8 Steps to Branding Your Design Firm

Discover Who You Are as a Designer and Sell Your Brand's Message

Eight Steps in Branding

Developing a brand strategy can be challenging, but is a vital step in creating a strong business strategy and lays the foundation for your business plan. Spending time investigating and researching, defining, and building your brand is critical for your future success and defines your business, marketing and internal communication plan.

To help you develop your branding strategy, we have created a simplified seven part process to guide you through each step. While some of it is easy to do on your own, you may need a professional for other parts of this process, especially to facilitate agreements for several stakeholders, review outcomes, or assist you in the development of logos, web and collateral, customer research and analysis.

There are two fundamental pieces to the branding process:

1. Your brand positioning and unique value proposition

2. Your name and visual identity

Critical to an effective branding strategy is a clear definition and agreement by all key team members about your objectives, target audience and values. Therefore, prior to proceeding with the branding process, it is critical to align team members, both management and employees, to ensure key issues and concerns are addressed and that future positioning considers all stakeholders' values and goals.

Part I - Stakeholder Positioning, Clarifications, Industry Research

This part of creating a brand strategy clarifies expectations, vision and core beliefs of the stakeholders. To succeed you must discuss issues candidly (the sooner the better) and invest sufficient time in addressing how personal goals will fit into your future brand. Part of this process is an evaluation of industry and competition, preliminary organizational chart and financial analysis.

     1. Record each stakeholder's current orientation and agree on a desired state

     2. Devise a strategy to move each stakeholder towards alignment

     3. Develop high level organizational chart and commitment level

     4. Prepare initial industry research to discuss brand positioning ideas and values

     5. Prepare financial analysis

     6. Create project plan

Part II - Create Value Propositions

In part II of the branding process, you will define your core messages, identify customer segments and define benefits of your brand for your target audience.

     1. Develop your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), core messages and supporting messages

     2. Develop your brand positioning statement

     3. Create your supporting messages for different customer groups and services

     4. Differentiation: You may match a competitor on every dimension of value except one

     5. Excellence (in at least one element of value): You become the best choice for your customers

Part III - Develop your Mission and Vision

This step in the branding process defines your Vision & Mission so as to clearly and concisely convey the direction of the organization and the key measure or measures of the organization's success. Its prime audience is the leadership team and/or stockholders (investors).

Part IV - Develop your Name

Once you have an understanding of what your brand is representing, its customers and your primary market benefits, you can proceed with the naming process for your brand. Part IV of the branding process therefore deals with the naming of your brand.

     1. Define attributes and value propositions that will drive the brand

     2. Develop naming ideas, brainstorm and record your ideas (consider: Service/Trademarks, online search results to compete against, naming considerations)

     3. Use the competitive research you did earlier and the brand definition work you have already done

     4. Create a way to evaluate and tally the results of your naming research so you can make a decision (consider sound, associations, competiiors names)

     5. Agree on a name and register name

Part V - Prepare your Visual Identity

Once you have settled on a name, it's time to create the visuals for your brand. This includes your logo, your style guide and all assets related to your visual identity.

     1. Review competitive findings on colors, logo types and branding to differentiate yourself

     2. Review logo trends and agree on direction

     3. Develop your logo for different media types, sizes, applications

     4. Develop a style guide to ensure clear communication guidelines for use of your logo and graphics

Part VI - Create a Launch Plan

Now you are ready to put things into action. Start implementing all the ideas, train and educate employees and finalize your plan with the financials and activities to reach your goals

     1. Finalize business plan, marketing plan

     2. Develop your collateral, website and visibility

     3. Evaluate, differentiate and define brand touch points

     4. Launch internally - then externally

     5. Develop standards & guidelines

     6. Nurture brand champions

Part VII - Implement & Launch

Now you are ready for prime time! Measurements and strategies for review and adjustment should be in place. Quarterly review of your goals and ensuring your brand plan and business plan continue to align with your sales and marketing activities to benchmark success.

     1. Benchmarking

     2. Adjustments

     3. Quarterly and Annual Planning

     4. Strategic Reviews

Inka Traktman is president and owner of Greenfire Strategies, a strategic brand consultancy and product marketing company specializing in brand positioning, product positioning and digital marketing.

By Inka Traktman