Designing a Brand Strategy – What You Need to Know
Whether you’re looking to create a new visual identity, refresh an existing brand, or go back to the drawing board for a complete overhaul, there can be a lot to consider when designing a brand strategy to ensure a new brand hits the mark.
We’re often asked what our biggest considerations are when beginning a brand project, so we’ve put together some of our top tips for brand strategy. We’d love to hear your thoughts…
The Purpose of a Brand
In the first instance, it’s important to consider the driving forces behind your branding or rebranding project.
Updating your brand can mark a new chapter in your business, demonstrating to your customers that you’re growing or evolving. The most important thing to remember is that your brand reflects where your business is now and your aspirations for where you’re going to be in the future. Your brand project should be designed to encapsulate these aspirations.
Revolution or Evolution?
Many businesses start from scratch when rebranding, which, to us, demonstrates a wholesale shift in your business offer.
Sometimes this is appropriate, but don’t forget brands like Shell, Apple and VW. These firms have all refined their brand to move with the times, but they remain faithful to their established brand identity.
This approach allows businesses to draw upon their heritage and longevity, showing customers that they offer stability and trustworthiness.
What Your Brand Represents
Once you’ve decided that a brand project is right for your business, you’ll need to carefully consider your offer. What is it exactly that you do? Don’t just think about the day-to-day processes or high-level offer; what do people actually gain from being your customer? What is the end result of your product or service?
People often think being pigeonholed is a bad thing, but we believe that the opposite is true. Offering something that no-one else can is a huge selling point, and means that you can price accordingly — as an expert in your field. Specialisms can also boost your website’s SEO. When a person needs your specific products and services, your name should be at the top of the search results.
Embrace Your Niche
Your Unique Personality
Your brand should express who you are and what you stand for, which can be leveraged to attract your target audience.
While some brand personalities are more obvious than others (think Apple) no two businesses are the same, and this should be reflected when designing a Brand Strategy. From the people that make up your business, your specialisms, your passions and even your fears, there’s lots to draw upon to create a unique personality for your brand.
Key Brand Components: Visual
The visual tone of your brand says everything about you before any website or writing can.
From your logo design to the typeface and photographic style you use, everything plays a part in setting the scene and encouraging a potential buyer or client to engage with you. It can be useful to see how your brand compares visually with your competitors visually to make sure you fit in while also making an impression.
Key Brand Components: Written
Tone of Voice
Written and spoken words are one of the most straightforward ways of getting your company’s message across and should never be overlooked in your brand project.
How does your brand sound? Friendly? Authoritative? Informative? How do you think your customers would like to be spoken to? Try a few different options and see what feels right, and what resonates with your target audience.
Taking a look at the competition (both like-for-like and aspirational competition) will give you a good sense of where your overall market is. In-depth competitor analysis will give you the background knowledge to position your brand at the right level. You can also ensure that your brand stands out within your market. This will make you more visible and also demonstrate that you see things in a unique way, offering something that no-one else can!
We would never recommend that you copy your competition — with the only possible exception being Aldi, who seem to hilariously pastiche more expensive products while still achieving good publicity. It’s worth noting, however, that in this instance, Aldi do differentiate themselves as a value retailer.
One area that people sometimes get wrong is judging their place within the market. If your customers are attracted to value for money, your brand may reflect this through simple yet effective visuals. Equally, a high-end offer might consider a consistent application of professional, high-quality design and imagery.
Typical Customer Profiles
Once you’ve refined your positioning, you can test multiple brand journeys by thinking about who you’re aiming to attract. Creating customer profiles is a great way to make sure your brand message aligns with your target audience. By putting yourself in their shoes, you can imagine how they might interact with your brand and get an insight into how they may perceive your brand.
Launching Your New Brand
Having considered all your touchpoints, don’t waste the opportunity for publicity—launch your new brand!
Launching your brand online with a new digital experience, video or even launch event can help people to buy into your new image. You might get some positive press, and your customers have an excuse to touch base with you on the back of a successful launch.
The Importance of a Consistent Brand
Brand guidelines inform how your brand should be used both now and in the future to ensure consistency and present a confident public image.
Strong brand design offers some flexibility in order to be able to move with the times while remaining recognisable as uniquely your business. If someone has to guess or bend the rules to make your brand work, the future probably wasn’t well considered in the first place.
Wayfinding as a Methodology for Design
We believe that wayfinding is more than just a service that we provide. Throughout years in the design industry the way you design a wayfinding project has led us to work in a specific way and had a profound effect on our process. Because of this, we wanted to explain what it is and how it can improve your design project.
What is Wayfinding?
A Built Environment Dicipline
People often ask whether wayfinding is a made up word or an ‘Americanism’. Neither is true. In fact, it’s an industry recognised term for design that most people use every day without even realising. Wayfinding is an aid for navigating an environment. This can be anything from an arrow in a corridor to a complex set of designs for a series of built spaces.
A Way of Thinking
Once you start figuring out what people want, where they need to go, and how they’re likely to try to get there, wayfinding can become a useful tool. This process can also be applied to websites, adverts or brochures.
How Can Wayfinding Benefit All Design Processes?
The design process behind wayfinding allows designers to think about the end user and consider what they might want to know at any given point. In wayfinding design, we call this ‘selective disclosure’. It means placing information only where and when people need to see it. It also means not adding anything that isn’t needed and could distract someone.
By thinking in this way, you can create an intuitive user experience. This can lead to, increased revenue, higher footfall, repeat custom and better trust in a brand.
A Built Environment Specialist
The built environment relies on wayfinding to complement the layouts of spaces and make them easy to navigate.
Simpkin Burley’s Expertise
Simpkin Burley’s Founder and Creative Director, Dan Simpkin, has lots of experience with wayfinding tactics. He has worked in the architecture industry for almost 20 years. This is why customer journey plays a key role in Simpkin Burley’s approach to all the creative work they create for their clients.
Added Value for Your Project
A Better Thought Process
It’s easy for a graphic designer to go through the motions in terms of research, concept design and developing ideas to create a perfectly adequate design.
There is a Better Way
However, using wayfinding as a methodology for design allows us to plan customer journeys for a number of target customer journey types and incorporate their needs into the final design. This often makes a more rounded design and allows us to engage with people in a way that others aren’t.
Find Your Way With Us
Wayfinding allows us to take a step back from a client’s brief and determine creative solutions that improve the final design and surpass our clients expectations.
If you’re interested in developing your business or development’s brand identity, get in touch. We can help you to lead your customers on a meaningful and rewarding journey.
Successful Destination Branding Design
Much like branding for businesses, city branding design is the promise of a set of values, making a location seem attractive and desirable. The brief could be to attract tourists, present a certain lifestyle or activity, or to encourage people to live somewhere.
By communicating the offer in terms of a particular experience or way of life, people are able to align themselves with the sense of community that is being portrayed.
Here are a few case studies that we think demonstrate how powerful branding for destinations can be…
I ❤ NY
Repositioning New York
In 1976, the state of New York was in post-industrial decline, with high unemployment and crime rates. Advertising agency Wells Rich Greene developed a marketing campaign and hired one of our design heroes, Milton Glaser who created the now-iconic “I ❤ NY” logo.
The Classic ‘Umbrella’ Brand Design
New York is made up of many diverse areas. However, both visitors and residents share an emotional connection to the place. This is why “I ❤ NY” is so timeless. The campaign is credited with tripling visitor revenue, and 40 years later, the design is still part of New York’s landscape – physically and in hearts and minds.
The Right Brand for the City
If you’ve been to Amsterdam in recent years, you may have seen large, red and white “I amsterdam” letters? You may even have posed for a photo by (or on) them? We have! Previous attempts to brand the city led to poor slogans like “Amsterdam Has It” or “Small City, Big Business”.
City Brand Design Application
I amsterdam combines clever wordplay with the concept of coming together. But what we love about the brand is its application. It has become more than just a design, it’s now part of the city’s cultural identity. When people can interact with a brand they begin to take ownership of it and develop a relationship with it.
Thinking About City Brand Design Differently
We had the pleasure of attending the live brand launch of Digbeth by dn&co at Birmingham Design Festival earlier this year. The brand centres around a custom typeface designed by Colophon Foundry. The typeface has been supplied, free of charge, for promotional use and can now be seen throughout the district in many different applications.
The Future of Brand Engagement?
We think this is a great way to create a cohesive but varied brand identity for a city quarter and one that encourages creativity of application and ownership. Great work dn&co!
Closer to Home
On a much smaller scale we created a brand design for Pelham Waterside in Nottingham. Working with Marketing and PR firm Big Old House for Pelham Homes, we created a brand for this residential development close to the river, creating a design that speaks to the target market.
A Waterside Lifestyle
We wanted to feature the many attractive aspects of a waterside environment, including a feeling of health, peace of mind, and the evocative riverside landscape. A brand that demonstrates that a waterside location has more to offer than just proximity to water. Find out more about Pelham Waterside in our case study.
Sustainability and Graphic Design
There is an increasing desire and pressure for companies worldwide to acknowledge their corporate responsibilities when it comes to the environment. Businesses can adopt sustainable practices to minimise the effects they are having on the world.
While it might not be the first industry that springs to mind when you think of sustainability, there are plenty of areas where creative industries, particularly graphic designers, can do their bit for the good of the planet.
While technology is enabling us all to become paperless, there’s no denying that print still makes up a lot of the design industry’s output. Along with cutting down trees and using electricity, metal is also used in the production process. This can sometimes be overlooked.
Turning a Negative into a Positive
We think the attitude towards print could become a positive one. If we as designers, can create something that a recipient treasures and keep, rather than throw away, we can better justify printing.
Choose Sustainable Materials
Choice of Materials
It’s worth sourcing a sustainable paper manufacturer that is certified by a body such as the SFI, FSC or PEFC. Avoid using virgin materials, and use chlorine-free paper to reduce the harmful impact on the environment.
Re-use and Recycle
Whenever you use paper, ensure that as much as possible is recycled afterwards. Minimise the use of UV or foil coatings that might stop the finished product being recycled.
Use VOC-free ink
Some inks used in printing contain pollutants or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are harmful to the environment. Only use VOC-free inks and check that all the printers that you work with do the same.
It’s also important to minimise your use of ink by only printing where necessary. When designing printed materials, reduce bleed to minimise ink and paper wastage. This could have a good knock-on effect for the design project. Often we prefer a more minimal approach to design so the client’s message can achieve greater clarity.
Minimise Energy Consumption
Graphic designers often use powerful, high-spec’ computers that use a lot of electricity. This is on top of the energy required for lighting and heating. You can offset this consumption by choosing energy-efficient options. Turn lights and equipment off when they are not being used and switch to a green energy supply.
Our Mac’s are positioned close to natural light to avoid reliance on electrical lighting and all screens are chosen for their low energy credentials.
Provide Eco-friendly Options
Sustainability Built in to Our Process
Offering eco-friendly options to your clients is a great way to help them to understand the invisible waste that each process entails. This approach also promotes your own green attitude.
Lead by Example
Send invoices by email instead of post, provide green hosting options for using servers that use renewable energy. Offer Skype video calls instead of face-to-face meetings that require travel and work from home when appropriate.
Choose Clients Wisely
Knowledge and Communication
By choosing to work with a business, you are endorsing them and their company, so it’s important to know who you’re dealing with, and whether you’re comfortable with what they do.
Who to Work With?
While it would be great to only work with non-profit organisations and charities, the majority of businesses need to make money. You don’t have to turn down corporate offers to ensure your principles are maintained. If you make a business look good, they will probably make more money. Sustainability can be a win-win.
Our Sustainable Work
Simpkin Burley created the packaging design for Kiran’s Spice Kits, which has a strong emphasis on sustainability. We sourced sustainable products for the printing and product packaging. Our design is 100% recyclable and biodegradable, including wood pulp bags instead of plastic.
Creating a Sustainable Brand
If, like Kiran’s, you have high aspirations for the sustainable credentials of your product, it can be a great selling point to use as a point of difference. To learn more about our Kiran’s design view our case study..