good idea to get clear on what it is, who it’s for and what it offers them (vs your current offer or brand).
It’s usually best to get an external agency in to do your branding work at these times and not least because you’ll usually have your hands busy with hiring staff, building a website or developing a new product line…
More importantly, an external agency will be able to look at your brand a step removed and through the lens of your target audience. An agency can be ruthlessly truthful in a way that business owners find it hard to do so, and they can also dedicate specialist people and resources to your branding project; bringing invaluable expertise and insight that you may not have access to otherwise. Crucially, agencies are also pretty handy at sticking to a budget and setting strategised timelines – branding projects have a habit of dragging out when they’re managed internally by someone who already has a hundred other jobs to do. Naturally.
Just like the above, lots of questions are to be expected! At its core, branding work should include a discovery and strategy stage, then a subsequent design and visual identity stage.
In brand discovery and strategy, an agency will interrogate your business, your offer, target audience, competition and the trends at play in the category you operate in. Armed with this insight, an agency can develop a brand positioning statement, brand purpose and mission, manifesto, key messaging, brand values and tone of voice.
Depending on the size of the business, level of detail required and timescales, this can take weeks, months or even years. Primary research is often used throughout these stages to really get under the skin of target audiences and also sense-check final brand strategy documentation before it is progressed.
Next up are the brand design and visual identity stages; here, an agency will specifically research the visual aspects of your brand, your category and your competitors. From this research, brand stylescapes are created, which lay out broad-brush ideas for what your brand could look like (things like colour palettes, graphical elements, photography style). These are then refined and built upon to land on final logos, iconography, colours, fonts and imagery and ultimately, all these aspects are tied up with usage instructions in a brand guidelines or system document.
Again, primary research is often used to sense-check the final look and feel before it goes live. You wouldn’t put a bright florescent orange and green jacket on without sense-checking it in the mirror first. Would you?
At S3, we’re all about helping the little bite big, branding and brand strategy are absolutely pivotal to this. A clear brand strategy is what can transform even the smallest business; helping them overachieve and reach their potential (and then some!). It’s a vision, direction and identity that provides the rocket fuel for exponential business growth.
At S3 we have a mass of insight and research tools at our fingertips, which let us quickly get up to speed on any market and audience group, and we’re agile so we can adapt to whatever scale and timeline a client needs.
We use our S3 Play to your Strengths methodology to make sure that as we devise your branding, we always put your business’s Natural Strength at its very core – this way we will always build your brand on a rock-solid foundation that has genuine integrity. There’s nothing worse than branding that’s totally detached from your actual business; consumers will sniff it out a mile away. Like sharks and a finger prick.
As a full-service agency, you’ll also benefit from our branding team being able to lean on the expertise of rest of the agency. This might sound simple, but it lets us check that your brand essence can be readily understood by a creative team when briefing in a TV ad for example. The same way, we can also make sure your branding assets can be turned into animation with ease. As opposed to some specialist branding agencies, any branding we do at S3 will always be usable and practical; we won’t disappear into endless theories or long-winded philosophies. We produce what you actually need! Refreshing.
If you’re thinking about branding, it sounds like you might be on the verge of something pretty special.
It doesn’t really matter what stage you’re at, but if it’s business expansion or making a big splash into a new scene; it might be good to think about how you’ll then advertise your brand (i.e. advertising strategy, campaign creative, Media Planning and Buying, or even PR/social). You might want to start applying your new branding to your website, packaging or signage, and for that you’ll likely need design, production and digital involved too.
Sound interesting? Wanna find out more? Zoom and a coffee? Too many questions?
Give us a shout! You know what to do.Contact Us