The definitive guide to building a brand

The definitive guide to building a brand

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“A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”

– ancient human wisdom as found on wikipedia.com

There are a lot of fancy ways to define branding, but we’re here to make it easy to understand. As branding consultants in Bangalore and Singapore, trust us when we tell you that putting your mark on something is known as branding. It’s as simple as that. 

What started, 4000 years ago, as an a simple exercise of farmers branding their cows, is now grown to a large industry that has the ability to change perceptions of companies. 

Today, brands are built on it’s values, personality, and visual design elements like typography, logo design, colour theory, etc. These tools are used to help the brand build positive associations. 

Let's look at some brands we LOOVE.

Apple : 'think different'

For Apple, that association is an assurance of premium quality, innovation and ease of use. But from an emotional side, when you see an Apple logo on a product, you think of innovators, creatives and people that are unapologetic about their goals and ambition.

That’s what Apple really sells. It’s an attitude, not just a computer or a phone. 

Coca-cola : 'open happiness'

For Coke, that “thought” is friendship. Since the iconic 1971 “I want to buy the world a Coke” campaign, Coke’s brand has been associated with the feelings of happiness and warmth.

Now that you see the thought, you gain an understanding of why they use such an iconic shade of Red. That colour is the colour of warmth, friendship, happiness and, in Chinese culture, good luck. It’s a colour that, on a very primal level, enhances human metabolism, making you hungrier and thirstier. Arguably a great thing for a company that sells soda.

"So what sets my Brand apart?"

These are questions we solve for in brand discovery meetings. 

A branding discovery or strategy session is a brainstorming session, where everyone the stakeholders of the brand, gather to focus and consolidate the brand’s values, business aspirations and vision for the future.

We need to understand who our target customers are, what are their worries and inconveniences, and how our brand can associate to them.

This is how we start building a brand strategy. The strategy stage sets the tone of your communication, and provides a rallying point for the team in terms of brand values and business direction.

How is your Brand placed in the market?

Apple positioned themselves as thought leaders in technology that also happened to be easy to use. They knew their market. Their market wasn’t limited to just people who know about technology, like IBM and Microsoft who positioned themselves for business-oriented use, but focused on people who didn’t really waste much time thinking about technology.

This allowed them to capture the public’s imagination in a way that no technology company was doing at the time. Apple became “hip” all of a sudden because they made people feel like they didn’t need engineering degrees to buy their products. So Apple Stores started popping up in retail spaces that were traditionally dedicated to, for a lack of a better term, “geeks”. And this positioning carried on into the world of smartphones.

As a counterpoint to Apple, OnePlus and Xiaomi have absolutely dominated the tech enthusiast market by positioning themselves as the “best-bang-for-your-buck” phones.

The idea here is to figure out what positioning is right for your brand. If strategy is about what cannons to buy for your warship, positioning is literally about where you want those cannons to point.

Building your Brand Personality

Great brands come with great personalities. That’s because brand personalities are what makes them more relatable to their audience and help build brand affinity.

In this stage we identify key characteristics and insights from our discovery session and define the way the brand should speak, it’s beliefs and characteristics.

Once you have your strategy and positioning figured out, it’s time to think about how your brand communicates. You’ve solved the “What am I saying?” “When am I saying it” and “Who am I saying it to?” questions. Your brand’s voice is “How am I saying it?”

How does your Brand represent itself?

If logos are the face of your brand, the visual language is like your clothes, and we always make sure our brands are well dressed. In this stage we finalise the typography, colour, logo design and other branding elements.

Your logo, colour palette and font choices are the gateway for someone to get to know you better. Think of it in terms of how you dress yourself for a social gathering. For an interview at a corporate, you groom yourself and make sure your hair looks perfect. You choose a blazer from your closet and a tie that matches it. On the flip-side, if you’re getting ready for a date, you might choose a more casual look that brings out a side of your personality that you would like your potential partners to see.

You are changing your visual identity depending on your audience. We already figured out who our audience is above, and we’ve figured what we’re trying to communicate and how. Take those answers and try to interpret them visually.

For your font, a sans serif might be an equivalent to building a more casual relationship with your audience. If your brand is built on a rich legacy, look at slab serifs. Just do a little exercise on your computer. Write your brand’s name and switch between fonts. See how each one makes you feel. That’s how your audiences might feel when they encounter your brand for the first time.

Similar process with logo design and colour theory. It’s all about building relationships. Your colour palette establishes a mood. Visit the websites of your favourite brands or your competitors and notice what colours they’re using and where. This’ll help you establish at least a baseline understanding of these concepts that you and your creative agency can further build upon.

Building a brand is a long term process that starts with Brand Strategy. If you want to learn more about Branding or looking to understand how it’s perceived, reach out and let’s talk brand!

What running a Creative and Branding Agency taught us

What running a Creative and Branding Agency taught us

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Running a creative agency in Bangalore for 5 years teaches you a lot of things. Most important being: never fix a client meeting in Yelahanka at 10 AM. You could leave your house at 6 and still be late.

Jokes apart though, looking back at all these years of design, advertising and branding, we now know a lot we wish we’d known when we were just starting out.

Size Matters, Until It Doesn’t

#1. brands need focused and flexible attention to create great work

When you’re building something of your own, it’s often hard to know where to stop. Limitless growth is always a possibility for any venture. For us, the early years were full of hectic days with the whole agency abuzz; each person on our 15-member team working on something brilliant and different. Each following through on their own ideas of what Brand X’s logo design needs or the characteristics that Brand Y’s typography could embody. It was chaotic, yes, but never full-on chaos.

However, gradually, there was a shift in how we perceived our work and our clients. When you have a huge agency working on dozens of clients, it becomes harder to cultivate meaningful relationships between them. This is how most traditional large-scale advertising agencies still do it, which is why brands feel the need to branch out and look for smaller teams where they wouldn’t get lost on a roster.

And this led us to change our approach; from a large team, we scaled down over time to just two creative directors working personally on every project.

Shop to Boutique

#2. brands need partners, not vendors

A vendor-client relationship is inherently transactional: you give us a brief and a briefcase full of money, we give you a beautiful website/logo/TVC. The problem is that in a vendor-client relationship, the first thing we forget is what the brand needs. Sure, the clients can fill out a brief with what they think the brand needs and we can interpret what we think the brand needs, but mostly it isn’t as easy as that.

Figuring out what a brand needs is a collaborative process where you usually need to put yourself in the client’s shoes. You need to integrate with their team to see what makes them click. It’s lengthy, cumbersome, messy and something that most branding agencies neglect.

“What’s the point in spending a day at the client’s office?,” you might ask, “How does that help me design a beautiful logo?”

Well, ask any creative and they’ll tell you: the best work is honest. The best work feels true and makes you want to believe in it. Those insights of “what feels true” can only be gained in collaboration with the people who created the brand to begin with. From a branding or a creative agency, we’ve become consultants and all the work we do is born out of a partnership with our clients.

The Meaning of Collaboration

#3. work with other experts and open up your heart to the people you’re collaborating with so everyone is proud of the work

Think of a piece of art that you love. It could be anything. A movie, a song, a play, a book. Chances are, more than one person worked on it. Even a prodigal Grammy-Tony-Emmy-Pulitzer-MacArthur Grant winning genius like Lin-Manuel Miranda needed the musical expertise of Alex Lacamoire to help him arrange the music of Hamilton.

That’s what a team does. Each person is immeasurably valuable because of the expertise they bring in. In the previous section, we discussed how important it is to look at clients as our equals and partners. This section is about valuing their inputs. 

Where our expertise lies in ideation and expression of creative thought, theirs lies in knowing their market, audience and product. When both of these worlds come together in harmony, that’s when we do great stuff. For example, in a short film we did for Wishberry, we were tasked with explaining how crowdfunding works to a general audience. Their expertise in knowing what they needed to communicate combined with our creative idea of treating the film as a cop questioning a young filmmaker led to this:

But most importantly, we learnt who WE are.

After countless projects across various industries, we realised what mattered to us, as a company. Doing focused and quality work with brands that understand the power of branding. 

Which is why we make sure that both creative directors, work on every project, that we have a focused and process driven approach to our work and that we work with the best when it comes to implementing our ideas/strategies. 

Stay small, but powerful. Pretty bold, isn’t it?