Building a Brand Starts with the Foundation

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken
together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over
Seth Godin
Marketing Genius


Wait, What’s a Brand?

Starting with the basics, what is a brand? A brand is a strategic link between a company’s visual representation and a consumer’s thoughts and feelings about the company. A brand lives in the hearts and minds of the consumer; it isn’t tangible. A brand is not a logo, although a logo is part of a brand. A brand is not a business card although a business card is part of a brand. A brand is not a website, although a website is part of a brand.

A brand is a foundation on which we build all the pretty things. Discovering your brand and building its foundation is a crucial first step to the success of your company. And it’s not easy; it takes a unique set of skills to discover a brand and begin to build the foundation that will catapult success.

The brand experts at Firebrand Creative have conducted dozens of brand discovery sessions with clients over the years. We’ve defined and refined our process to get to the heart of your brand, build the foundation and tell your brand story.

Discovering Your Brand

Brand Discovery is essentially a series of questions, diving deep into the heart of your brand and better understanding your company, your industry, your employees, your customers and your competition.

The Brand Discovery process helps Firebrand Creative better understand your brand so we can make knowledgeable, data driven recommendations. It will also help you better understand your brand, and together, this is the path to success.

We begin the Brand Discovery process through formal and informal interviews with your company’s key leadership, front line employees and your customers.

Once our research is complete, we will compile our findings and begin to develop a comprehensive brand brief. What we are looking for during this process is where their alignment and where there is misalignment between what your customers, employees and leadership have to say.

Alignments are added to a brand archetype, meaning all stakeholders consider these things to be the most essential brand elements. We add misalignments to challenges for further research and discovery. What we seek to determine through the identification of misalignments is whether leadership’s brand vision isn’t making it to the front line or if the customer simply doesn’t buy into the company’s vision.

Once we address challenges, we develop the company’s core brand values and begin to develop the company’s purpose and vision. It’s at this point we start to develop the company’s story and craft messaging for telling the story to key stakeholders.

Creating brand messaging that resonates in the hearts and minds of your customer is a careful collaboration between telling your company’s story and reinforcing your brand promise. A consistent and compelling brand message is relatable to your customers, motivating them to seek out your services or champion your services if they are current customers.

We will develop a messaging framework, taking into consideration all the parts and pieces outlined above. Developing clear and concise messaging framework ensures that all brand elements were produced to tell the company’s story, from print materials to web development to employee elevator pitches. Every customer experience with the brand reinforces the vision, mission and promise.

Several elements create a messaging framework. Here is a brief description of each:

Brand Promise: A brand promise is a tangible benefit that makes a product or service desirable to customers. One of our favorite examples of a brand promise is that of FedEx, “when it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”

Positioning Statement: A well-written positioning statement considers three things: your target market (or your best customer), your unique value (or what does your company do better) and why should your target market believe you? Position statements guide a company’s internal behavior and are typically not shared publicly. One of our favorite examples of a position statement is this one: “To family-oriented car owners concerned with safety, Michelin tires are the premium tires that can provide greater peace of mind.”

Target Market: A target market is a customer a company wants to sell its products or services to. It’s essential to define and get to know your target market for your company and brand to thrive. We like to break our target market’s into two categories: Primary Target Market – these folks are our best customers, they meet all the requirements to purchase the product and service and be profitable to the company. For example, they are the right age, they make the right amount of money and they have the right educational background.

Then we define Secondary Target Markets, these folks will likely be exposed to our message but may not be in the position, at this moment, to make a purchase decision. Secondary markets are important, they build the foundation for a company’s future customers, and they often can influence our primary market in ways the company cannot. Secondary markets might also include key stakeholder who is not customers, such as employees, board members, community influencers and others.

Mission Statement: Crafting a company mission statement is important because it tells your customer what they can expect from you. We use four very straightforward, very simple “musts” to help companies develop their mission statement: it must be purposeful, it must be specific, it must inspire and it must be succinct. One of our favorite mission statements is that of Nordstrom, “Nordstrom works relentlessly to give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.” We know what to expect when we log on or walk into Nordstrom, it’s simple and straightforward, and they do an excellent job of communicating and living the mission.

Tone of Voice: Developing tone helps tell a brand’s story. When setting the tone, it’s important to take into consideration the framework we’ve explored above. Building on the principles of vision, markets, and mission, we answer the question – how does your company sound? Tone adds particular personality and takes into consideration things like method and situation.

Some of our favorite ways to help companies find their tone of voice is to ask questions like: If your company was a celebrity, who would it be? If you took your company out for a drink, what would it order? If your company had a best friend, who would it be? If you asked that best friend about your company, what would it say? These questions help us to develop a personality for your brand and act as a guide for telling your story and interacting with your customers.

Elevator Pitch: One of our favorite innovators in the leadership and management space is Simon Sinek who often says this: “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” So the elevator pitch portion of the framework is essentially how employees, leadership and board members pitch the company. Because these are the folks who sell the brand, and if they don’t buy it the customer won’t either.

Brand Pillars: Brand pillars are essentially the culmination of position, mission, and tone. The boiled down version of this is what and who we are. It’s the three to five words that define a company’s brand and define its competitive edge. All the work and research thus far have to lead us to this place and these pillars. Brand pillars will focus our development of marketing content; they act as beacons during development. So, we can always look up see our Beacon brand pillars and know if we are on track or about to crash into the rocks.

Support: Support is essentially the nuts and bolts. It’s the products and services offered. Each brand pillar will likely have several supports, and depending on what pillar it supports, will define and guide how we talk about it to our customers.

Brand discovery and message creation are so important to a company’s success. It’s not an overnight process. Companies, who take the time to audit their brand, define the framework and trust the results are the most successful. They are the brands that we know and the brands that we trust. We would challenge you to think about some well-known brands, what is their mission statement? Is it in line with your personal experience with the brand?

If your answer is yes, we would guess that you have a favorable opinion of that brand and that the company’s employees have a favorable opinion of the company. If you answered no, well, then you probably don’t have a favorable opinion of the brand and most likely neither do their employees.

So, what kind of brand do you want your company to be?

Firebrand Creative currently has space for 3 companies for the 2017 Firebrand Foundations Package. Your company can benefit from developing the foundation needed to take your brand to the next level. To learn more and grab your spot contact Katie. 

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