By Published On: October 25, 2016

Does the word branding send chills down your spine? If so, you’re not alone. That’s because most people tend to see branding as some two-ton beast—an expensive, complicated, confusing process involving everything from new logos, websites, and graphic standards, to office signage, corporate identity materials, and company T-shirts—and then some.

Sure, when you look at it that way, it’s only reasonable that the branding process might give marketing directors their fair share of grief along with some sleepless nights. However, the simple truth is, branding doesn’t have to be nearly so intimidating and anxiety provoking.

One of the elements that seems to freak people out is the notion that branding is part art, part science, part who-knows-what. It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a creative brief. Exactly how do marketers go about redoing their brand’s entire look, feel, and messaging without their heads exploding? One way is to use a solid, step-by-step approach.

Adopting a proven system takes the mystery out of the branding process—giving you a clear roadmap that leads to the kind of results you want. At d.trio, we’ve developed and fine-tuned our own strategic branding process that we call our M.A.P.P. (Marketing And Planning Process). It includes steps such as “identify brand personality factors and key differentiators,” “find the reasons to believe,” and “establish identity guidelines detailing visuals, typography, and tone.”

While branding does involve hard work, it’s not mysterious, woo-woo work. It starts with a lot of smart, strategic research to really dig deep and get to know your company, its market, and its main competitors. Add to that a whole lot of experience, creativity, craft, and industry insight, and you’re well on your way. The key to the process is in following the right steps. A series of clear, proven steps to follow not only makes branding less intimidating, but it also makes it more successful.

Another way to mitigate the fear factor is to keep in mind there are two kinds of branding. There’s the complete brand overhaul we just talked about. But there’s a second kind, too—the simpler, smaller brand refresh or refocus.

Sometimes, what you need is a whole new look and feel. But sometimes, all you really need to reignite your brand is a facelift—a tweak, an update, a course correction. This is a fantastic and effective way to spark new life into your brand and clarify or refocus your communications without the pressure and complication of a full brand redo.

For example, this past summer, d.trio was hired to do a branding project for the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts. A long, well-established brand, CLA was looking to clarify its messaging and tone in order to more effectively communicate with its audiences. CLA was happy with its current logo, colors, website, etc. But what their marketing department needed was help in pinpointing the brand essence and personality in order to best leverage who they are in their marketing materials.

After extensive research that included several focus groups and competitive online audits, we identified a list of strengths, weaknesses, and unique advantages for CLA. We then used those as the basis to create an easy-to-follow reference guide to help the College communicate with its audience while remaining consistent with its overall brand.

While it might not be what everyone considers branding, the CLA project is actually a great example of the types of things that can fall under the branding umbrella. Other examples include things like designing a new logo for a sub-brand, updating a color palette or typographic system to give them a more modern look, enhancing a website with more compelling language, or developing a tagline or key messaging for a new marketing campaign. Or, like we did for CLA, you might want to get everyone in your organization on the same page by identifying and refocusing your brand voice.

There’s really no limit to the size and scope of branding work—large and small. And there’s no shortage of ways you can add new life and impact to your brand. The important thing is to stay current and relevant to your audience. Over time, companies change. Industries change. Audiences change. To be effective marketers, a brand needs to adapt. Sometimes your look and messaging no longer reflects who you are and where you’re going. And sometimes you need help clarifying who you are in the first place.

So that’s it. To take the fear out of branding, you need to break it down into small, strategic chunks. It doesn’t have to be a big, scary process. Of course, if you really want to take the fear out of your branding projects, give us a call. We’ll make it easy for you.

About the Author: cat-tonic

Born of curiosity and enthusiasm, we’re a scrappy group of smart, passionate marketers who work hard and play hard. We show up every day and fight for our clients who are making the world a better place. We listen with curiosity, explore deeply, ask hard questions, and sometimes put forth ideas that might make you squirm. Because we believe the status quo is good for growing mold but not much else. The way we see it, change is the way forward and the magic happens when curiosity, math, science, instinct, and talent intersect.
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