An inside look at Articulated Brands® brand discovery and brand strategy process
The operative phrase I’m going to use when describing a higher standard of brand discovery and brand strategy is simultaneous inquiry. Whereas the creative briefing process or even the positioning process can be productive and successful with just smart, experienced answers to the briefing questions, branding requires more. We never want to answer any one of the questions with finality until we’ve had a chance to see how we might answer the other questions in relation. Solving for x is easy. Solving for a-z simultaneously is a variable juggle of massive proportions. But we’re on the road to authentic differentiation and sustainable competitive advantage here. Let’s not pretend for a minute this is kid’s stuff. Big business and marketing problems are solved, and big opportunities are seized, via big think. No shortcuts, no excuses, no whining. Okay, maybe some whining. But also some jokes and some excited laughs. It’s time to dig in. It’s time to dig deep.
Genuine brand discovery & brand strategy are the most intensive approaches to increasing marketing results and marketing ROI, yet the most rewarding of all.
Why? Because we are creating a new system of order. We are defining the company in a newly organized and prioritized way. We do this so that it will better connect to its targets and so that the business itself, operating on-brand, becomes its own engine of customer creation. To do so properly, we must be certain we have uncovered all salient facts and thoughts and that, upon delivery of the brand blueprint or upon brand roll-out, we can be positive that the brand as defined achieves the stated objectives.
If position can be equated to a sketch – the space you want to own in the marketplace, going to full brand would be the equivalent of the three-dimensional rendering. Here, in addition to assessing the current state of both your position and your brand, we are processing through many aspects of the company to identify all the things we need to create a winning recipe for maximum connection, scalable and sustainable growth, and deeper differentiation via beliefs, culture, functional & experiential benefits and personality.
Some of the brand discovery process elements you may wish for us to explore:
Who we (the company and its personnel) are:
- Our core values – what do we do, what do we not do
- What are we uniquely good at?
- Our history & prior successes
- Products & services
- Our vision
- Blue sky scenario
- Benefits – what’s in it for them – functional, emotional, experiential
- Logical support for those benefits
Conversations and examinations of “who we are” need to be guided by a brand strategist who, while tracking of hundreds of independent variables, still manages to keep the participants excited and engaged and the process moving.
Who they are:
- Past, current & future clients & customers
- Current beliefs & behaviors – re: us and the industry
- The buying process & customer empathy mapping
- Desired perceptions & experiences (widget exercise)
- Which media do they consume?
Discussions, exercises and examinations of “who they are” need to be guided by a brand strategist who facilitates your own breakthroughs and challenges you to think more like a prospect than an owner or an employee.
Who & what are the competition
- Direct competition – what space do they own or make claims to
- What are we willing to cede or not cede?
- What existing beliefs and behaviors also exert a competitive force?
Examinations of the competition require a brand strategist who can even at arm’s length assess competitive positioning and messaging so that you can better leverage the holes within and the holes created by them.
- What might happen on our growth path that ought to be factored into our brand right now?
- Tracing trajectories – how might the marketplace and competitive offerings impact our brand’s position
- Often, a company has very specific questions, challenges and concerns about their branding and go-forward business strategy – these, too, should be factored and examined in the discovery process.
For me, the most important part of brand discovery is knowledge transfer. Nobody knows the business or its market better than the people who work there. By turning them onto both the company’s unique greatness and onto more of a brand mindset, I feel as though it will always be their future innovations and accomplishments that will far exceed my own up-front contributions.
PRIMARY BRAND STRATEGY DELIVERABLES:
- A summary of the discovery process that highlights key findings and identifies primary issues and opportunities to be addressed.
- A distilled and organized vision for the new brand that represents the best weighted approach to leveraging strengths, circumventing the competition and carving out a differentiated space.
- A brand personality matrix to inform your corporate identity and your marketing collateral that includes: a core attitude and 3-5 pillars that support that point of view.
- Updated, refined versions of the company’s Unique Selling Propositions and UVP’s for its divisions, products or services.
- Answers to many of the organization’s most profound challenges with regard to forging stronger connections with various brand audiences.
- Ideas, when appropriate, for how to capitalize on various business development or brand development opportunities uncovered via my discovery
- A new “uber” creative brief that provides guidance and direction for future brand development executions such as company naming, tagline, logo, new website, new capabilities brochure, new digital marketing campaign, new trade print campaign, etc.
All of these strategic communications initiatives outlines in the preceding blog posts really depend upon what you fundamentally believe.
If you believe the source of marketing inefficiency and under-performance is that your creative partners or agencies aren’t doing their jobs, keep chasing vendors until you find the “right” one.
If you believe the source of marketing genius is in identifying the flavor-of-the-month tool of target reach, keep chasing tactics and incremental performance.
But if you believe, as I do, that genuine marketing breakthroughs come from genuine marketing think-throughs, consider having me sharpen your creative briefs, revisit your positioning or refresh your brand by defining it in a more target-resonant way via thorough brand discovery and a new brand strategy (brand messaging architecture).