A Brand in Need is a Brand Indeed.
6-steps: How to go from frustrated to inspired again.
The beginning… The initial spark, the what-if-it-works feeling, the testing, the energy, sharing the big ideas with your close friends, the potential of it all... the beginning. You boot-strapped and tinkered until things really got going, the product was created and the brand took shape in all sorts of organic ways over the years, and slowly, it became something real. Something you got to stand behind and say “Baby, I built this damn thing”. That’s the good stuff. I suspect it’s why building a brand is so incredibly personal and rewarding - it’s the manifestation of our own dreams and we get to decide how it comes to life, on our terms, baby. It’s the stuff of American pioneers and why entrepreneurship is so damn fascinating.
In the early conception of a brand, it is nurtured and raised with complete attention and care, like a new born baby (isn’t it cute?). Then one day, that beautiful little baby was replaced with an awkward, confused teenager. And your brand as it stands today, well... might not be any different.
…a moment of silence.
Here’s (probably) what happened.
You’re not completely to blame. Over time you simply got distracted, more people got involved, delegation took place, and customer needs shifted. The landscape of your business was skewed and before you knew it, your brand became a Frankenstein of itself with conflicting ideologies, irrelevant products, old technology and a yearly Christmas party that looks like the inside of Circuit City. Wait, what? Seriously, what happened? Things were looking pretty good, then you slowly neglected your child, your brand, and can’t understand why he’s socially awkward and gets picked last for baseball. You let this happen. SMH.
But not all is lost. Your neglected brand just needs an MVP glow-up, an inspiring new direction, and the resources to confidently present himself properly again. Before you know it, he’ll be batting 1000 and the crowd will be cheering his name - but just remember, no home runs were ever made from the bench. You gotta take a swing.
Be proud of what you’ve created, but let go of the ‘firsts’.
We fall deeply in love with the innocent brand we started because it was the ‘first’ of everything; the first logo, our first mission statement, or the first website that “just got us going”... It’s hard to move on from those ‘firsts’ because they attributed to your initial success. But you, and the brand, slowly became shackled to these early milestones. Sometimes that love of nostalgia, although necessary, can hold your brand back from maturing into a successful ‘adult’ in its industry. So what does success really mean for your business?
Obviously, success isn’t just about gaining more customers. It can also be measured by your general happiness (or company moral, for bigger teams). Imagine a mental picture of your brand, a snapshot of what your business feels like when you think of it, are you happy? Or do you feel disconnected, uninspired, or even confused when you look at the big picture of your own creation?
- Do your customers truly understand what they are buying from you?
- Are your customers always asking what your product/service does or is?
- Does your branding exemplify what you stand for?
- Are your products missing vital packaging or key messaging?
- Is your website losing traffic, cluttered or missing functionality?
- Are your brand graphics unorganized, outdated, or simply non-existent?
- Is your logo or word mark memorable and easily read?
Does your neck hurt from nodding as you read down this list?
The pain is real, I know. But there is something you can do to start getting your creative ducks in a row. Enter: Brand Audit. Basically, a creative exercise to help assess the current state of your brand, diagnose major issues and then implement solutions to launch your business in the right creative direction.
Check out these 6 realistic steps for exercising a brand audit, and how I would typically approach it:
Expose the wound.
Hard at first, but ultimately cathartic. You must collect and organize all existing creative assets into categorized buckets. This is like taking a snapshot of your current business ecosystem and how its moving parts make up the whole. You’ll want to collect the following:
Current Messaging & Tone
Positioning to Customers
Logos and Supporting Assets
Photography (Product & Lifestyle)
Collateral & Stationery
Trade Show Materials
Social Media Platforms
Diagnose the pain points.
Analyze the major pain points in each category that are hurting your business, suffocating your mind, or creating dissatisfied customers. You probably know what most of these pain points are already. But maybe not. You must be blunt here and get a little uncomfortable - be real about your true frustrations and talk about them with your partners/stakeholders. If the pain points aren’t identified now, you’ll miss any chance to correct them throughout the implementation process.
Redefine what success means moving forward.
Once your major pain points have been diagnosed, you can start asking yourself “What does success truly look like for our business (our happiness) if these pain points were actually resolved?”. If you became the champion of your industry, what exactly does that mean? Is it selling to X amount of customers this year? Is it reaching X amount of people? Is it having a brand that becomes a household name in 5 years? Without doing this, you won’t know where to aim the arrow if the target is blurry.
Great. You know what has held your business back, you know what needs to be eliminated, you know what needs to be corrected - now you can prescribe actionable steps towards moving the business needle forward. Imagine if everything was running perfectly, it would be a result of doing what, exactly? Those answers may come in the form of a new e-commerce website, revamped packaging, updated messaging and photography etc. Whatever it is, it should be pretty clear. For example, if your customers don’t understand exactly what you sell - your brand messaging and product photography may need attention.
Implement these new solutions. But avoid the cheap way out - you’ll end up doing the work over two, three…endless times, which will cost you way more money and lead to unnecessary frustration. Instead, hire trusted experts the first time around. It’s also crucial the prescribed solutions are attached to a measurable business outcome - i.e. instead of “we need beautiful new packaging because it will be refreshing for the brand” try, “new packaging that clearly communicates what our product does will help sell X amount of units to X audience online”. Now your target is far more measurable and has a positive business result attached to it.
Assess, then implement again.
You made it. You’ve invested yourself into a thorough brand audit, found major pain points, defined a better path forward, prescribed actionable solutions to get there, and started to implement the changes. Congrats! Seriously, that’s a huge step in aligning your business with a results-driven strategy. Like anything new, there will be some getting-used-to, and you should allow your business to adjust to these new legs that haven’t even walked yet. So be patient. If the results you are after aren’t rearing their head in a reasonable timeframe, follow these steps again and adjust accordingly. Rinse and repeat.
Feel better? If you’ve imagined yourself going through this process, you can probably see the benefits of a brand audit. If so, great. But it’s not for every business, or on a frequent basis.
Consider this: Exercise a brand audit before you rebrand your company, reinvest money into new products and packaging, or launch a new website.
If any of this auditing stuff sounds like a bunch of designer jargon, you’re not alone, and the hard task of overhauling any area of your business is a tough pill to swallow, let alone redesign any portion of it. We like to think we have it all figured out. I’m with ya there. But maybe your brand does need some heavy lifting in the design department and honestly, you’re not sure what to do about it - or where to start.
To close with our proverbial awkward teenager metaphor, great branding is like your favorite high school lunch lady; You know exactly what she’s serving, she gives you free cookies on Fridays, and you’re always happy to see her.
Think your business could use a brand audit? Contact us to start a conversation.