Is your brand strategy reflected in your branding?

How does your brand look, sound and feel? Whether you’re a start-up and you’ve just created your first brand strategy, or you’re an established brand that has reviewed and redefined its strategy, it’s not enough for your strategy to just live on paper. It needs to leap from the page and into every aspect of your marketing and communications.

In most of our projects we help established brands to redefine their strategy in the first instance. Usually, this reveals gaps in their branding that need to be addressed or big discrepancies between strategy and branding that need to be realigned. Where this is the case, either a brand refresh or full rebrand is normally required.  

Start with brand strategy

As creatives ourselves, we understand the temptation to delve straight into the creative process. But before you do, you need to have a clear brand strategy in place. Your strategy should define who you are, why you exist, how you behave and what it is that you do.

As part of our strategy work, we carry out thorough brand audit that analyses how your brand looks, sounds, and feels to your audience. Being outside observers, we encourage you to look at where there may be a disconnect. When you look at your new strategy and your brand audit side by side, do your brand assets send the right signals to your audience? Is your audience able to decode your signals in the way they should? If the answer is no, you have some work to do.

Our strategy work with our client MacKenzie King for example revealed a big discrepancy between the personal, caring, knowledgeable and honest approach of the team and their impersonal and corporate branding. To communicate their strategy, we took them on a rebrand journey to create a brand that truly reflects who they are and how they work.

Know your competitors

Your strategy and creative work must take your competition into consideration. You need to analyse their strategy and how they look, sound and feel. Can you pinpoint if and how you are different from your competitors? Differentiation, especially if it is subtle, is not always obvious to your audience and that’s where creative – design and great copywriting – can really help you develop a distinctive look and feel.

Study how your competitors present themselves. Is there a crossover with your branding? Are you sending similar signals, such as colours, imagery, logo shape or icons? If so, make sure that your branding is not only authentic and true to your organisation, but also distinctive enough to stand out from the crowd.

When we analysed the visual brand assets of MacKenzie King’s competitors we noticed that the yellow they used as part of their colour scheme is a unique brand asset. No other competitor was using that colour. Not only that, yellow was the obvious colour choice to express their positivity, welcoming and personable approach. So, as part of the rebrand, we fully embraced this particular asset to help the brand cut through the noise.

Get the brand creative right

Getting your creative right is key when building your brand. Your brand assets are the building blocks that help you translate your brand strategy into something that can be seen, heard and felt by your audience. But it needs to be authentic and distinctive, so that you can build strong brand associations in your audience’s mind.

Your brand assets are the building blocks that translate your brand strategy into something that can be seen, heard and felt by your audience.

Your visual assets are what people new to your brand usually experience first. You need several assets to create a distinctive look and feel. Just a logo is not enough. We usually design a coherent brand identity suite that includes a logo or logos, a colour scheme, distinctive typefaces and typography, and imagery. Imagery can be wide-ranging from brand photography and simple graphics to bespoke icons, illustrations and animations.

Your branding is also your tone of voice and your key messaging. It is the way you express yourself and talk to your audience. So, make sure that the words and messaging are in-line with your brand strategy and visual assets.

Your branding is the sum of all touch points between your audience and your brand. These can be small details or big experiences, from business cards, brochures and websites to retail spaces, adverts and customer service calls. Every single element must contribute to a consistent user experience by working with all your available brand assets.

Your branding is the sum of all touch points between your audience and your brand.

When we worked with our client Vale Designs, our strategy work revealed that their clients value their craftsmanship, handmade quality and dedicated service most. Our brand audit and competitor analysis revealed that the shape of their logo is unique among competitors and their dark green colour well established.

We built on their existing identity, choosing traditional typefaces with beautifully crafted ligatures to reflect the traditional craftsmanship and quality. We also created a suite of hand drawn illustrations to emphasise their approach and values.

Consistency, consistency, consistency

Often, we see inhouse teams loosely interpret brand guidelines. That usually results in some brand assets being neglected and new ones getting created, resulting in the overall branding being diluted and losing its strength.

This is usually the result of either not having sufficient or the right assets, or marketing teams getting tired and bored of working with the same assets day in day out. When this happens, marketing teams must resist temptation and double down. Consistency is key in building memory short cuts to your brand.

Consistency is key in building memory short cuts to your brand.

Every brand competes in busy and cluttered environments, so it is crucial to give your brand the best chance to stand out and to be seen and heard. To build mental availability and salience of your brand you must repeatedly expose your audience to your distinctive signals to build these all important associations.

Once you start tweaking or changing your assets, you start eroding the associations you’ve built or you have a much harder job creating them in the first place. To avoid this, create brand guidelines for your marketing team for reference and set up templates. Even though some design platforms encourage you to channel your inner designer, simply resist for the health of your brand.

Taking the first step

If you’ve decided that now’s the time to revisit your strategy or put one in place, we’re excited for you. Revisiting your brand brings a renewed sense of enthusiasm, connection and ownership – it’s quite the immersive experience. So, if you’re looking for partners who’ll share in your excitement and guide you through the process, we’d love to have a chat.

About Franzi Scheithauer

Franzi is Creative Director at Studio Brand Up and specialises in brand strategy and identity design.