More than research, more than project management, more than Adobe software, we’ve narrowed down four things that have to be in place for a successful branding project.
We’ve been involved with successful and (gasp!) unsuccessful projects. It’s a real bummer to get through the whole process and the client isn’t happy with the guidelines or can’t choose a logo direction. Branding is a complex and often subjective process with about 100 ways to go off the rails. We’ve gone off the rails, and so have our clients. We looked at our most successful projects and asked ourselves: Why were these so successful and fun? What did these projects have that others didn’t?
At the very least, they all had these four elements present:
I can’t stress enough how important this is. In our creative team, one of us “owns” every job, meaning we have the most information about our work and can decide about the creative direction or process.
This person also needs to exist on the Client team. This ”owner” needs to be empowered to make the big calls. They need to determine who needs to be involved, make decisions and filter group feedback on creative ideas, help us prioritize customer needs, and maintain the collaborative synergy of their team.
If the Client owner needs to get permission from their supervisor to make most of their decisions, that means they aren’t the real owner, and they need further empowerment or to delegate ownership to their supervisor.
With this ownership, the process will stay smooth, and communication will be clear and precise, making the work fun and productive for everyone.
In this project, we had editors and an entire nonprofit staff working collaboratively, but Gavin was the clear owner and a delight to work with:
We work with people who wear a lot of hats. We work with busy small business owners and Marketing Directors who usually do at least ten people’s jobs. Branding is a process that asks everyone on the team to commit to long-ish collaboration sessions and reviews. Thinking takes time, and we ask that every set aside some time to contemplate the ideas we come up with in these group sessions.
For example, one of the exercises we start every branding project with is to create 5-17 words that describe the brand we’re going to visualize. These words are the foundation for all the following work, so it’s a big deal to be accurate in this step.
There’s a difference between:
There’s a visual difference between a brand and its elements looking approachable and friendly than traditional and possibly academic. It’s important to take a minute to understand the reasoning behind our decision together.
So when you start, ensure everyone has designated calendar space: time block an hour of thinking and exploration after creative sessions. Better yet, get out of your regular working space and review in a different atmosphere to get into a fresh mindset and see the work with fresh eyes.
In this rebranding project, we had ample time to think and talk about the ideas and concepts:
The client team, specifically the owner, must care about their work — a lot. They must care about customers, the company’s product or service, and the brand’s future.
We need to transfer this passion and emotion into the work to connect with audiences. We all know we make choices based on emotion, not facts, and a brand and its assets create that emotion. It comes from the visuals, the written messaging, and everything together in collateral and brand assets. It’s the difference between forgettable and inspirational.
In this project, everyone had so much passion for the work, the process was a blast:
An open mind
I always have an image of what the end product will look like. I can’t help it — I’m a visual thinker. Not all of us are, but we probably have some element we care about: a typeface, color, or symbol.
Branding is a largely political, subjective process. Everyone will know what they want, but when we collaborate and research, we’re all trying to figure out what the BRAND wants. In the process, we’re bringing this brand to life with its own values, beliefs, personality, and style. We’re creating a new lifeform separate from any of us, with bits of what we all see and what our current and potential audiences see.
It’s hard to get out of our heads and likes and look at a drawing, typeface, color palette, or logo uses from the brand’s point of view. The best way to do that is to try to assume a customer’s perspective and see with their eyes.
Are you ready for a rebrand? Do you have these four things in place in your organization? If not, how will you get there? The first place to start is with #1: an owner. Hopefully, That person has #2, passion for the work, making #3, creating space in calendars a priority. We can all work on #4: approaching the work openly and with collaboration at the center.
Don’t worry, we’re always here for you! Let’s talk about this.