At times, clients reach out to us and say they would like to see a creative execution for their brand. Or a new logo. We get it. That’s the fun part, the emotive part, the “how great does my brand look” part. But in order to get to this result, then we need to do the other stages that come before it.
When it comes to branding, we can draw similarities between building a house. We need to build a strong foundation, before we start building the walls around it. Some groundwork that’s needed to be done, well before the exterior look and feel is shown off for the first time.
There are stages that need to be followed. Depending on who you speak to these can range from four or five, right up to seven or eight stages – if you unpack each part into a bit more detail. At Rare, we typically use a five stage process of: discovery, positioning, creative, activation, build.
Research and strategy can be combined into one stage, but ultimately preliminary work needs to be done to best understand the market – the customer, category, culture, company – the 4Cs. This is the foundational piece of work.
An important part to the discovery stage is research. This may involve conducting secondary desk research, combing through client supplied information (including annual reports, customer database information etc), and primary research by way of qualitative deep dive into the 4Cs (customer, category, culture, company) or quantitative research including customer segmentation and persona development.
As a non-negotiable, brands always need to be embedded in a strong understanding of the target audience, that is, who the brand needs to speak to. Without a strong foundation, or an understanding of the consumer insights, then a brand is not setting itself up for success.
Once the situational analysis is complete, a clearer picture begins to form around what the field we are playing in really looks like. Where is the white space, how can we stand out, how can we reframe our position in the market? The white space can sometimes refer to true differentiation, which can’t always be achieved. But, a brand can create distinctiveness by understanding how they can stand out in a more meaningful manner.
From a strong foundational understanding of the market, we can begin to move into the next stage: positioning and build out the brand.
The brand strategy is the long term plan that outlines specific principles that will help keep the brand real, meaningful and distinctive over time. And ultimately ensure the brand stays top of mind for consumers. The brand also helps align employees internally on the core beliefs and aims of the brand, to in turn influence its culture.
We start asking and then answering the questions of who we are and what we stand for? We unpack this into our purpose, vision, mission and single minded proposition. This is the space that you want to be operating in and be able to sing from the rooftops about your brand essence, and how we can be distinctive. Ensuring that this is single minded, intangible, unique, authentic, consistently delivered, meaningful and sustainable. Not a lot to ask, right?
Lucky, at Rare we have done this process for years and years, and have a deep understanding of how to best develop a brand strategy that is unique to each and every client. And a brand strategy that will set up the success of the latter stages of creative executions and communications.
Now we have reached the fun part. This is where the brand assets are developed, the client can see their brand come to life, emotion starts to creep in, and we start to see where things are heading.
We’ve hit the middle part of the journey, the creative stage, and we begin to build out the distinctive brand codes. This includes the visual identity which comprises the visual guidelines of how the brand comes to fruition visually. It includes the brand blueprint or style guide. In addition, our creative team build out the verbal identity and guidelines – what do we say, what words do we use, what words should we avoid – to ultimately make sure we are speaking to our brand essence, are being authentic and meaningful. Whilst also making sure this is the same tone of voice that the target audience from our discover stage will resonate with.
From here, the files, images, logos and documents are approved to be able to be activated consistently across all channels. Making sure they line up to the brand positioning.
Activating the brand considers the brand launch, consistently across all touchpoints and what type of communications will be needed internally and externally. This has a few component parts to it, where we look at the plan for launch and activation – what media channels will be used, how can we use our owned assets and what can we do with earned?
Our strategic hat still needs to be worn at this time, is this a new brand launch, a rebrand that needs to be communicated – what does this change mean for the target audience? We need to get this right.
Just because a brand has been activated and launched does not mean that the job stops there. We need to constantly evaluate, foster, maintain and manage the brand over time. In this last stage, market research to track brand health, sentiment, as well as positioning against new and current competitors, can help to deliver further insights that will feed into the next phase.
Evaluating the media spend performance plays a role in helping to decipher what levers need to be pulled, what messages are resonating in the creative mix, what channels are hitting home to the greatest extent. At this stage we look at what our goals are and how are we measuring against those.
As you can see, the stages of branding build on each other. At Rare we can get involved at all stages of the process. If you have a strong foundational brand already, then we can help in the creative and implementation aspect of the process. Or if you’re yet to build out the brand foundation, then our team of strategists can work wonders in this fundamentally important stage to help set your brand for success. Our partners at Hearts & Science know brand activation like no other and can work closely with you to identify the best approach for communications. The journey can take many turns, but by following some guidelines we can help deliver the best outcomes for you.