Why is it important for companies to invest in how their brand looks? Custom logos and corporate identities don’t come cheap. Many mid-sized companies and start-ups often wonder if the money is well spent. Because branding or rebranding efforts are often bundled with other marketing efforts, the exact results are tough to pin down and attribute. But that’s exactly how it should be.
“Businesses shouldn’t hang all their hopes for growth on a typeface,” says Sutter Group Creative Director John Cassella. He’s worked on branding events for Land Rover and Audi, which meant having to implement their “bible” of a style guide into multiple event pieces. “On the same hand, they also should avoid low-end logo design and common template usage, especially if their brand needs to convey trust or luxury.” We offer customization or uniqueness of what a brand becomes.
Perhaps educating businesses and organizations on the different types of services available for brand development, and why those costs vary, will help. (This is similar to our blog post about why website development costs have such a wide range.)
For solo entrepreneurs, freelancers, or most small businesses, using an independent graphic designer or online design service and a Vista Print for business cards is probably fine. Most of these types of service providers are hyper-specialized and local, so their competitive landscape is small. Their budgets are usually small as well, which is fine.
However, organizations and companies operating in a wider landscape with multiple services/products and competitors, should take an in-depth look at how their brand will be seen and remembered. Branding at this level could make a difference in market share, and that translates directly to the bottom line.
At the enterprise level, a global creative agency is usually called in to delicately work through a logo redesign with all the stakeholders. This process can take months. And while it rarely makes noticeable changes to revenue, it definitely affects brand relevancy and perception. If this is a negative perception, for perhaps being outdated, and it’s coupled with a downturn in the economy and bad press, the overall losses can be huge and permanent.
“Even for these large brands, it’s tough to stand out in a crowd and be iconic,” says Cassella. “If it’s hard for them, imagine how difficult it is for national nonprofits and professional associations. Their event branding has to work twice as hard to reach relevance and spark engagement.”
To achieve success in branding, an agency should deliver on the precision within their methodology and on the smart creativity of their end product.
Here’s a look at the strategy behind a good branding or rebranding process from our creative director’s perspective:
Kickoff and Discovery
We begin most branding assignments with a meeting of the key stakeholders. This is where you tell us where you stand now in the process. You may have some ideas and thoughts already formulated. There might be names that you loved but couldn’t use for various reasons (i.e. trademark conflict, the domain was taken, etc.) Or you may just be at a complete dead end, or wasting too much valuable staff time.
Just let us know what has, and hasn’t worked to date, and we’ll take it from there. You can also forward PowerPoint presentations, creative briefs, business plans and any other supporting documentation that would help explain and convey your marketing objectives. At this point, we’re here to listen, gather, and ask lots of questions.
Development of a Creative Brief
Following a discovery meeting with our team, we put together a summation document of what we heard, what tone and personality is to be portrayed with the brand, who you want to market to, and what messaging will be applied.
Creating the brand criteria
What your must-haves and what, if any, culture no-no’s should we avoid? These should be considered part of your brand’s criteria. A matrix can be designed around passion points or pain points related to the need or want the brand serves. Business to consumer brands often need to balance the need to make their customers feel like they are getting a good deal for the price without overpaying.
How the brand image is portrayed conveys much of these meanings. It’s important to understand the affiliations your customers/clients have with certain images and colors. If an analysis of the company reveals a lack of quality felt by previous customers, then some redesigns might be needed, or an evaluation of imagery.
Concepts and development of brand identities
When agencies approach brand concepts and development, they are all looking at pretty much the same data and research. The difference will be in how the creative director wants each point weighed – some more heavily than others – and how those outcomes are executed. The personality should be harnessed and projected. It should serve many purposes such as attracting future talent and clients. What sales person wouldn’t want to represent Cartier or Porsche?
Here are a few questions asked during the evaluation process. Their answers often inform this part of brand development:
- How do your customers currently find out about your brand?
- How do your current customers and employees view your brand?
- What do you want your company to be known for in the industry?
- If your brand was an individual, how would you describe them?
Upon final approval of all brand elements, agencies output the logos in various file formats, for printing, web, and use in sales materials. The brand guidelines that were developed will be your guide going forward. This will be a document where all elements of the brand are clearly defined, such as proper/improper use of the logo, typographic treatments, font choices, color palettes, and PMS/CMYK/RGB color values. This document should be referred to whenever putting these elements into production, such as in ads, promotional materials, landing pages, etc.
Was it worth it?
“Absolutely”, say 100% of our clients. Check out our brand portfolio gallery to see examples of transformative design.