When my agency tells a client their branding or rebranding process will take months, they often ask me, “Why does it take so long?” When we were new and hungry for clients, it was sometimes hard to insist that, no, we could not whip up a quick logo, a color palette and some typography guidelines. And no, we could not complete it in two weeks.
But I did say no. I knew that rush jobs wouldn’t serve the success of my clients or my agency. Instead, I’ve worked hard at answering the question. Most prospective clients then understand the value and support the process. Some don’t. One client parted ways with us because he said we were “too strategic,” but his complaint was one of the best compliments we’ve ever received.
A brand is a valuable asset, a capital investment in intellectual property. A 2017 study by intellectual capital firm Ocean Tomo found that 84% of the value of S&P 500 companies was in intangible assets. They estimated that one-quarter of that value was attributable to the companies’ brands.
As technology continues to multiply opportunities for people to experience your brand, it’s more important than ever to tell your story consistently and responsively across hundreds of touch points. This requires a lot of careful planning, but if your brand may represent 20% to 25% of your company’s value, isn’t it worth the time to do it right?
Not Just A Pretty Logo
A brand is much more than a name, a logo and a color palette. It’s an expression of your mission, values and vision. A plan to achieve your goals and ambitions. An experience that connects you with your customers, clients, employees, investors and other stakeholders. A system and the tools to build that connection over time.
A brand is not just a pretty logo. It’s a plan to support your core business goals and grow the value of your company.
Things That Take A Long Time
1. Facilitating Internal Alignment
Before any of the work of creating your brand can begin, your agency needs to understand your organization, marketplace and goals. This is not just for the agency’s benefit.
A successful brand is built on a foundation of full internal alignment around your identity, goals and vision. It’s normal, even healthy, to have internal disagreements at the beginning, but it’s important to resolve these differences before any branding decisions are made.
During discovery, your agency will facilitate discussions and help you find consensus. Their outside eyes can offer perspectives that bring all stakeholders together. This takes time, but your agency needs that clear direction to inform its creative decisions. And your organization needs unified internal support to bring your new brand to life.
2. Creative Brief
The creative brief distills all the insights and decisions of the research and discovery phase — the consensus understanding of your identity, market position and goals.
It’s a critical document, and it’s important to take the time to get it right. The brief will guide everyone on the agency’s creative team: designers, writers, photographers, strategists, etc. It’s a unifying document for your internal team as well, informing your decisions as the branding process proceeds.
3. Creative Exploration
Even after the creative brief is finalized, your agency shouldn’t rush to draw and draft. To ensure the brand is unique and authentic to your organization, they will first look for inspiration in everything that informs your identity.
My agency once scanned 100-year-old documents from the archives of a university we were rebranding, drawing on their long history for visual direction. For a music nonprofit, we did a deep dive into the hype sticker culture for vinyl records, a key element of their mission.
Whatever the cultural, historical, artistic, scientific and other contexts of your undertaking, your agency should take the time to explore them well. They’ll then synthesize their initial ideas into a concrete creative direction — colors, imagery, foundational language, etc. — that’s well aligned with the creative brief.
4. Creating Brand Deliverables
Notice how much work has been done prior to beginning this step. Here’s where an agency designs a logo and its variations, chooses typography, writes a tagline and key language, and produces all the rest that customers will see.
Crafting quality brand assets does take some time, but when an agency completes the earlier work thoroughly and well, this phase should go smoothly. There is always an iterative process of feedback, revisions and tweaks, but even the first draft should feel 85% there.
5. Creating Tools
You have your logo, your tagline and all the other brand assets. So you’re done, right? Not if your agency is preparing your brand to succeed. Now it’s time to develop the tools you need to build your new brand.
Some are familiar static documents: brand guidelines and a voice and tone guide. These are important, but they’re not enough. Today, a branding agency should also develop digital tools that empower your team to create brand-consistent marketing collateral across all the touch points your brand can reach in the digital age.
These can be simple blog or email templates, or more sophisticated digital tools that make it easy to generate branded webpages or social media posts. Developing this technology takes more time, but it equips you to build your brand efficiently and effectively, scaling rapidly in a technology-driven world that’s moving faster every day. (And you won’t be forever dependent on your agency to produce every piece of branded content.)
The Payoff Of Patient Persistence
In Interbrand’s annual Best Global Brands report, which informed the Ocean Tomo study of S&P 500 companies, the authors found “enduring proof that investment in long-term brand-building enables businesses to thrive over time and survive market volatility.”
Building an effective brand takes some patience and persistence. You’re aligning your organization around a shared identity, goals and vision. You’re creating a strategy that will position your organization to achieve your goals. You’re investing in your organization’s value and ambitions. It’ll take a while, but it’s worth the wait.