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Where Do I Start When Creating a Brand Message?

This was the question a student of Entrepreneurship at Ryerson just posed to me (yes, they teach it now). He’s involved in a fairly new venture and have been doing a number of marketing efforts, but finding they’re not as effective as they should be and recognizing a lack of consistency in look and language from one item to the next. But, they haven’t really identified and built their brand character yet.

‘So where do I start’ he asks. I said besides hiring us to develop a concise brand positioning + character, then creating logos, taglines and a few initial pieces around which we can write guidelines….

Start by looking at what’s working now and what isn’t.

You can start by looking literally at metrics – ex: this email got much more response than the other version. However, I also recommend asking members or the target audience to review different pieces and share which item’s design and language resonates most with them and why. The why is important so you can start to identify specific characteristics. Maybe the graphics are really impactful, the headlines are compelling, etc.

Then, ask them to tell you the opposite – which they were least attracted to and why. Perhaps the colours remind them of something negative and the copy is too long-winded and technical.

Use this as a checklist.

Review all your pieces with a checklist of these basic characteristics and note opportunities to make changes more towards the well-received characteristics and recognize use of the disliked ones. It may be simple changes to copy, or adding small elements like ‘we always have a watermark of the logo icon in the background.’ These things are the start of proper guidelines what you can write up and encourage or insist your own team follows. Good branding gets to the root of the values and culture of the company, so encourage all your people to become the company’s brand stewards.

How do you maintain brand character once you’ve defined it?

Of course, this was the next question. I showed him how we use our Rapport Marketing Map as a tool to help us do that for ourselves and our clients.

You plot out all your marketing tools around a central goal (your pre-sale action step), then imagine someone who’s not familiar with your company enters at any point, say they’ve been forwarded your newsletter. This probably has at least one link to your website. If they go from the newsletter to the website, what is the experience like, is it consistent? Is it the same kind of language? The same logo, colours and other brand elements? Where might they go from there? Maybe there’s brochures or sell sheets to download. Do they carry the brand character, the look and language?

When you look at your existing tools this way you will spot big and small things to change that can really strengthen that path, but also have a guideline or reminder when you add in something new.

Allow for brand evolution.

Companies are constantly evolving, and therefore so must your brand. Just keep it under control. Look at it regularly, you may need to make small changes, or one day a giant paradigm shift. However, use the Rapport Marketing Map to ensure you aren’t making changes on a whim, or because it fits the need of the day better.

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2 Responses to Where Do I Start When Creating a Brand Message?

  1. Rob Campbell says:

    Good thoughts. You know sadly I read posts like this with regret. I’d like to go back in time and just build one brand instead of three, or four including Dumpdiggers. I wish I’d stuck with one thing all the way through, one blog, one Twitter, one Flickr, one online identity…

  2. It’s not too late, at least to a degree. We have a client who had his ‘stuff’ in three different places and no real brand, because he had no idea how is business was going to unfold, was quite surprised by it. Now he knows so we created a brand to bring all three elements together and help him build on his accidental success.

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