Your brand design process should be as much about defining your business as it is about creative design. The people doing your creative design should be intimately involved or familiar with the whole process of business definition and key messaging development, and that should be apparent in the final design.
If you are spending money on marketing but haven’t gone through a proper branding process, you most likely are not using your marketing budget as effectively as you could be. This is true for businesses both small and large. Businesses with tight budgets may not want to spend money on “brand development,” but they are actually the ones that can least afford to waste money on misguided marketing efforts down the line. Waste is what happens, though, when you skip the up-front definition and planning.
The Purpose of Marketing
The purpose of marketing is to support and drive sales. Each marketing piece, including your website, is like a tool in your sales tool chest, and each tool has a responsibility to show specifically how it helps increase sales for your business. If you can’t explain a certain marketing piece’s specific role in relation to the sales process, you shouldn’t create it.
This rule must start with the design of the brand itself. Can you explain how your choices of colors, fonts, copywriting and image guidelines, and other design elements drive sales? Or did you just pick them because they looked nice? If you haven’t put specific thought into the business function of your brand, then congratulations – you have a great business development opportunity in front of you.
The Planning Process
Brand development owns a specific place in your business planning model:
The basic goals of this process are to:
Connect: determine the demographics/geographics of people you most need to reach
Capture: define how your design is going to get their initial attention
Convince: know what you need to say to drive people to make a purchase
Marketing is like fishing – you need to pick the right spot on the lake, use attractive bait, and have the right techniques to hook them and real them in. The overall concept is common sense, but the processes and skills to execute it all from start to finish require marketing expertise.
It's All About Messaging
Underneath it all, this is really about knowing your messaging. Your brand is your business’s mouthpiece. It’s hard to get even a few moments of attention from a potential customer, so when you do, you need to seize that opportunity to say something impactful. Every. Time.
Most of your brand messaging is actually communicated non-verbally. Your brand communicates messages through your font choices, colors, spacing, and especially your choices of images. Your nonverbal messaging communicates much more to your customers than what you write in your text. In fact, usually people don’t read your carefully written text at all! In brand development you need to know that your brand is saying what you mean it to say, especially in its nonverbal messaging.
All-too-often business managers skip the messaging development phase altogether. They take for granted that marketing will talk about the basics about their product or service, and don’t understand the concepts of nonverbal messaging in marketing. The result is that they go into their brand design without a specific guide as to what they need their brand needs to say. At best these brands end up mediocre; at worst they are uninteresting, noisy, shallow, confused, and inconsistent. Seeing the brand of a business that doesn’t have a solid grasp on messaging is like listening to a speaker at a conference who is totally unprepared. Blah, blah, blah, get to the point! Potential customers walk away.
The Role of Aesthetics
All of this is not to say aesthetics aren’t important. Your design must be attractive and compelling to grab and retain a potential customer’s interest. This goes whether your customer is a person on the street, or an engineer buying specialty components.
The biggest challenge is to find that which is attractive and compelling, to your particular customer base, and consistent with what you need to talk about as a brand. If you are in the business of, say, manufacturing heater components, it can really take some marketing expertise to tease out the “attractive” and “compelling.” But it’s there, and you shouldn’t be tempted to skip discovering what it is.
When it comes to design itself there is also both art and science behind creating things that are attractive and compelling as well (to be discussed in another article). In all of this, it is also truly important that you as the business manager or owner personally feel good about your design. The good news is that it’s a package deal: the designs that are the most attractive and compelling are also the ones that are most succinct and consistent about the message they are trying to get across. Compelling messaging begets compelling design.
Call to Action
Brand should drive business. If all you have been thinking about is aesthetics, then you haven’t been doing marketing, you’ve just been doing a creative exercise. Unless you are in the design business, that’s not a good use of your business’s time or marketing budget.
Your brand is the mouthpiece for your business. What it says about you can make or break each sale. If you think can’t afford to focus on “brand development,” look at it from the perspective of your sales and realize — you can’t afford not to.