If we’re on familiar terms, you’ve probably seen how fired up I get when it comes to those sketchy service providers who make big promises to unsuspecting business owners, only to hand over a complete sh*t sandwich. Yep, been there, felt the frustration, and oh boy, paid for it.
These people prey on the worries of new business owners who pour their heart and soul into their ventures, hoping for success.
One of the first things we need when creating a new business is a logo and that’s unfortunately also where the first mistakes usually happen.
Yes, Marketing 101 says it’s crucial to create a brand that will ultimately become the beating heart of your business but knowing the difference between a logo and a brand is key.
A good Brand Strategist will educate the business owner on this and prompt discussions around business goals, their audience (customer) make up, their audience motivators (what drives their purchasing decisions), messaging, etc, but… Graphic Designers cleverly disguised as Brand Strategists will sell the dream and leave business owners with a slapdash logo, some fancy-sounding vector files and a lot of money out of pocket.
9/10 of my new clients have had the sh*t sandwich experience.
Not only does this leave the business owner feeling frustrated and deceived, but it means another investment in time and money to fix the issues left by the fake expert.
So, to save you from falling into this trap, let’s discuss what’s a part of a brand strategy and what’s just fluff.
PUZZLE PIECE #1: WHAT IS A BRAND?
- A brand is a distinctive and recognisable representation of a company, product, service, or individual that encompasses a combination of tangible and intangible elements.
- It goes beyond just a logo or visual identity!
- It encompasses the emotions, perceptions, experiences, and associations that people have with that entity.
- A brand is essentially the sum total of how a business or individual is perceived by its target audience including its values, personality, reputation, and the promises it makes and fulfills.
- It serves as a means of identification, differentiation, and communication in the marketplace, helping to establish a connection and build trust with consumers.
PUZZLE PIECE #2: WHAT IS A LOGO?
- A logo is like a brand’s visual signature.
- It’s a unique and recognisable design that represents a company, product, service, or individual.
- A logo serves as a quick way for people to identify and remember a brand.
- It’s often used across various platforms such as websites, packaging, business cards, and advertisements. Just like how a person’s face can instantly be recognized, a logo gives a brand its distinct face in the business world.
PUZZLE PIECE #3: WHAT IS A BRAND STRATEGIST REALLY?
Having the word “strategist” in a title means they’re pretty good at what they do. They have the know-how, the smarts, and the ability to see the big picture.
But being a real brand strategist goes beyond just an impressive sounding title. The most significant value a brand strategist delivers is clarity and direction.
A skilled brand strategist brings together various elements of your business, audience, market, and goals to create a clear roadmap for your brand’s identity and the way you’ll communicate it to your market.
This clarity guides your brand’s actions, resonates with your audience, and sets you apart in a crowded marketplace. It helps you make informed decisions, ensure consistency, and build a stronger, more meaningful connection with your customers.
The value lies in transforming abstract ideas into a strategic plan that influences every aspect of your business, from design to messaging, leading to better recognition, loyalty, and success.
However, brand strategists don’t do it on their own. They’re also the connective tissue between different parts of the business like marketing & sales, bringing the overall strategy together. They’re the ones making sure everyone’s singing the same brand tune, so the story is crystal clear no matter where you look.
PUZZLE PIECE #4: GRAPHIC DESIGN IS NOT BRAND STRATEGY
- A logo isn’t the whole brand! It’s a key visual component but a logo alone doesn’t represent the entire brand strategy. Read that again.
- Brand strategy isn’t getting a graphic designer to create a logo from 5 bullet point descriptions quickly thrown together. True brand strategy involves research into the market, audience behaviours, and competitive landscape to create a foundation for design decisions.
- A brand strategy isn’t all about making things look nice. While graphic design is important for creating a visually appealing brand, brand strategy goes beyond visuals to include the emotional connection a brand builds with its audience. Connection is a brand’s secret sauce.
- Rebranding does not equal a strategic change! Changing a brand’s cosmetic visual identity (logo, colours) is only 1 piece of the brand puzzle and should only come after a lot of research to support the change.
- Consistency in visual elements is often mistaken for having a solid brand strategy. Yes, consistency is essential, but it’s again just one aspect. What if you’re consistently pushing the wrong message to the wrong audience?
As you can see, branding goes so much deeper than just a crummy vector file.
Before you enlist the services of an expert, make sure you’re very clear on the following questions:
- What’s my business about? Define your business’s purpose, values, and mission. What problems do you solve, and what makes you unique?
- Who’s my audience? Identify your target audience. Who are they, what do they like, and how can your brand connect with them?
- What’s my brand personality? Think about your brand as a person. Is it playful, professional, serious, innovative, or something else? Define the personality that reflects your brand’s vibe.
- What are my long term business goals? Where you want your brand to be in the next 12 months, 3 & 5 years. How does your brand align with these long-term aspirations?
- What values do I want my brand to convey? What core values do you want your brand to communicate?
- What’s my Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? What sets you apart from competitors? Why should people choose your brand over others?
- What’s my origin story? Tell your brand story and how it came into being? What’s its journey?
- What are my visual preferences? Think about the visual elements you like ie. colors, fonts, images.
- How do I want people to feel when they see my brand? Consider the emotions you want people to associate with your brand. Trust, excitement, comfort?
- What’s my budget and timeline? Set a realistic budget for branding efforts and timeline? Don’t get caught up in the excitement.
- How will I measure success? How will you gauge the success of your branding efforts. Is it increased sales, brand recognition, customer loyalty, or something else?
- What are my current brand challenges? What specific problems do you want a branding expert to address? This is especially important when you’re thinking about rebranding.
- How will I implement a new brand strategy? What tools and resources will you need to make the best of your new strategy?
And if your shiny new Brand Strategist doesn’t ask any of these questions, rip up the contract and ask for a refund!