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Starting with Strategy

One of the biggest mistakes a business can make is placing visual identity at the core of their brand strategy. A well designed logo, and fresh color palette may seem like the best way to renew the brand in a customer’s mind, but the true brand development begins by deeply understanding the customer.

This may sound obvious, but it’s actually quite difficult. Often times, the way a business perceives it’s own brand versus the way it’s perceived by a customer can differ greatly. This type of misalignment can be devastating for business growth and lead to wasted marketing efforts.

These 4 steps serve as a high-level overview and simplification for the brand identity development process:

1. User Profiles, Customer Empathy & Journey Maps

For businesses with a strong marketing team, the early stages of brand strategy development will come more easily. It’s in this stage where the data and market research are vital to creating a clear picture of the relationship between consumer and product (or offering).

For smaller businesses that lack the marketing infrastructure to do this initial discovery, it’s important not to gloss over the impact a proper brand strategy will have on your bottom line. (To learn more about what is involved in the brand strategy process, reach out to us here.)

Before jumping into the visual identity development, start by creating User Profiles for your target customers.

The simple question to ask: “Who is your customer?”

  • Can you describe them in detail?
  • Age, Income, & Key Demographics
  • If asked to identify them out of a crowd, could you?
  • How well do you understand their interests, habits, and behaviors?
  • How do they find your product, service, or store front?
  • What marketing channels are they using?
  • How do they respond to different media?

Customer Empathy Maps help guide the messaging, tone, voice, and feel that a brand projects. When it comes to re-branding a business or organization, it’s easiest to sample real customers and build empathy maps from their responses.

Customer Journey Maps reverse engineer the path a customer takes from product-unfamiliar to product-advocate. Understanding exactly how customers find and interact with a brand over time and across touch points will significantly improve the structure of a brand identity and all marketing efforts, saving time & money.

2. Brand Strategy: Positioning & Messaging

Now that you have a clear picture of your users, the next step is to position your brand in a way that speaks directly to this type of person. The simplest way to position a brand is by combining the value proposition and user profile into one concrete statement.

We X, for Y, with Z.

We (do, make, provide) X, for (user description) Y, with (competitive advantage, specialty, technique) Z.

The position a brand takes plots the course for the organization. The messaging correlates directly with the voice and tone by tailoring copywrite and visual media to align with the promise and fully represent the brand values.

Messaging is a broad term that covers the many ways users may hear, see, or interact with the brand. From direct advertisements, to social media content, websites, print collateral, and even customer experience.

Brand messaging is a signal that tells a user about what the brand is, what it represents, and the values, either directly or indirectly.

3. Visual Identity

The most exciting stage of a branding project is the development of a visual identity. It’s at this stage where all of the messaging, strategy, and fundamentals unite to form a powerful physical and digital representation of the brand.

The impact of individual brand identity components is often measured by the amount of touch points a user will interact with. As a result, the cost to develop these components will typically increase in relation to the level of impact, risk, and usage for an organization.

Key components of a Brand Identity may include:

  • Logo
  • Wordmark
  • Color Palette
  • Typography
  • Illustrations & Patterns
  • Print Collateral & Signage

Additional identity elements can extend into other formats as well, such as brand photography, video and motion design, website design, architecture, way finding, and much more.

A Brand Style Guide is an important tool that enables businesses to implement their brand style on their own, while maintaining consistency across media.

4. Marketing and User Experience

With a compelling identity and brand strategy now in place, it’s time develop a framework to distribute and market effectively. (More comprehensive marketing strategies can be found here and in future blog posts.)

To understand how a user will best interact with a brand across touch points, we revisit the User Profiles and Customer Empathy Map developed in the first stage.

  • What platforms are best to reach your target users?
  • What media type will resonate or best showcase the product or service? (Photography, Video, Animation, Graphics, Writing)
  • What will leave a lasting positive impact in the user’s mind?
  • How can the customer experience be tailored to fit the ideal users?

With many B2B businesses looking to rebrand and upgrade their visual presence in the market, it’s important to note that what works for D2C brands doesn’t necessarily carry over.

More on this in a future post!

If you’re curious about the fine details of developing a brand identity or are looking for a firm to help in the design processes, reach out to us.

For additional resources, or a personal connection, find me on LinkedIn here: Joshua Katowitz


About Intelligent Arts

We are a Philadelphia branding, creative, and marketing agency producing adaptive identities and visual media for purpose driven businesses. B2B is our favorite niche to work with because of the long operating history we have in the space. Yet, we direct and produce a large volume of creative work for DTC and popular brands: Commercial Product Photography, Sales Videos, Company Overview Videos, Websites, etc.

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