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How to locate, differentiate and communicate the power of your brand’s simple truth. 3 STEP BRANDING PROCESS & WORKSHOP Chuck Kent | creativeoncall 2 Table of contents INTRODUCTION PREPARATION PROCESS STEP 1: Discover Research and review External discovery Internal discovery and branding workshop STEP 2: Define Brand elements, essence, benefits & personality STEP 3: Develop Brand-positioning statement Master creative strategy FIRST PRODUCTS Brand identity Brand voice THE SELL-IN Presenting to the organization ADDENDUM: TEMPLATES Leadership interview Pre-workshop questionnaire Workshop outline Brand map Master creative strategy A WORD ABOUT THE AUTHOR Chuck Kent is a freelance branding strategist and writer who has worked with clients from A (American Girl) to Z (Zurich), and for marketers and their agencies of all sizes. He is the creator and moderator of The Branding Roundtable for Branding Magazine, for which is also a Contributing Editor. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn and his own company website and blog, creativeoncall.com. CHUCK KENT Text © Creative on Call, Inc. May be used and shared with attribution. 312.420.7051 [email protected] 3 This is about branding. So it’s not about you. Here’s the most important thing you can learn from this eBook: branding is not about your brand. It’s about your customers, prospects and employees and what your product or service – in fact, your whole company – can honestly do and be for them. As such, branding isn’t about positioning in the sense of posturing; it’s the task of locating the simple truth about your brand. This search requires taking three steps: 1. DIscover the needs and attitudes of all constituencies. 2. Define the brand essence: its rational and emotional value. 3. Develop a differentiating positioning statement and master creative strategy. Identifying what your brand can honestly do and be requires complete honesty with yourself in the process, a need that may be best served by hiring an independent consultant or branding firm (says the experienced consultant writing this). But even if you decide to pursue branding or rebranding internally, this eBook will help you discover, define and develop the essential elements of a strong, meaningful, well-differentiated brand. (It’s about her.) 4 Before you take that first step bring your people along. There are two critical reasons to involve your people at all levels: • Leadership needs to be invested in the branding process if they are going to champion (and fund) the outcome • Employees deliver the brand experience, good or bad, planned or not; they must have and feel ownership Of course, investing people requires educating them first. How to Explain Branding to Your Leadership 1. Tell them what a brand is. Even experienced business people often misunderstand what a brand really is, thinking it’s just a logo or an image. There are many definitions; my favorite states that a brand is a promise made and kept. 2. Explain the ROI of branding. Familiarize yourself with the research that explains the bottom line benefit of having a clear, strong brand. One report, for instance, states that “Strong brands have been shown to be effective strategies for achieving sustainable profits and returns. Furthermore, strong brands also demonstrably enhance shareholder wealth via higher firm stock [prices].” 3. Describe the organizational benefits. Well-defined and differentiated brands help attract, retain and, best of all, inspire employees. Conversely, a recent study noted that “A weak brand...can lead to poorer candidates, disengaged and resentful employees, higher turnover and ultimately reduced organizational performance. Whether you do it one-to-one or in more formal meetings, it pays to explain up front how branding profits everyone. No company is a stock as these people, so no brand positioning can rely on stock answers. You need to listen closely to your organization at all levels if you want to hear what really makes your brand experience unique. 5 STEP 1: Discover The quickest route to ineffective branding is for a marketer to insist that they already thoroughly understand and can articulate exactly what their customers want and need – and that they are ready to simply jump to creating branding statements. This can be done, but all it produces is a formalization of preconceived notions and political biases – in short, the problems you’re trying to overcome only get more entrenched. Useful insight requires in-depth listening and learning, fresh perspectives and, as emphasized before, complete honesty. Whomever is leading your branding effort should be expected (and allowed) to: 1. Review current client materials and plans Provide your project leader with your latest business plans (redact as you must, but let them in on the basics) along with key marketing/communications materials, plus whatever competitor materials and information you have. 2. Review existing industry research and social signals Hopefully your company conducts on-going research on consumer and customer attitudes, needs and trends, and routinely whittles your own Big Data down to manageable size. Equip your project leader with that information, as well as any related industry studies. If you do not have any current proprietary research, seriously consider investing the time and money to conduct new research (many new marketing research tools make this a faster, more affordable endeavor than ever). 3. Interview the executive team one-on-one Once the project leader has digested all of the above, he or she should interview the executive project owners to focus your discovery and challenge assumptions. (See the Leadership Discussion Guide example in the Addendum.) 4. Interview clients one-on-one If you have no current information and feel you can’t afford to do even the slightest bit of new research, at least do this: identify 10-12 representative customers who would be willing to do a 30 minute phone interview with your project leader. These should definitely be recorded as the verbatim remarks, even the inflection of the comments, can be very revealing, factually and emotionally. 6 STEP 2: Define A well-executed discovery phase gathers and prioritizes the data you need – but there’s still a huge gap between raw information and real insight. In the definition phase you must pare away all non-essentials until you are left with nothing but your brand’s simple truth (again, we are about positioning here, not posturing). At this point, your branding consultant or internal project leader must take a strong lead in defining: 1. Brand elements What are your products, organizational structure, personality and symbols? 2. Brand essence How do the above net out as the core of what you are and do? 3. Brand benefits What difference – rationally and emotionally– does that essence make to customers (and all stakeholders)? 4. Brand personality How is your brand most accurately personified as part of that all-important customer relationship? The Branding Workshop Begins Experience shows that, while your consultant needs to craft initial definitions of the above using a Brand Map (see the template in the Addendum), once those are complete it’s time to involve your larger leadership team in the branding process. Schedule a half-day, off-site session during which the consultant can guide a group of 10-12 key internal decision makers and influencers through the Brand Map, soliciting their input and challenges, and challenging their assumptions and biases in return (see the Workshop Outline). This teamwork not only adds valuable organizational insight – it also invests your leaders in the outcome of the branding process, giving them both ownership in, and responsibility for, its success. 7 STEP 2: Define A Special Note About Discerning Your Brand’s Personality An effective brand personality is not a fictional character contrived to attract, but, rather, it is your brand’s true internal character revealed. As such, it can’t be a mask, it must be a reflection. Hold a Mirror Up to Your Organization There are many ways to get your organization to see, and say, what it is. One of the best is the photo sort, an exercise that invariably engages and enlivens the leadership team more than any other single exercise in the half-day branding workshop. If your consultant isn’t familiar with the photo sort, here’s how it works: 1. Assemble a wide range of portraits The objective is to compile a deck of 20 or so photos of well-known personalities (famous people or archetypes). On the one hand, you should be mindful of personality types that represent known qualities, or aspirations, of your organization. On the other hand, it’s wise to throw in a few wild cards, simply to see what reactions they spark. 2. Divide your workshop group into teams Us – in 5 year s Provide a complete deck of 5x7 photos for teams of 3-4 workshop participants each (ideally a total of 3 teams). 3. Challenge the teams Ask each team to select (in separate, sequential exercises) six photos/people that represent a key aspect of a) your easy going exp ert competitors, b) your organization now and c) what they inquisit ive believe your organization can be in five years. 4. Require the teams to present and explain their choices Have each team select a presenter who will place the six choices up on a poster-size Post-It, labeling each with excit ing experien ced welc oming just one adjective. (Note: be sure to photograph each of these Post-Its before starting the next round, as teams will need to re-use photos.) After the workshop, the consultant/project leader should compile and distill the results, aiming to divine an essential thread throughout the comments. The consultant’s summation is most usefully presented as a six-photo selection, each photo described by one key adjective. Photo sorts can also be used to excellent effective if you are able to conduct customer/consumer focus groups. 8 STEP 3: Develop This is the step where your brand positioning comes together – or not. It is deceptively simple: a one sentence brand-positioning statement, followed by a one-page master creative strategy that looks like a fill-in-the-blank template. This, however, is also where the Big Idea happens, where all you have discovered and defined must get distilled into clear, differentiating, usable statements. Brand-Positioning Statement Simplicity, brevity and specificity rule in creating a brand positioning statement, which should take the follow form: To (target audience), (product/service name) is the (adjective) brand that provides (this key benefit). The statement should be phrased to be as competitively unique as possible. Master Creative Strategy Up until now we’ve been concerned with internal language (which is to say, no, you should not use your brand-positioning statement in literal form with any of your key audiences). Making all this effort meaningful in the marketplace requires converting it into a practical brand messaging strategy – a master creative strategy to inform and guide all communications. In the Addendum you will find a Q&A template for encapsulating key considerations to be observed whether writing a website, ad or employee newsletter (each of which likely deserves its own specific version to clarify exact communication deliverables of specific, goaldriven projects). This document not only guides creative development, it also provides as objective a a yardstick as is possible for judging creative work in the subjective realm of marketing creativity. 9 First Products It is important that you not only complete the organization-facing statements, but also proceed to “materializing” the promise of this new positioning in customer-facing uses. This will help you • Prove the practicality of your brand direction • Embed it in the organization through real-world use Brand Identity For new brands, or completely repositioned brands, a new name and/or visual identity (not just a logo, but also colors, fonts and overall visual approach) are likely the first order of creative business. Done well, these can be very involved, time-consuming and/or expensive propositions, but regardless of the scope of your identity projects, they all require the brand-positioning work to be completed, and completely understood, first. Brand Voice Establishing a distinctive brand voice through specific copy creation is one of the best ways to establish your brand personality. As most branding projects for smaller to medium-sized brands are typically followed by the development of a new website, that copy creation is your best opportunity to begin to work out and exhibit your unique brand voice. Sales Deck Many companies reach their first level of success through pure, “old-fashioned” salesmanship, and branding comes to the fore only when such companies grow past the lowhanging fruit and need to support broader sales through disciplined marketing (not to mention needing to build greater brand equity for owners or shareholders). For such sales-centric companies, there is no better first project (other than the website) than updating that old warhorse, the PowerPoint sales deck. A well-designed, consistent, differentiating and strategically more persuasive deck can be a great way to make brand believers (and ambassadors) out of your sales force and management. 10 The Sell-in You’ve done the hard work of brand positioning. You’ve started to bring it to life with the first customer-facing expressions of your promise and personality. Everybody’s onboard and it’s full speed ahead, right? Well, not quite. Sing it, Dance it, Sell it! Many companies fall into the trap of simply launching into new brand communications without first getting buy-in from the entire organization. Yes, if you’ve followed this process you have at least involved your management and key leadership team, but there is an army of make-or-break brand stewards out there – that is to say, the entire organization – that needs to get informed and get excited about what the new branding means to them. Minimally, you need to make a formal presentation to the troops (no, an email won’t do). Ideally, you’ll invest in an employeeinvolving internal communications campaign. Depending on the nature (and budget) of your organization, this might include • A teaser campaign to pique employee interest (think of a series of only semi-revealing messages, whether in-location signage, postcards, videos... get creative) • An organization-wide presentation to create a shared “moment of change” • An on-going effort to keep communicating, and correlating, employees’ brand boosting with performance (HR needs to be part of bringing the brand alive) Don’t Forget Your Brand Co-Creators Of course, in this era of the hyper-empowered consumer, both new branding and rebranding projects are wise to not only respect the customer’s sense of brand ownership but actively work to cultivate and inform it. In the Discover phase of the branding process, this can mean anything from social listening to active solicitation of input. Once its time to launch the new branding, it also means being intentional about reaching out to the most committed (and vocal) brand advocates / evangelists / agitators. Consider special “preview” communications, contests and other incentives tied into understanding and socially amplifying the new brand messaging. Addendum TEMPLATES Leadership Interviews Pre-Workshop Questionnaire Workshop Outline Brand Map Master Creative Strategy 12 Leadership Interview 1. This sample is specifically for a B2B services firm, but can be adapted to B2C firms and individual product/service branding. It is recommended that you ask permission to record and transcribe this interview, both for clarity of information gathering and potential use (as quotes) in your reporting. Your Firm a. In one sentence, as briefly as possible, describe the business you’re in. b. What are your near term business goals? c. Long-term goals? d. What is the firm’s greatest strength? e. Greatest weakness? 2. Client Profiles & Needs a. Describe your current clients by: i.Industry ii. Company iii. Decision-makers (positions, demographics, psychographics) iv. Greatest needs / pain points v. Greatest personal/career needs/fears vi. Media habits vii. Top reason(s) they choose you b. Describe your ideal prospects by: i.Industry ii. Company iii. Decision-makers (positions, demographics, psychographics) iv. Greatest business needs / pain points v. Greatest personal/career needs/fears vi. Media habits vii. Top reason(s) they will or won’t choose you 3. Marketplace Dynamics a. Who are your top 2-3 competitors today? i. What do you see as their competitive differentiators? ii. What are their marketplace advantages? b. Who (by description, if not name) are likely to be your top 2-3 competitors in 3-5 years? i. What will be their competitive differentiators? ii. Marketplace advantages? c. Over the past few years, from a client’s view of your industry, what has been i. … the most exciting change ii. … the most difficult challenge d. Answer both of the above from a your firm’s perspective. e. As clients look ahead, what is likely to be your industry’s i. … most exciting change ii. … most difficult challenge f. Answer the above from your firm’s perspective 13 Pre-Workshop Questionnaire At least a week before the half-day workshop, send this questionnaire out to the participants. You will need to get it back in time to synthesize composite answers to help inform your exploration and discussion in the workshop. 3-Step Branding Process Workshop Leadership Team Questionnaire Name: _____________________________________ Title: _____________________________________ Please briefly answer the following questions; your input will help inform our brand-positioning process. Please type your answers directly following the questions; when there are multiple responses to a single question, please numerically prioritize your answers. Simply email your completed questionnaire directly to [project leader] at [email]. 1. In one sentence, as distilled as possible, please answer the question “What does your [organization name] do?” 2. What do you see as [organization name’s] greatest competitive: a.Strength b.Weakness 3. Describe [organization name’s] current clients by: a.Industry b.Position c. Needs d. Reasons they work with [organization name] e. Reasons they don’t – i.e., why do you lose projects from current clients or prospects? 4. Describe the clients you think [organization name] should have in the future, by: a.Industry b.Position c. Needs 5. What types of products/services should [organization name] be offering that it is not now to attract those desired future clients, and expand business with the clients we currently have? 6. What obstacles to you see in getting to points 4 and 5 above? a.Internal b.External 7. Who do you see as [organization name’s] top competitors a.Today b. In five years 14 Workshop Outline This outlines the approximately 3 1/2 hour facilitated workshop envisioned for a key leadership team of 10-15 people. To ensure focus, it’s best to hold this off site. This requires only a comfortable conference room with ample food and drink available (and use of devices discouraged, except at breaks). A) What is a brand – and why does it need to be positioned? • Ask for definitions • Share: a well-positioned brand should do three things: 1. Present a compelling benefit to the prospective customer 2. Identify the benefit provider (brand identity and personality) 3. Differentiate the product or service from the competition. (this is the combined effect of the first two points) B) Who are you? • Share their definitions broadly compiled from the pre-workshop questionnaire into one composite description • Walk participants through the brand map (the leader/consultant should have his/her own answers in hand, but solicit input from the group before sharing or adding those in). C) Who are your customers, present & future? • What are their needs/desires/pain points? • What are your customers like? Personality? Media habits? D) Who is your competition? • Talk about ones most often mentioned in their questionnaires E) Benefit differentiation matrix Place your company and competitors on a matrix of relevant key benefits (functional benefits on one axis, emotional benefits on the other). Do the exercise first for today, and again to represent where you want to see relative positions five years from now (these four benefits are only for purposes of illustration): Confidence DataInsight Safety F) Brand personality photo sort Benefit is only part of it – personality counts in the human decision-making equation: Reason (benefit) + emotion (response to personality) = decision Using the process outlined on page 7, have each team create and present their photo selects for • The brand at present • The brand aspired to (future) 15 Brand Map Use this template to tease out the core elements of the brand. It is recommended that the consultant or project leader have his/ her own answers defined, but solicit imput from the workshop participants before sharing or adding those definitions. Brand map Brand Organization - Who are you - How are you organized Brand Personality Descriptors that personify the company Brand Essence Two or three key words that describe the essential brand benefits Brand products List the key products/services Brand Symbols Visualize the brand via current or new images Brand Value Functional: Describe what your product/service does on a core functional level. Emotional: Describe how your brand makes its users feel (try formatting as a user quote). Self: What does the user as an individual get out of the brand? 16 Creative Strategy Use this format to distill all the branding work you’ve done into a focused, manageable message. And please – keep it to one page. The discipline of communicating the essentials begins here and, whether your vehicle is a website or a print ad, you must make the most of limited space and even more limited attention spans. 17 How to Get Started The first step is to select an experienced brand strategist from outside your organization (my recommendation, both for purposes of expertise and objectivity). If that is not in your budget, then select a project leader from your internal team and empower her or him with enough authority and independence to make a difference. Chuck Kent As a brand strategist and a writer, I can not only help you find your brand’s simple truth, I can also convert your discoveries into compelling communications (one is, after all, really no use without the other). I’ve helped do it for global leaders like GE, Motorola and Zurich, as well as upstart innovators and a host of small-tomidmarket companies. This eBook should give you a good idea of how I think. If you’d like to know a little more about me personally, try one of my most popular posts; “3 Things You Need to Know About Chuck Kent Before Hiring Him” 312.420.7051 [email protected] creativeoncall.com ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I did not originate all these the tools and techniques featured here; they include my best synthesis of ideas from other brand thinkers over decades of branding experience, presented in a format that I have honed to be the most effective. My appreciation goes out to all, with apologies that specific names cannot be included in my thanks. Text © Creative on Call, Inc. May be used and shared with attribution.