Brand imageBefore there was a brand, there was an idea. An idea for a product or service. “Build the business and they will come.” Not so fast.

The next step? Create a brand. That’s all you need, right? Wrong?

What’s in a brand? A name, a logo, a symbol, colors, and maybe a tagline. Isn’t this the logical next step to ensure business success?

Every day, businesses make the mistake of fore-going the essential step of developing a marketing strategy PRIOR to hiring someone to create a brand for the company. Why does this matter? For many reasons. Recall the three principles of Marketing 101:

  • Create customer value
  • Define differentiation – Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
  • Determine segmentation, targeting and positioning.

In order to build a strong brand, you need a good foundation. A foundation focused on a sound marketing strategy. Businesses need to think competitively and apply the basic principles of marketing noted above. Investing the time to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy ensures that a business will have a higher rate of success than one that has skipped this critical process.

Now, back to the brand. What exactly is a brand?

At the most basic level, a brand is a business’s promise to its customers.

When should a business engage a professional to assist in brand development and why does strategy help the process? I’ve partnered with Wendy Accetta, W. Accetta Design, so she can share her insights as to why strategy is so important to the graphic design process.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in working with a business that does not have a marketing strategy on the front-end?

It’s an understanding that their brand is not the logo, color palette or tagline. These are some of the elements that we use to visually communicate the brand. The “brand” is so much more than that – it’s who you are as a business, your promise, positioning, culture and attributes. If you haven’t put in the work in the discovery process to define these strategic variables, then the visual representation will invariably fall short.

Can’t you just design a logo based the general understanding of the product or service provided by the company?

You can design a logo based on generalizations, but not the foundation for a brand. A logo is simply a graphic attributed to your company name with very little depth and relevance in the marketplace. An effective logo is strategic in its visualization to your audience. And, most importantly it is the face of your brand.

Do you often have clients who come to you with the request to redesign their logo and create a new brand identity because the old one did not work?

It’s more often that clients will ask for a refresh because they feel that their logo is dated. This is typically smaller companies that don’t have a solid marketing strategy and are simply responding to a comment or feedback they’ve received. When this happens it’s a great opportunity to step back with a stake-holder interview to uncover their objectives and motives for change.

What general advice would you give any business, new or established, about how best to approach the branding process?

Put the work in on the front end.  You have to identify who you are as a business, what is your value proposition and how you should be positioned in the marketplace. Then the graphic designer can develop marketing objectives and formulate a plan for achieving these goals. In concert with this is the discovery and visualization of your business persona – eventually your brand.

In summary, all businesses, new and established, should view the creation of a marketing strategy as a critical component of their business plan. The ability to articulate the “value” of your product or service to your target market is just one step in developing a marketing blueprint. The more you understand your customer, how they think and how your product or service will meet their needs better than the competition, this will provide the basis for developing a winning brand for your business.