If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably heard the term strategy before in relation to your brand and business. You might’ve even seen designers talk about brand strategy being part of their services, but you still don’t know what it’s really about or how it can help your business.
This is the first post in our 3 part series that goes in-depth into our Signature Experience. Our branding process is split into 3 main stages: Brand strategy, Brand identity and Packaging design. They’re all equally important to creating a successful and impactful long-term business, so I am to dedicating an entire blog post to each of them. In this post I’ll walk you through my brand strategy process, what happens in the studio behind the scenes when creating strategies and ultimately how each step is built to get you to your business goals.
I build this process very intentionally, focusing on my client’s needs, business growth and sustainability; so it’s not an ultimate process that would work for every single brand under the sun – and it’s definitely not one you’ll find in other design studios.
So what is brand strategy?
We’re a strategy-led studio, meaning we put a lot of emphasis on the brand strategy from the very beginning. That means we don’t start designing anything (not even your logo!) until we get the brand strategy done and approved. But what is it actually?
Brand strategy is a roadmap for your business; it’s how your business shows up in the world and interacts with your customers. It’s how you want your audience to think of your business, your business’ tone of voice, how it relates to your competitors and industry and so much more. It’s also what the brand identity and packaging design – basically all the visual and tangible elements of your brand – are based on.
Our brand strategy approach
For us at Kind and Ivy, brand strategy is a framework for getting you from where you are today to where you want to be in 5-10 years’ time. We look at the things you want to accomplish in your business and work our way backwards to create a guide and strategy for you to follow.
While our entire branding process can take anywhere from 2 to 4 months, our brand strategy stage takes around 2-3 weeks. While it’s not the longest stage, it’s the most intense and requires our full attention. I love to immerse myself in the story and vision of each brand we build in the studio, because I don’t want you to just have a beautiful logo or your dream colour palette. I want you to have a clear framework for how you can achieve your business dreams, scale your business and attract more clients.
Brand Strategy Workshop
We start our strategy phase with a Brand Strategy Workshop – an interactive call with you to talk about your business in detail and get a sense of your goals, values and target audience. It’s a 3-4 hour call filled with exercises that allow us to uncover your business more deeply and understand your position in the market and who your target audience is.
One of my favourite exercises for uncovering the complexity of a brand and helping us see it in a new light is what I like to call Reimagining your brand:
TIP To take this exercise further, ask yourself “Why did I choose that movie or song”… for each answer you give.
Once we wrap up our workshop I go away and do my magic, putting all those ideas and thoughts into an actual strategy. I do a lot of research behind the scenes, into your competitors and industry, statistics or articles about your target audience, as well as also looking at adjacent or completely different industries we could pull from – I’m all about standing out from your competitors, so sometimes looking outside of your industry can bring out a fresh perspective, unexpected ideas and something completely new that your audience would love. All of this then gets wrapped up in a document (your Brand Strategy Guide) for you to review and approve.
The Brand Strategy Guide
1. Brand foundations
*This is not a full run-down of everything we include in our Brand Strategy Guides. Every business is different, so often we include ideas and research that are more unique to the brand, to fully round out the business strategy, which are not included here.
This is like the foundations of a house, what everything else will be built upon. It’s the true core of the brand that will help guide all major business decisions. While it’s not necessarily something that you’ll show everyone (such as your logo), it’s what makes your business your unique business.
Every business has a story, a reason why they exist – besides just making money. For the majority of our past clients, they started their businesses because they wanted to make a real change in their industry or shake up those unsustainable practices. Or perhaps someone in your life had a very strong influence and inspired you to start your business. Every successful brand has an origin story that’s worth uncovering.
I love focusing on goals because they are a big driver in the business. They help us know what we’re working towards and anchor the rest of the strategy guide. At Kind and Ivy, we believe that no goal is too big, so we focus on each goal at a time and give you specific pointers on how you can achieve them.
Your mission statement is 1-2 sentences that describe who your brand is, your purpose, what you do and who it’s for. While is concise, it’s very impactful and contains some of the most important information that can help clarify and focus your direction in business.
Values are what your business stands behind, the things you would never waiver from. Whether you’re committed to being transparent about your supply chain or to fully supporting girls’ education in 3rd world countries, goals are very important to your target audience. People buy from brands that share the same values as them, so it’s really important to be clear about what your brand stands behind.
2. Brand positioning
No brand lives in a vacuum, so we want to create a super clear picture of who you’re selling to, who your competitors are and what the industry trends are. By getting a clear idea of all these aspects of the business, we can create a brand that resonates with your customers and is clearly set apart from your competitors.
No business can survive without its clients, so we’ll spend quite a large part of our workshop talking about who your ideal client is, what their fears and dreams are, what their personality is – all the intricacies that make your ideal client a real person. From giving them a name and a back story to painting a clear picture of who they are as a person and how they can relate to your product, this is always my clients’ favourite section!
Now that we know who your customers are, it’s also valuable to see what journey they take from not knowing about your business to becoming long-term customers. We look at how we can make them aware of your business, how we can connect with them in a meaningful way, how their shopping and unpacking experience can make them fall in love with your brand, and how we can continue to connect with them and care for them even after their purchase – so they keep coming back.
No matter what type of business you have, you already have quite a lot of competitors. I spend a significant time of my process looking into your industry and understanding who your competitors are. When I do this research, there are two big themes I focus on: how they do it (their own brand strategy) and what they look like (their visual identity, photography and so on). I always start seeing trends in how your competitors show up online, which we then use to set you apart in the minds of your customers.
It’s not only important to know who your competition is, but we carry out research to know where you sit in your industry. Are you the most expensive or luxurious in an inexpensive industry? Are you a modern brand in a traditional industry? We take two of the most important attributes for your brand and determine where your competitors and your business are on those scales. This helps us know how to position your brand in such a way that your audience will understand and positively respond to it.
3. Brand personality
This section goes back into looking at your own business and how we can create a brand that is not only attractive to your target audience, but that can also deeply connect with them. This is what brings your brand to life and can help you know how to show up online in an authentic way.
Remember that exercise I mentioned at the beginning, Reimagining your brand? This is when that exercise (and a few others) come in handy, as we get to describe the brand in many different ways to get a full understanding of the personality of your brand. Almost like how they would be or act like if they were a real person. We break down your brand attributes and adjectives in various ways, so you can get a full picture of what your business would feel like to you and your customers.
One of my favourite brand strategy theories is brand archetypes. If you’ve been following me on Instagram you’ll know I talk about them a lot, because not only do they help bring the brand to life in such a real way, they also help us know how to market the brand and speak to your customers in a way that is consistent and aligned with the personality of your brand.
TONE OF VOICE
Sometimes overlooked by business owners, the tone of voice of a brand can really carry on the magic of the brand or make it feel completely disjointed. The way you speak to your audience (such as your social media captions, your website copy or your email replies) should carry the same personality and create the same feel for the brand as your brand attributes.
4. Creative direction
Putting together creative directions is my favourite part of the strategy stage. They’re more tangible and approachable ways of seeing your brand strategy in action. Every brand strategy we create contains two curated brand directions for you to choose from.
If you’ve heard of moodboards, then you’ll be familiar with how we present our creative directions. However, we go deeper than just moodboards and we present in-depth creative directions that include several “moodboards”:
- one for the feed and vibe of the brand
- one for visual design decisions (such as font and logo options)
- one for packaging
- as well as a breakdown of the colour palette
We do this so we can give you a super clear idea of what your new brand will feel and potentially look like before we get down to design. It’s one of the most exciting parts of your strategy guide, as this is where you’ll get to see the amazing transformation you’re about to go through. This always makes it so much more real for my clients!
As you can see, brand strategy is more than just strategic design. It involves business thinking and strategising for achieving long-term goals, and it’s definitely a collaborative process. It’s why we never “just design a logo”; a logo can get you a pretty icon, but the strategy can get you more than that. It gets you clarity in your business, a framework for how you can achieve your brand goals and a way to connect with your customers better.
This post is the first in a three-part series that goes deeper into our Signature Experience, so the next blog post will be on our brand identity creation. I’ll show you how we go from moodboard to a full brand identity, including how I craft logos and colour palettes, how I choose fonts for the brand and more behind the scenes on the creation process.