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6 Keys Steps to Starting The Branding Process

January 5, 2021
By John Hawley
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The branding process is much more than just cranking out a logo and pasting it on everything.

That’s why, for many, there’s a lot of confusion about what your brand is and what it means. And there’s even more confusion about where to begin your branding journey. 

We’re here to put those questions to bed. 

So let’s start with a quick refresher on branding. In simplest terms, your brand is your company’s reputation. And, of course, your reputation is people’s perception of your business. By extension, your brand is the sum of how your audience perceives your business. And while you do not have direct control over their final perception — you have complete control over the actions your business can take to influence and sway those perceptions a certain way. 

That process of swaying those perceptions a certain way is called branding (which includes your brand strategy). And since those perceptions will make or break whether they decide to buy into your business, they’re pretty important!

This is why it’s all the more important to start the branding process for your business the right way.

Unfortunately, a lot of businesses begin with an ineffective approach to their branding. Lousy strategy can stem from various factors: insufficient budget, time constraints, or being consulted by someone with little or no experience with branding strategy. Unsurprisingly, a disjointed approach results in a confused perception of your brand, which leads to people not taking you seriously.

To illustrate, imagine you decide to wear mismatched clothes on your first date. You’ve chosen to wear a suit jacket, swimming shorts, and steel-toe boots — and while there’s a time and a place for each of these, they probably don’t belong together as an outfit.

Implementing the right approach to the branding process is a lot like having a wardrobe for your business that’s filled with consistently crisp suits. That way, regardless of your chosen suit, you know your business will look sharp and dressed to impress.

This is why it’s all the more important to start the branding process for your business the right way.

Fortunately, we have six steps to ensure that you’re starting the branding process the right way!

Step 1: Hiring the Right Team

The most important step to branding your business is to make sure that you’re hiring the right talent for the job. This can either be a freelance designer, a creative agency, or even your own internal team of creatives. Regardless of who you choose to work with, it’s imperative that they are experienced, professional, and reputable. Hiring a team with an experienced Creative Director should be at the top of the list.

Hiring professionals well-versed in developing branding strategies and identities is crucial for getting the job done right the first time. There is a massive pitfall in trying to build your brand DIY. 

Going through the branding process with a DIY mindset often leads to wasted time, money, and effort.

Nowadays, there are many easily accessible design tools. This also means many businesses offer design without specializing in it. We always recommend comparing portfolios. The difference will be noticeable when comparing something excellent against something mediocre. Quite frankly, design is everywhere — but quality design is harder to come by. Because without having a history steeped in the creative process, creating a sophisticated and effective branding strategy is unlikely, if not outright impossible. 

The design and branding process is no different than any other profession. It’s always amazing when you see a master carpenter work and when they encounter a problem. They take the opportunity to figure out an elegant solution and make the work look effortless. That comes with years of experience and muscle memory. Master carpenters have the intuition to make beautiful things that will stand the test of time. Experienced design teams work in the same way. 

So it’s a no-brainer that hiring professionals specializing in their field is the best strategy to get the job done right. 

The next step is to design (or redesign) your logo. Starting with your logo may not always seem obvious, but it’s incredibly important to perfect it first because it sets the foundation for the rest of your branding strategy. 

At Mighty Fine Design Co., we always follow a set of best practices whenever we begin the logo design process. We’re not magicians, even though we may make it seem that way! We always recommend going through that process step-by-step because, without it, you cannot guarantee good results — resulting in wasted time and money if you need to get another logo.

So how do we avoid that from happening? Any creative agency or designer worth their salt won’t just begin sketching right away — they will first take the time to learn about your business in-depth. The goal is to understand the client’s business as well as they do. That’s why creative agencies like Mighty Fine can effectively conceptualize the proper treatment for your logo and branding strategy. 

We begin the research phase of the branding process by employing what we call a Branding Questionnaire. The document lists specific questions: your business’ history, target audience, direct competitors, and of course, your core values.

We also ask aspirational questions about your business. We leverage the information gleaned from the branding questionnaire throughout the entire branding process, as it’s crucial in conceptualizing how to make your brand stand out.

From there, we’ll have a follow-up meeting to ask questions to clarify any necessary details.

Armed with that knowledge, we can start designing your logo confidently. You can read more about the specifics of the logo process here. Once your logo is created, it’s time to develop your branding strategy.

Step 3: Developing Your Branding Strategy & Establishing Guidelines

As we mentioned in the beginning — your branding strategy is much more than just putting your logo on everything. It’s only one piece of the branding puzzle. 

For example, if your advertisements use green, your website uses yellow, and your fleet of vehicles uses pink — anyone interacting with the three will be very confused. At the least, they’ll second-guess your validity. Just having your logo visible is not enough.

That’s why your business needs consistency.

To ensure consistency, you need a unified design approach on ALL touchpoints of your business. This means every visual aspect of business: your website, your advertisements, videos, and so on.

This is essential because consistency in your brand strategy clarifies the customer’s expectations and shows how your brand differs from the competition. This is why we always say consistency is the key to a successful branding strategy, as it builds trust, memorability, recognition, and credibility — among other benefits.

The branding process loves consistency, which is the hallmark of a unified brand approach.

But how do you enforce this? 

Establishing clear dos and don’ts for your branding approach and marketing efforts is the key to ensuring everything remains consistent. The best way to do this is by establishing a design system. The most common and efficient form of a design system is by creating a series of Branding Guidelines. 

Your branding guidelines are essentially the “laws” for your branding efforts. Among many other things, it specifies what fonts and colors may be used, along with the correct ways to use your logo. In general, it lists all of the rules for designing on-brand content.

We create branding guidelines during the process — this serves to establish the "rules of engagement" with your brand and ensure its integrity.

And that’s another benefit of working with a professional design agency — they know it’s the law of the land to create branding guidelines for clients. In the future, when you create any new advertisement or marketing assets, you will have a team that consistently understands how to execute your brand vision. It doesn’t matter if they are in the same room or not, each person will have the guidelines.

But your branding process approach shouldn’t be entirely visual — the next step is considering your business’ brand messaging.

Step 4: Creating Effective Brand Messaging

While your branding guidelines mainly cover your branding strategy (font, colors, proper logo usage) — another part should include the rules for your brand messaging.

Brand messaging is how you convey your brand’s value proposition and language. It’s how you make your customers relate to your business and brand — and inspire them to take action! 

As such, we recommend our clients go through the brand messaging process. After all, your visual identity is incredibly important, and so is how you (literally) communicate with your customers. We develop brand messaging much the same as your logo — our initial branding research serves the same purpose in figuring out the blueprint for your brand’s voice.

To understand Brand Voice, think about how you communicate with your friends, loved ones, clients, colleagues, etc. Naturally, there’s a different way you talk to all of them. You wouldn’t speak to your clients like you would with casual acquaintances. 

Your brand voice is carefully designed for your target audience and feels true to your company’s value and overall persona. That’s just good copywriting 101!

Step 5: Building a Website With Your Branding Strategy

By now, the essentials of your branding strategy are clearly defined. 

Your logo? Check. Branding guidelines? Check. Brand messaging and voice? Check!

Now that all the rules have been set in place, all that is left is to execute that vision. And the most important place to start is on the web. We cannot overstate the importance of having great web design nowadays. 

Seriously. It’s that important! How many assets advocate for you 24/7 to a worldwide audience?

It’s crazy that we have to remind people of this. However, we still hear things like “we are busy” from those who don’t put much into the website. 

There are many tricks to having people stumble upon your website or connecting directly with the right words or phrases. You only get one shot at a first impression! 

You only get one first impression — so when your customers are stumbling upon your site, make sure to catch their interest, and subsequently their business!

But unfortunately, this is also true for your competitors, which makes it all the more important for your website to stand head and shoulders above them. Like we’ve said before, having a site design that’s “good enough” doesn’t cut it anymore.

Part of your strategy during the branding process should be delivering the best possible web experience for all your virtual guests…

As a whole, the web is too deep of a dive to cover here. But two tried and true ways to deliver outstanding results on the web are having a design system for your website and having a superb user experience — we call it UX in the business. Both are crucial for converting as many potential customers as possible!

Step 6: Leverage High-Quality Assets

Once your website is on brand and super-charged, it’s time to move on to leveraging the power of media. Having professionally produced media before making your website is gravy — because high-quality assets like photography and video only serve better to enhance your website and branding efforts. Not to mention, they aren’t just one-and-dones… they can be used throughout various collateral!

For example, a professionally shot product photo can be leveraged on your website, printed advertisements, or even on your social media accounts. And the same is true for other professionally-produced assets, such as video or motion graphics.

Professional assets aren't simply one-use. They can often be leveraged throughout a variety of material — which means more bang for your buck with an added helping of consistency!

However, it’s essential that these assets follow a set style that aligns with your branding strategy and company values.

For example, if your business sells children’s toys, it won’t make sense for all of your assets to be moody grayscale photos and videos with dramatic lighting. Opting for bright themes and colors (especially within your brand’s palette!) will naturally evoke a more nurturing and playful feeling.

However, it’s also essential to know when to break the mold if you’re trying to achieve something specific, like selling cell phones for their video capabilities — Apple’s Creative director filmed children having a snowball fight as if it was a blood-pumping action movie for a humorous effect. 

That’s why it will always benefit you to work with a creative team that knows how to navigate those waters.

Final Thoughts

While we broke down these six steps you can start taking to begin your branding process journey, we know it is still a lot to take in. There are numerous rules, conditions, and exceptions to consider in your approach, which can be overwhelming — especially if branding terminology is new to you. Of course, Mighty Fine Design Co. is always here to help if you need a creative agency to diagnose the right branding strategy that is custom-tailored and unique to you. Don’t be shy to reach out with questions about taking your brand to the next level — it’s what we love to do!

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