The order in which many entrepreneurs tackle the elements of branding can cause major brand weakness.
Many have picked a name and registered it even before they’ve written a mission statement. They’ve written a tagline before they’ve identified target markets. They’ve developed a brand story after all the obvious elements are created and in use. And they’ll not have provided writers and designers with a brand platform on which the creative structure is to be built.
This is restrictive because once invested, financially and emotionally, in several brand elements, entrepreneurs don’t want to backtrack or invest in a “re-do”. So they limp along with a semi-effective brand, or perhaps a brand just not suited for the offering or the market.
The diagram below depicts the recommended sequence of creating branding elements.
First thing first should be the rule
There is a sequence to developing a brand, just as there is to developing the business itself. When you get things out of sequence you find you need to start over which is expensive and time-consuming, or even worse, you live with a brand with weak elements that become more burdensome as time goes by.
I suggest anyone starting a business or introducing a new product follow the simple process outlined below:
+ Write a vision statement
+ Write a mission statement
+ Write a value statement
+ Write down the goals of the business or product
+ Describe the business model you are planning to implement
+ Identify the market segments you will serve
+ Identify the product category in which you will compete
+ Identify and assess your major competitors
+ Write your business plan
Now, the business plan is the basis for your brand and much more. But for our purposes, we will just suggest that those items in the list above should be transferred from the business plan into a new document the Brand Platform.
Building the Branding Platform
At this point, you may want to consider bringing in a branding consultant to help you fashion the brand strategies upon which the brand platform is constructed. He or she should be able to translate and integrate the vision, mission, goals, business model, and the information concerning markets, product categories and competition into a brand platform. Upon completion of the platform, and not before, you can begin to think of names, logos, taglines, color palettes, etc. Then, the process of branding the business or product can begin.
Now you can, and probably should, create your brand story. This might be an expanded “elevator speech” that concentrates on how your business will differentiate itself from competitors. At the same time, you might want to craft a “brand creed”, or you might call it a “customer bill of rights”. This is primarily an internal document to guide employee interactions with the public and decision making concerning customers and prospects.
The name is the single most important branding element. So creating the name, and then assuring it “fits” the product, differentiates you from competitors and resonates with your market members is critical.
+ Generate name candidates
+ Screen name for availability, obscenity and adverse connotations
+ Select three to five name candidates
+ Develop name preference questionnaire
+ Survey members of relevant market segments
+ Select and register name
Once the name is selected, other branding elements can be initiated, probably in the order below:
Other elements fall in line
It is possible some of the elements below can be established concurrently. However, at this stage be flexible. The entire assortment of elements must mesh so there are no conflicting or confusing messages being given. Therefore, nothing should be set in stone until the brand itself is completed and reviewed for consistency.
+ Determine if a tagline needs to amplify the name.
+ If so, generate tagline candidates
+ Select several candidates for evaluation by market segment members
+ Select final tagline.
+ Bring in graphic designer with branding experience
+ Create logo candidates and color palette
+ Select several candidates for evaluation by Market segment members
+ Select a final logo design
+ Develop a graphic standards manual documenting the standards for logo usage, selection of colors and type faces, and other graphic elements. This manual should be available to all who will have the need to produce brand collateral materials. It should also be a component of the master Brand Style Guide.
+ Create or revise brand story
+ Create or revise brand creed (principals)
At this point, materials can begin to be prepared for use in soliciting investors/bankers/partners. But there is more to do as outlined below.
+ Document color palette, type fonts, illustrative styles and other visual elements of the brand
+ If audio signature is desired, brainstorm and then create appropriate sounds, music, voice using professional talent
+ If a video/flash signature is desired, brainstorm and them create appropriate clips, commercials, presentations using professional talent
+ If a web site is desired, brainstorm and then create your website and/or your blog using professional talent
+ If packaging, signage, marketing materials are required, brainstorm and then create the required materials using professional talent
+ If trade dress (physical style of facilities, uniforms, vehicles and signage associated with the brand) is required, establish and document specifications.
+ If promotional literature, data sheets, application notes, etc. are to be part of the brand presentation material, establish and document the standards by which they will be developed. Usually this will take the form of templates.
There may be additional items and requirements to address. There certainly will be as time passes. But for a business or product launch, the materials above will suffice.
Document and distribute brand standards
There is one more vitally important component of the branding process that needs to be developed at this point. To ensure employees, channel members, the press and others use your branding elements consistently and with accuracy, develop and distribute brand standards.
+ Develop a Brand Style Guide/manual. The materials it will contain will come from the Brand Platform, the Brand Story and Creed, the Naming brief, the Graphic Standards, and the guidelines and templates for the additional brand elements.
+ Hold meeting(s) with employees, and possibly supply chain members, to provide them an understanding of the brand and their part in communicating and representing the brand
+ Distribute the Brand Style Guide to all suppliers, distributors and employees who will be producing materials, or in any way representing the “brand”
+ Post the Brand Style Guide on the Internet, along with logos so suppliers can access the approved designs without needing to “reconstruct” them.
So there’s a sequence that builds from idea through launch of a potentially strong brand whose elements are integrated and meaningful. There may be variations on this theme, but for an entrepreneur beginning the branding process, the basics are outlined here.
Summing up: Brand Smart from the Start
You’ll save money and energy by doing it right the first time. No re-dos or living with a crippled brand. Faster start from beginning to positive cash flow. Touch point groups becoming aware and active on your behalf sooner and with more enthusiasm. Better relations with investors, suppliers and the press.
The benefits are almost limitless.
So please, please, brand smart from the start.