Note: Many thanks to Frank McGill and Gary Dolzall for their assistance in this Blog series.
With the completion of Part I (Discovery) and Part II (Development) of this comprehensive branding process, the opportunities for the brand have been well researched, defined, explored and developed, and further vetted prior to any formal launch. It is in everyone’s interest that the decisions regarding the brand identity are ultimately defensible, strategically sound, and as well executed as possible. Any opportunity to gauge opinion and listen to authentic feedback should be a welcomed step.
The delineation of work between Part II and Part III is not always clearly or easily defined. The timing for the official launch of any brand can depend on a number of factors. In the early phases, we often inquire about upcoming opportunities to debut the brand broadly, such as annual conferences or conventions, or even the chance to preview it among a group of influencers or stakeholders such as select external audiences or Board of Directors meetings, all prior to a formal rollout. These presentations and the anecdotal feedback they provide may feel small or informal, but they’re as statistically important and valid as any other form of research.
Proof of Concept
Depending on each organization’s unique needs, we plan to identify and execute according to the most beneficial way to achieve organizational buy-in and launch the new brand. Almost always, there is the need to consider a pilot or beta “proof-of-concept.” At one time, this would have been a mission brochure or company brochure, a “tell-all” type of evergreen document that states the elevator pitch — who we are, what we do, and why it is important. In some rare instances, it could be an annual event, but in recent years the cornerstone product, or proof-of-concept, is nearly always a flagship website.
Where the development of the visual identity showed a quick look and feel for the website, this important (website) project is handled as a separate initiative, deserving of a studio solution and all the fresh perspectives, creative inspiration, and ideas that this entails — all working within the confines of the approved visual system. As always, the work is guided by a strategic brief and much of the research and strategic planning developed in Part I of this series.
For any agency or design firm, this is the showcase of their talent and the opportunity to express your new brand identity as a “best-in-field” expression, and should serve as an important roadmap for any other future practitioners of the visual system. It also serves as a chance to work out any kinks of the original design system and find more realistic solutions, prior to issuing usage guidelines and template tools. Most importantly, this pilot project is a beacon of proper brand application, a five-star example of sharp, appropriate messaging and visual standards.
Implementation to Tactical Products
There are few opportunities that allow for a holistic application of a new visual identity and messaging system across a multichannel program of marketing assets. In fact, depending on how large the organization is, and how many products require updating, this can easily be converted into a staged plan, with simple updates to social media and any critical tools, like event/conference marketing or digital products taking a priority. Regardless, all tactical products will need updating, even if it is a simple redesign of key pages of the website in order to apply new signature logos, taglines, colors, fonts, and message statements.
Buy-In Programs and Training
Socializing the brand within the organization is as important as applying it properly for all external audiences. Every organization is different and therefore requires a custom solution for how to most effectively ensure a successful adoption among internal teams and preferred agency partners. This may be handled through on-site brand training sessions that engage, inform, and inspire the end users. Premium give-aways or branded products are sometimes distributed, as well as “at-a-glance” desktop inspirations or resources for proper usage. Many C-level executives and team managers view this as an opportunity to rally excitement for the new brand internally, so any launch can range from being instructive to inspirational, or take on elements of both.
Annual Brand Audits
Annual brand audits can be an underused, but crucial way to ensure that the application across all channels is on-brand regarding the consistent approach to language, concepts and themes, and visual standards. Have these products stayed on cue according to the matrix of channels, audiences, key messages, and desired outcomes? Also, how has your website fared? Measuring the performance of your digital brand is easily managed and assessed against benchmarked standards. Finally, assessments are relatively easy; enacting change based on the observations once the review is complete is a whole other exercise, requiring continued diligence and focus.
Brands are “centrifugal.” A victim of entropy, they tend to spin out from a state of order to a state of chaos over time. Copywriting and design are both strategic and uniquely creative endeavors — fraught with all the great inspiration and complexity of the imperfect human professionals who apply them. Also, by the very nature of our lives and jobs, the deployment of brands are broken down each year into ad hoc projects, with much of the organization’s attention focused on single events, promotions, new product launches, and other singular marketing needs. There’s a discipline involved in managing the daily routines and immediacy of the smaller projects, while also ensuring that the larger, overarching goals are still in focus and relevant to everyone applying the brand.
A brand audit provides the chance to acquire all examples of how the brand was expressed, not only in digital or printed products, but also in event collateral, on-site signage, social media posts, third-party representations online, and in-person descriptions, right down to the most inconsequential of applications, the signatures on your company’s daily emails.
- Buy-In Programs/Training
- Proof of Concept (Application to One Flagship Product)
- Implementation of Tactical Products (Event, Digital, Print, Social, etc.)
- Annual Brand Review (Audit to Measure Performance)