There is a lot of talk around brand purpose at the moment, but how many organisations have actually created a brand centred around their core value(s)?
It doesn’t actually matter whether you are creating your company’s brand for the first time, developing one for a new product, or changing an existing brand completely. At the end of the day, the process should be broadly the same, and it most definitely should be purpose-led.
Step 1: Understanding Who You Are
Brand purpose has become a bit of a buzz phrase over the last couple of years. Companies have started looking for new ways to differentiate themselves from the competition (other than price, product quality and customer service) and consumers have become more conscious of the products that they are buying and the brands that they are buying from.
So, if purpose is the foundation of what makes a brand relevant and necessary, you need to understand the audience that you are selling to and ensure your values align.
This is not a new concept.
There is a famous video of Steve Jobs in 1997 exploring the core value of Apple in a presentation. In it, he makes it clear that Apple aren’t a company that make computers – obviously they do – but they are in fact a company that “believes people with passion can change the world for the better”, and Apple helps them do that.
According to Simon Sinek, the author of the book “Start with Why”, this is the approach taken by the world’s most successful and pioneering business leaders.
By evaluating these leaders, he created the concept of the Golden Circle: Why, How, What. His Ted Talk with over 48 million views is well worth a watch, and in it he outlines that people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it.
There are pitfalls which companies can and have fallen into when using this method, as outlined in this blog on UX Planet and this one on Campaign.
As such brand purpose doesn’t have to be about changing the world or doing good for society, but about answering customer needs.
That’s why understanding who you are, what you stand for and why you are in business, along with what your customers are really looking for is vital to the branding process. Without going through this exercise, you run the risk of being just another brand.
TIP: Keep asking yourself “why” and “so what”? – you’ll eventually get to the real reason!
In 2020, we’ll be launching our own purpose-led rebrand. Here, we outline what we did at each stage of the process.
In our own rebranding process, we re-explored why the business was established in the first place. When our Managing Director, Joe Baily, created the business, the core value was to help clients better leverage marketing to drive growth within their own businesses. This continues to be the key driver behind our ethos today, and therefore it sits at the centre of our brand.
As a result, this is a simplified version of our golden circle:
Why? Brand Purpose: We generate business growth through marketing
How? We spend time focusing on our clients’ business objectives and set up, allowing us to advise, create and deliver marketing and development solutions at any stage of a marketing process – from strategy development, design and marketing through to supporting your technology platforms.
What? Ultimately, our services are the same as a lot of full service digitally focused marketing agencies. Through projects or retainers, we provide a range of marketing and communication, website design, development and support services.
As you can see, it’s not what we do that makes us different, or the how, but why!
Step 2: Research
So, you think you understand who you are and what the purpose of the brand is, but have you actually done anything to validate this? At the end of the day most brands can only exist by driving revenue, and for that you need a market to operate in and customers to buy from you.
Research is vital to this validation process and ensuring that your brand purpose differentiates you from the competition.
Firstly, it is important to carry out market research. While this should in theory be a detailed and tailored research piece, surveying your key audience (this guide is helpful to understand what brand market research is and why you should be doing it properly), we’re well aware that it isn’t always possible.
By taking time to talk to your customers or people you want to be your customers, as well as the people that interact with them on a regular basis, you can obtain objective, insight-based ideas and recommendations. These can then be used to make confident and informed judgements on your brand positioning.
Secondly, it’s important to review how your competitors are positioning themselves. If every business has the same messaging, how do you differentiate yourself? With purpose.
If your competition has the same purpose, work out why you are different and include this in your positioning.
By talking to our customers, exploring their needs and objectives, and analysing where we make the biggest impact for our most successful customers, we have been able to understand that our target audience wants business growth, and a partner to support them in achieving that growth.
When reviewing our competitors locally, regionally and nationally, we believe that our purpose is the thing that differentiates us from most agencies that look to provide similar support with campaign or project specific objectives.
As a result, we know that our brand purpose is right for us, and that we can develop messaging around understanding our customers’ business and their specific objectives.
Step 3: Creating & Developing Concepts
So, you’ve understood who you are, what your customers want and checked that you really do differentiate yourself from the competition. This has probably given you a good idea of how to position your brand. So now it’s time to get creative and design the different brand elements that will support this purpose.
There is of course the one thing that most people instantly think of when it comes to branding, the logo. But, as we know, branding is much more than that.
Articulating your brand purpose should be presented both visually (logo, font type, colour palette, imagery etc) and through messaging (both the words you use and the tone of voice you use around them). While it is important that your logo reflects your brand purpose, it’s actually more important to focus on your messaging.
TIP: Start articulating the messaging first and then use this in your design brief – it’ll make sure your visual brand reflects your purpose.
When it does come to the visuals, remember that the process is a journey of exploration and evolution. It’s very unlikely that the first concept created is going to be what you choose. Be patient and allow time to create the right identity, and effectively reflect the brand purpose, and the messaging that communicates this.
Fortunately for us, because our brand purpose has remained the broadly the same, our rebrand has been relatively straightforward in terms of positioning our messaging and developing a visual identity. But this doesn’t mean this it’s always been like this for us!
Here’s some examples of how we created some concepts for different elements of the new brand:
We created a strapline based on “Generating growth through marketing” and then looked to support this through messaging to cover our different types of services: We Create. We Market. We Support
We created numerous concepts and logo designs based on the idea of generating growth
We introduced some depth to the colour palette to replicate the warmth of being a strategic partner.
The Result: Final Brand
At some point you’ll realise that you are happy with one of the ideas, or you’ll have a few contenders to choose from.
Either way you’ll have to decide:
- Does it reflect that purpose with a set of elements that are clearly identifiable as your brand?
- Are you happy/do you like it enough for it to be your brand for a significant amount of time?
For your brand to work, you’ll have to create a clear set of brand guidelines covering both the messaging and visual identity. Often seen by some as stifling and annoying, they are vital in ensuring your brand is represented consistently, and therefore becomes identifiable.
If you’ve invested the time to create this new brand, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that’s it. Take time to train your staff on your brand, sharing the purpose and core elements that you want them to use when advocating the brand. It’s the only way to achieve full adoption.
TIP: This blog outlines 6 Tips for Better Brand Guidelines
Wait and see…