The Branding Process [Updated]

The Branding Process [Updated]

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Creating a solid brand, with strong foundations is much more than just a creative brainstorm.

The branding process is a combination of investigation, strategic thinking, project management and creativity.

This may sound incredibly complex, and for some brands, a very in-depth process is required, however there are many levels on which successful branding can be created.

A previous post talked about the word ‘branding’ being off-putting for many people and it is when branding experts go into lots of technical detail that it creates the impression that branding is daunting.

Yes, there is a lot that goes on in the background and yes, there are processes that we, as experienced brand stylists follow, but the one thing that we do, is to make sure that the branding process is kept as simple and jargon free as possible for our clients.

In simple terms, there are 5 stages in the branding process:

  1. Conducting research
  2. Developing/clarifying strategy
  3. Designing identity
  4. Creating touchpoints
  5. Managing assets

 

1. Conducting research

 

Research is essential to examine the current position of the brand and investigate which direction the brand should go in to maximize its potential.

Conducting research allows you to:

  • Clarify the vision, strategies, goals and values of the company
  • Ask key management their vision for the brand
  • Research stakeholders’ needs and perceptions
  • Conduct a brand audit
  • Conduct a competitive audit

So the first priority is to understand the company’s mission, vision, target markets, brand values, personality, strengths, weaknesses and its USP. This can be achieved by asking key management and the key stakeholders a number of questions. For many of these, you can directly ask what they believe the company’s vision, markets etc are, but for others we tend to ask indirect questions. For example, instead of asking ‘what is your brand personality?’, we might ask ‘what 3 words would you use to describe your brand/company?’, as you will build a much broader overview of the brand.

A similar approach is given to the research of stakeholders’ views and perceptions. Questions may be asked of staff, customers, suppliers or the community, to obtain their views. As above, the questions will be more general, such as ‘why do you choose…’, ‘what is most important to you’, ‘how do you rate…’ and ‘choose 3 words to describe’. The answers from these can analysed and put together with the other research to determine the brand strategy.

The brand audit is also an important part of conducting brand research, as it allows you to look what currently works, and what can be improved. The brand audit looks at the brand identity – the logo, the tagline, the colours and fonts, and at all marketing materials and the online identity. More often that not, there will be some elements that will want to be retained to allow some continuity and to keep a sense of history and longevity for the brand.

The competitive audit is a data gathering process that looks at competitors’ brands, their visual identity and the way they are perceived. The aim of this is to be able to say ‘why should customers choose our products/services over theirs?’ and ‘how can we look and feel different?’

Once the research phase has been completed, a report can be put together to inform the development of the brand strategy moving forwards. The research does not often result in an epiphany for the brand, but those experienced in the branding field, can read between the lines, make connections and identify opportunities.

2. Developing/clarifying strategy

 

A brand strategy is essential in showing which direction a brand should take, in order for it to grow.

Developing a brand strategy takes a combination of rational thinking and creative imagination to create a strategy that works for the company internally and for its customers externally.

“Look into a microscope with one eye and a telescope with the other. Blake Deutsch

So, in developing a new brand strategy, it is important to look closely at the company in terms of how you wish it to be portrayed and also from the perspective of the customers; what do they want and does your brand satisfy their needs?

A brand strategy should clarify:

  • Vision
  • Target markets
  • Competitive advantage
  • Brand values
  • Brand personality
  • Brand promise
  • Brand proposition

More often than not, a complete new brand strategy is not required. It may be that some of the elements are already defined and in place, and just need blending together to create a unified message and identity that needs to be taken through to the design process.

Narrow the Focus

A strong brand has a narrow focus and many companies make the mistake of trying to be too many things. As brand stylists, we are looking for the big idea, or the gold. It has probably been there all the time but has been hidden away. By bringing in an external consultant and allowing them to speak to management, staff, customers etc, it often brings out the brand essence and leads to one key focus, which is what your brand can become known for.

Positioning

The most successful brand positioning is one which tells consumers that the brand can deliver and why they should be selected over the competition. Consumers are overwhelmed with purchasing choices, so you need to tell them “buy this from us because…”. And you will understand the reasons why they may choose to buy from you, having completed the research in stage 1.

Naming

Another part of developing the brand strategy is developing or clarifying the company name and tagline, if one is required. Naming a company is a very complex task and one that requires a significant amount of time, thought, brainstorming and research. The brand name is a valuable asset and any decision to rename must not be taken lightly.

3. Designing identity

 

Having read the analysis and strategy report, designers will use their experience, intuition, imagination and creativity to develop the strategy into a visual representation of the brand.

Each designer and design agency will have their own way of working, but designing a corporate identity will involve time and patience, and will start by developing several ideas which over time, will be condensed down into one final concept.

When designing a brand identity, we look in detail at a number of key areas and whether they accurately represent the values and personality set out in the strategy.

The design process begins by creating a logo, which will become the graphical representation of the brand. Colours, fonts, shapes and icons are all considered to create something unique, eye-catching and illustrative of the brand.

An overall brand identity is also created to give a look and feel to the brand. On any marketing document for a brand, you should be able to cover up the logo and still know what brand it belongs to, just from the colors, imagery, typography, styling etc.

A large part of designing identity is down to choice of colours and fonts and these are areas that will be covered in other blogs, as there is too much detail to go into here!

To make sure that the logo works as part of the whole visual identity, it has to be trialed on real documents, for example, business cards, letterhead, website, leaflet, folder etc. From these, it can be established whether it will work on different scales, on different materials, and on screen or in print.

We have a range of branding projects in our portfolio that show how the brand identities we have designed work across a wide range of materials.

4. Creating touchpoints

 

This stage involves taking the identity created in stage 3, and developing it over a range of touchpoints, which are essentially any point of contact between a business and its customers.

These touchpoints may include:

  • Website
  • Business cards
  • Letterheads
  • Brochures
  • Leaflets
  • Signage
  • Product design/packaging design
  • Advertising
  • Vehicles
  • Uniforms

The key part of this stage of the branding process is to create a consistent, yet flexible look across all touchpoints, which fully represent all of the values determined in the strategy. The final look needs to work online and offline, at large and small scales, and in targeting all potential markets. In essence, it is creating a unique visual language that will express itself across all applications.

It is at this point in the process that the identity will be tested in real applications, as opposed to the hypothetical ones in the previous stage. And it is now that the quotation from Steve Jobs seems particularly fitting:

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Once it has been established that it ‘works’, the design of all of the touchpoints can be finalised.

5. Managing assets

 

Managing your brand identity assets requires a long-term commitment from company owners/directors to building and maintaining the brand. To make a brand a success, it requires ongoing monitoring and input.

There are a few key steps in this process.

An internal and external brand launch

It is important to launch the brand internally first to ensure that all employees are ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ as the expression goes.

Internally, employees need to know why the brand is important, what it stands for, what it means and how they can communicate it through their interactions with customers.

An external launch can be one event, or a gentle series of marketing messages. At all times, the brand launch should be focused on the customers, and giving them the right messages at the right time. The messages should be reinforced several times.

Communicating the new brand identity to employees and customers

Key questions to ask are:

  • Who needs to know?
  • What do they need to know?
  • Why do they need to know?
  • Does the change affect them?
  • How are they going to find out?
  • When are they going to find out?

Creating branding guidelines

Managing the brand and its consistency in applications is facilitated by a set of branding guidelines that are accessible to all employees. It should be made clear by management that everyone within the company is responsible for adhering to the guidelines. If everyone works together and follows the guidelines, they can help to build a better brand.

Designate roles – who looks after specific parts of the brand?

Making employees feel involved can help them to get really invested into the brand. Long term brand success is achieved by employees absorbing the company culture and therefore emitting the brand values and personality through everything they do.

Hyphen can help with all 5 stages of the branding process, so if you need any advice, please just call for a chat.

Until next time,
Gemma

 

When Is the Right Time to Rebrand? [updated]

When Is the Right Time to Rebrand? [updated]

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A couple of years ago we looked at a few things you may want to consider if you are looking for the right time to rebrand. We thought it may be useful to update the article, to expand a little on the information provided as it is a topic that comes up quite a lot in conversations with clients.

Whether you are looking for reasons to rebrand or reasons not to rebrand, we hope that this will provide an informative look at the topic of rebranding to establish when might be the best time for you.

There are 5 main situations where a rebrand may be considered and we have included some questions/statements that you may be able to relate to.

Change of Name
“Our name no longer fits who we are and the business we are in”
“Our name has negative connotations in the new markets we are entering”
“Our name misleads customers”

Brand Revitalization
“No one knows who we are”
“We need to communicate more clearly about who we are”
“Our website doesn’t work on a smartphone”

Brand Identity Revitalization
“We are a great company with cutting-edge products but we look behind the times”
“I am embarrassed when I give out my business card”
“Our identity does not position us where we should be against our competitors”

Creating a Unified System
“We do not present a consistent image to our customers”
“All of our marketing looks like it comes from different companies”
“We lack visual consistency and need a new brand structure to deal with acquisitions”

Merge of Companies
“We want to build on the brand equity of the merging companies”
“We need a new name”
“We need to send a strong message that we are the new industry leader”

If any of these statements sound familiar, then now might be a good time to talk to a branding agency.

Aside from the above statements, below are some other considerations when looking at a possible rebrand or refresh. It is worth noting that it isn’t always necessary to make big changes, but below are some of the times when a refresh or rebrand might be considered.

  1. Time
    There is no rule for how long a brand remains current. Branding styles go in and out of fashion, just like clothing but there aren’t many brands that are timeless, like a pair of jeans or a little black dress. Sometimes a complete rebrand isn’t essential, but a refresh of colours, fonts, or a style tweak can work wonders to bring your brand back up-to-date. We have recently completed rebrands for a couple of clients whose branding had remained stagnant for 10 years, so if your branding hasn’t changed in the last decade, it may be something to think about.
  1. Changing Tastes of Your Customers
    Although you maintain your brand, it is your customers that control it, as what they say to each other creates a reputation, which is what your brand becomes known for. Over time, as your customers change, so should your brand. They will expect you to stay relevant and modern to keep their attention and a proactive brand will also attract new customers.
  1. Change of Focus/Expansion
    If you used to do X but now you do X, Y and Z, now might be a good time to look at rebranding. Simply telling your customers you do more might be not enough. You need to show them your new focus by developing your whole brand to show your new vision and values.
  1. Mergers & Acquisitions
    This is an obvious one really, as bringing together two brands results in a big branding overhaul. At the simplest level, it will require an analysis of the two brands’ strategies to see any overlaps or differences and deciding the route forwards. But for the most successful outcome, a new brand will be required to offer one united brand that shows what it can offer to customers.
  1. Your Name is Ambiguous
    If people cannot pronounce your name, or have no idea what you do, then your brand is not working for you.
  1. Your Geographical Name is Holding You Back
    If you started your business with a town or city in the name so that you sounded local and so it would help your SEO, then it probably seemed like a good idea at the time. But if you are ready to expand and the name is holding you back, then it’s time for a rebrand.
  1. Your Brand is Dull
    This is one that many business owners would not admit, but sometimes a rebrand is needed simply because your branding is looking a bit dull, tired and out-dated. Rebranding can give your business a fresh new look that will be appreciated by both old and new customers.

One of the biggest hurdles with branding is that businesses think that it’s an expensive and unnecessary task. But with the right brand styling, you should get back what you spend in increased sales.

There is no right or wrong answer for the question ‘when is the right time to rebrand?’ but if you are looking for individual advice, we are more than happy to have a chat.

As Leicestershire’s leading brand stylists, Hyphen are available for a free one-hour consultation to discuss what’s right for you and your business. Just contact us to arrange a suitable time and date.

Until next time,
Gemma

Why You Should Spend on Marketing in an Uncertain Economy

Why You Should Spend on Marketing in an Uncertain Economy

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The UK economy is uncertain at the moment, in light of Brexit and the recent general election result, and understandably many businesses are likely to be cautious with their budgets, particularly branding and marketing which are seen to be non-essential.

After the Brexit vote in June 2016, it was impossible to predict whether companies would hold back, apprehensive of committing marketing spend until they felt more sure about the economy or whether they would invest more to retain the loyalty of worried customers.

We have spoken to many of our clients, and whilst some are still tentative and want to ‘play it safe’, others see the economic situation as an opportunity to build their business in a new climate and perhaps take a slice of market share from their cautious competitors.

In economical uncertainty, some of the areas that businesses refrain from spending on is marketing, branding and design. But in order to grow the business despite the uncertain economy, marketing is one of the most important factors in keeping the business pushing forwards and getting noticed.

Perhaps you have noticed that your competitors have stepped down their marketing efforts? This is the prime time for you to get out there and increase your marketing to make your position in the market much stronger.

TalkTalk, for example, announced that revenues had dipped by 3% in the last year and that they would be increasing investment in marketing over the next 12 months.

So if your industry is experiencing a dip, and you are thinking about being cautious with your marketing budget, think about the benefits that investing in some creative work could have.

By getting your name out there with a new look and new messaging, you can remind your customers that you are still there and ready to do business with them and show potential new customers that you are THE people to work with, despite the market situation.

Just remember, you will rarely win new business by sitting cautiously waiting for people to come to you.

Push your business growth by investing in your brand, and making sure that it gives the right message, to the right people, at the right time.

Our branding experts at Hyphen are here to chat if you need any advice in this area, so please just contact us.

Until next time,
Gemma

Using Google Analytics to Improve your Website

Using Google Analytics to Improve your Website

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Do you monitor your website to ensure you are getting the best results?

Do you know how many visitors your site is getting? How long are they staying? Which pages are most popular?

Like other areas of your business, where you monitor them regularly to make improvements, your website is exactly the same. We all know that websites should be updated regularly, both from a technical and content perspective, but how do you what you need to change or add?

To really make the most of your investment, your website should be continually monitored using an analytics software. As a Google Partner, we recommend Google Analytics and install it as standard on all the websites we build.

A client of ours had never checked their Analytics and until we looked at it with them recently, they didn’t realise that no one had ever clicked on another page, beyond the home page!

Google Analytics enables you to gather and monitor many important figures about the visitors to your website, including:

  • Number of sessions, users, page views and number of pages per visit
  • Bounce rate
  • New vs. returning customers
  • Acquisition – where do your visitors come from? (e.g. organic search, direct, referral site, social media etc)
  • What devices is your site mainly viewed on?
  • Most viewed pages and landing pages

These are just the highlights, as there is a lot of data that Google Analytics collates, which you can delve into on many levels on a page-by-page basis. In fact, the breadth of data that is available on Google Analytics can be quite daunting to those that are unfamiliar with it, as it can be hard to pick out what is relevant to you and your site.

So here are just a few of the simpler ways that you can use the data to make improvements to your website.

Bounce Rate
The higher the bounce rate, the higher the percentage of people that have only visited one page of your site and then exited. Take a look at the pages on your site that have a high bounce rate, then evaluate the page’s content to see if it needs to be more engaging or encourage an action.

Traffic Acquisition
Knowing where your traffic comes from will help you to plan your marketing budget. You can compare how much traffic is coming from any paid advertising (such as AdWords) versus organic results, and see if any money spent on social media is effective.

User Journey
Using the ‘behaviour flow’ feature, you can follow a user’s journey through your website, page by page. At the point they choose to exit your site, you can take a look at that page to see what improvements may need to be made.

Desktop vs Mobile
Google Analytics provides important data on what percentage of traffic views your site on desktop, tablet or mobile devices. All sites should now be responsive as standard for easy browsing on any device, but if you are experiencing a high bounce rate on tablet or mobile, you know that some improvements need to be made.

Popular Content
The pages with the highest number of sessions indicate which content your visitors find most useful, so produce more of the same. From that page, you can link to other content  that may interest them, to try to up-sell your products/services. You can also use this information to create new pages with a similar style and format to try to attract more visitors.

As mentioned above, the extensive data that is available can be quite overwhelming for someone new to Google Analytics. Each individual business and its goals will require different analysis of the data, so it is helpful to get an expert to take a look for you.

Hyphen offers monthly Google Analytics reports, tailored to your business’s goals, so please contact us for more information.

Until next time,
Gemma

 

Invest in Keeping your Website Secure

Invest in Keeping your Website Secure

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So you’ve recently had your website developed; it looks great, the launch went smoothly and you’ve had great feedback from all of your clients and customers. You won’t need to look at it again for another few years now…right?

…Wrong. Your website is now an extension of your business and much like your staff, your services or any other element of your practice, it is an ongoing investment. You could think of your website like a garden; if left unattended, weeds will grow and your plants, which were once thriving, will wither and die. To get the most out of your garden you must maintain it regularly to keep it fresh and functional and more importantly, to prevent any pests from growing.

But where do the ‘weeds’ and ‘pests’ come from? WordPress currently powers 23% of all websites in the world and as a result of its popularity, it is a popular target for hackers and data thieves worldwide. You may not think your personal or business website has anything worth being hacked for but websites are compromised all the time, with the majority of breaches coming from out-of-date themes, plugins and WordPress core, so it’s important to keep on top of your updates.

So how do you keep your website secure?

Ensuring your plugins and themes are running on the latest versions not only fixes any bugs or security features, which developers constantly search for and fix, but it also protects your website from being exploited. As it is common practice for hackers to search for websites using out-dated plugins with known security holes, it’s vital not to underestimate the importance of updating your website to prevent anyone other than yourself gaining access to your website.

Finally, are there any other steps you can take to protect your website? Absolutely!

Another great way to protect yourself, should you be on the unfortunate end of a cyber attack is to have a recent backup of your website. Taking regular backups of your website will allow you turn back the clock and revert to an older version of your site, to get back online after any mishap and to keep your business running smoothly. Timescales on how far back you can revert however will vary depending on how regularly you or your hosting company takes backups of your website.

So to summarise, the easiest and most efficient ways of protecting your website:

  • Ensure all of your plugins are regularly updated (it’s good to check at least once a week).
  • Ensure your WordPress core is running on the latest version (updates generally happen once every few weeks)
  • Take regular backups of your website so that you can quickly get your business back online

If you need any help with updating and maintaining your website, just give us a call and we’ll let you know how we can help.

Thanks for reading!

Emily.

Listening to Your Customers To Benefit Your Brand

Listening to Your Customers To Benefit Your Brand

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We have quoted this before, but it is relevant to today’s topic:

Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon

No matter how hard you try to manage your brand, opinions will always be influenced by what your customers see and hear. In the digital world we live in, information exchanges are instant and on a global scale so it is increasingly important to respond to your customer’s voice.

To try to maintain a positive brand image, show that you are aware of your customers’ opinions and work with them to make your brand what they want it to be.

You will only be successful if your customers are happy, so listen to what they have to say.

But remember one important thing…you will never please everyone, so don’t try!

There will always be a multitude of differing opinions, so go with the majority if you’re trying to make a big decision, like rebranding.

A well-known brand that has recently hit the headlines in the design world for its rebrand is The Huffington Post. It is now known simply as HuffPost, as this is the name that readers were shortening it to on a regular basis.

The Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen, has been quoted* as saying, “Sometimes it’s a good idea just to embrace the name that your audience has chosen…HuffPost is already the name of the mobile app and the name on most of the social accounts, and as the world moves further and further away from desktop toward social and mobile, it makes perfect sense to unify the branding.”

Another brand that shortened its name to match what customers called it, was Wilkinsons, who since 2014 have been known simply as Wilko. At the time, a spokesperson was quoted as saying “[We are] migrating to Wilko as the popular and endearing name that our customers have given us.”

Listening to your customers is essential, not only in rebranding, but in everyday business. We have met many companies who say “we know what our customers think”…but do they really know?

As part of our brand audit, we often carry out customer research and sometimes the feedback is surprising for companies, but it allows them to address any issues that are raised.

How often do you ask your customers for feedback?

To show that your brand is trustworthy, reliable and approachable, think about how you can best reach out to your customers and listen to their comments.

If you need any help in this area, as always, we are here if you’d like to chat.

Until next time,
Gemma

 

*https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2017/04/25/arianna-huffington-ok-huffpost-name-change-rebrand/100875490/

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