Excerpts from a talk we gave in partnership with Neon CRM a non-profit operations solution brand.
The first thing to address is the elephant in the creative world:
What is Branding?
We like to simplify things in every aspect of design and more importantly, communication. In the same vein, the definition of branding that we agree with best is from Debbie Millman, "branding is deliberate differentiation." This covers branding as a whole but there will still be some who say, "isn't branding the logo?" Partly, yes – a small part. The brand as a whole and how it interacts with users is a deeper definition. Differentiation is what sets the best examples of branding apart from the chaff.
Crafting a brand strategy is the marching orders for your team. It can save time, focus efforts, and streamline workflows for the available capabilities. Most top-level design firms do some sort of strategy or as many call it discovery. We tackle three main areas during our strategy sessions: brand attributes, user profiles, and goals.
Under brand attributes we dive into the benefits, feel, user, voice, and value delivered as a whole.
Here we mock various profiles for users of a brand. This may be an end user, a wholesale account, a licensee, etc. In recent years Axe Body Spray has pivoted to match their evolving audience, switching from the cliché woman in bikinis attracted to the handsome guy motif, to anyone can find happiness using Axe regardless of how they look and who they are attracted to. In addition to being more socially appropriate, this pivot now focuses on making the users powerful in their own right. This is a stark contrast to their previous advertising, which marketing its products like a crutch for men who couldn't attract women on their own.
For this exercise we dive into prioritized goals for a brand, which covers: revenue, awareness, and efficiency. The last is often the most important for an operations standpoint. Your team and its capabilities can craft your brand if harnessed properly. To effectively do this, you need to know your team very well. You may have a person on board who does music on the weekends but never mentioned it because it wasn't required for their role in the company. They could aid in sound production for your promo pieces.
A great example of this is found in our local market for the annual Ronald McDonald House charity event.
Every year they produce a masquerade ball with an evolving theme. On their team are people with key skills to offer a big city style event in our smaller market. Photographers, videographers, costume designers, event coordinators, and theater managers all contribute their skills for a good cause. This is often called the event of the year by attendees.
How will you become known to the users? Website, social media, online ads, print ads, commercial? All of these are common forms of awareness, but there are often creative ideas outside of the norm. The Causewave Community Partners in Rochester, NY launched a campaign that harnessed the idea of giants embodying problems in need of change for the community.
These eye catching illustrations stand out amongst the typical outdoor ads and draw the user in. It is not easy to read the stats quickly, but taking them all in is part of the impact.
Money is the root of all campaigns, brands, and pretty much everything under the umbrella of advertising. For non-profits it is donations, for researchers it is grants, and for us it is providing ROI for brands. Like awareness, there are some more creative revenue streams that have hit the national spotlight in recent years.
After Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary in 2016, he announced that he would be accepting donations on his website for any amount. This micro-donation play raised $8M in less than 24 hours.
Product Red, an aids awareness campaign, was able to craft a co-branded humanitarian initiative that attracted the likes of Apple, Vespa, and Le Creuset to join the cause. They increased awareness and more importantly donations through a percentage of sales. At a minimal cost, this framework has proven to be a proud alliance for existing brands to showcase what they care about.
Having a plan is key. Having a thorough plan that fits your budget and capabilities is the next level. We work with brands and campaigns that want to hit that next level and appreciate examples that do the same.