How to Crush Your Brand Process in Eight Easy Steps

Or, How Not to Screw Up Your Brand

By Jen Bulotti – President, Stryker-Munley Group, Sacramento

As professionals in rebranding and brand positioning, we have seen our share of brands gone right, and some that have gone really, really wrong. The divide between the two outcomes? Process and the people in it.

For more than 20 years, our team has been creating some of the most stunning brands and brand positioning campaigns on behalf of high tech, wealth advisory firms, dot coms, Fortune 100 companies and hospitality, to name a few. So we know a thing or two about that “kick in the gut moment” when we realize, “ahhhh, they aren’t getting how tough this process really is.”

Granted, the Nike Swoosh, and the Apple icon were done in relatively quick order—primarily because there was a narrow field of decision makers involved. Most brands, however, involve layers of stakeholders and audiences who must be part of the process. Our job is to drive them to a single rallying cry: a brand that can be promoted and protected by those it serves.

At Stryker-Munley Group, we have some of the best and brightest in the brand and messaging space. We hail from the top agencies in the world, and top brands and companies. One thing we all have in common—Respect for the brand process.

Here are a handful of simple steps to consider when going through the process to ensure you have truly “respected the brand.”

STEP 1: RESEARCH + ANALYZE

Determine values, challenges and advantages
This is probably this most critical step to build agreement, not the approval of the final brand. During this period, business objectives and goals are set, communications objectives are identified and a competitive analysis is conducted to understand the context of where the brand will live and play. Also this is the time to test some of the organization’s assumptions “We’ve always had a unicorn in our logo,” or “We need to be sure the brand speaks to puppy owners.”

Key to this first step is target audience identification, key message development, and market segmentation considerations to ensure the brand can cross many audiences.

STEP 2: BRAINSTORM

Generate ideas
This is probably everyone’s favorite step. But if done well, it will be a tough process to prioritize and qualify input. It will most likely end with more exclusions than inclusions with regard to new ideas, but this should be done through directed collaboration to ensure everyone is heard through creative discussion, and understands why the group arrives with a strong direction.

This step should also include an overall approach discussion on where the brand should end up.

STEP 3: DISCOVER

Determine concepts and “look and feel”
Now things get interesting. At this point, the creative director or team takes all of the compiled and prioritized information (such as key messaging and brand direction ideas) and goes “behind the curtain” like the Great and Powerful Oz, to produce brand directions which will include:

  • Brand ideas
  • Brand palette
  • Image style
  • Patterns/Textures
  • Photography/Imagery Concepts

Once presented, the marketing tactics and tools from the marketing plan should be cross-referenced to ensure the directions are consistent with the future brand applications.

STEP 4: DEVELOP STRATEGY

Formulate a comprehensive plan
While the creative process is underway, the project managers and team must start work on a project plan to consider budget and resource allocation for the rollout and application of the brand. A timeline for rolling out the brand should be developed, and distribution channels targeting key audiences should be included.

STEP 5: INITIATE DESIGN PHASE I

Design of initial ideas & concepts
After the strategy is laid out, it is time for the design team to present the first of the “arrived upon” logo and imagery options to support the design. At this stage, a strong design team will be sure to mock up brand comps in applications, such as the web template, or email design. The decision upon a final theme is typically determined at this step.

STEP 6: CONTINUE WITH DESIGN PHASE II

Refine design concept
Once agreement is built around the brand and logo direction. The team will go behind the curtain again to “lock down” the look and feel, logotype, colors, and all application scenarios. This is not the point to change the direction or question decisions in the process.  “We are well beyond that folks!” has been uttered from my lips more times than I care to share.

STEP 7: FINALIZE DESIGN

Approve design
In this fun and final step, the final brand guide, final artwork and all design attributes (images, graphics, etc.), are approved!

STEP 8: IMPLEMENT, SHARE + MEASURE/ENFORCE!

Share your great brand, measure your results, and enforce your brand policy
Now that there is a brand rollout in place, and a new brand. It is time to share your new beloved look and feel with the world. Transitioning to a new brand can be clunky, but with handy dandy project managers, a stellar design and tech team and committed crew, the transition should be painless. Be sure to share with your closest stakeholders and target audiences first (team, clients, vendors, partners), and roll out as quickly as possible with appropriate messaging. Our last word of advice!

“Do not let anyone violate your brand guide and policy!”

– Said Every Brand Professional that Ever Lived
We have created a lot of brands in our collective professional lifetime. We live and breathe the success of your brand as much (if not more) than your team. We want to share your new approach proudly and confidently as a team. Have a brand issue facing your organization? We are happy to help. And I promise you it will be insightful, informational and fun.

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