This week’s Follow Friday post is a guest post from Nick Westergaard, a smart branding guy who calls Iowa home. I met Nick at a conference last year and we immediately hit it off. Here’s what I like about Nick: He’s super smart and savvy, but isn’t one of those people who feels the need to constantly let everyone know how smart he is. I appreciate people who are confident enough in their skills that they let their work speak for itself. So, without further adieu, follow Nick on his blog and Twitter. And read on to as he offers some insights about brand building …
If you think about it, we’re all in the business of building brands. Whether you’re a PR firm, an ad agency, or a digital boutique. Whether you’re a scrappy start-up or a massive corporation, the desired result is the same — moving the needle for either our own brand or our clients’ brands.
The other common thread tying all practices together today is social media. Organizations of all shapes and sizes utilize this as a key way of influencing the hearts and minds of our audience. As social media gets more advanced it’s also getting more fractured as well. As we reach out and aide our clients in this work, having a consistent and clearly articulated brand message is critical now more than ever.
We don’t like to nail down things when it comes to branding. It can be scary. Defining your brand involves making some big decisions. And if we do take on establishing a brand, we often turn it into an academic exercise and never quite make it to execution. Instead we need to find a happy medium to create a brand plan that declares who our client is and what their brand story is before we can approach sharing it across media channels.
More than a plan, we need a Brand Blueprint that we can build on. If you’re looking at building a strong foundation for your brand, here are some tools to get you started.
- Define Your Audience — Who are you doing this for? Have you created personas for your various customer profiles? I’m a big believer in using clearly defined personas (short fictional bio of your ideal customers by segment with a photo) to make our goals more real and grounded in the market and, as a result, more brand driven in all of our actions.
- Establish Your Identity — Make a two-column list. On one side, based on your audience insights and personas, make a list of what you will do and what areas you will add value to your audience. Conversely, in the second column, define what you are not. The first column is a given for most brand strategists while the second can prove surprisingly informative in articulating who you are through the lens of who you are not.
- Sequence Your Brand’s DNA — Based on who you are, work your way through the key pieces of code that make up your brand’s DNA — the visual icons (logos, colors, and other visual cues) and the key messaging as well (slogan, positioning statement, value statement, creation story, and other special words and phrases that make you unique). Once you have these items assembled in a short, simple brief (aim for a page or two), make sure you share it with everyone from the factory floor to the C-suite.
- Audit All Brand Touchpoints — Take a big step back and make a list of all of your consumer or audience touchpoints. A touchpoint is any point of contact, large or small, where your community encounters your brand. Everything from your letterhead and signage to your packaging and invoices. Once you have all of this lined up, take a long, hard look. Is everything consistent? Are there missed branding opportunities?
Okay, so once we do all of this we’re done — we can check that ‘branding’ thing off of our lists, right? Not by a long shot. Part of the reason I love thinking of this process as a ‘Brand Blueprint’ is because it’s what you use to build. With questions like those above answered, you have the foundation to build out a website, response scripts for your call center, or your engagement plan for a new social network.
I came by a quote recently that said, “Remember ‘happiness’ is a way of travel not a destination.” The same applies to branding — it’s a way of travel. The work is never done. But with a strong foundation in place, you can build something strong and enduring.
What’s your brand’s foundation like?
Nick Westergaard is a brand-driven blogger, speaker, and strategist. He is Vice President at Westergaard, a brand strategy and creative services firm. He blogs about branding and social media at NickWestergaard.com.
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