Strong brands stand out. They redefine how people think about a business, an industry, a vertical. This is powerful, especially if you're in a field where most people say that differentiation isn't possible.
So, if you can't answer the question: "What makes us unique?", or more practically, if your prices are continually being discounted because all you can compete on is price, it's probably time to do some serious thinking about your brand. Check out a piece I wrote about Airbnb a few years back for some food for thought. It's still relevant.
Ok, so you know you have work to do. What next?
It's probably time for a branding process. There's one issue, though. You want your brand problem solved yesterday. The typical branding process lasts anywhere from 12-24 months. Oof.
There's no reason for a branding process to last that long, though. In fact, at A Brave New, we believe that it's better if it doesn't. Every brand project we undertake is between 6-8 months from start to finish.
Now, some branding experts might call us crazy for breaking with norms, but we're pragmatists (we do follow a structured branding model - you can read more about it here). We believe the world has changed in such a way that the longer process can no longer be justified. We think most businesses can't afford to take two years to identify their competitive edge. Also, we think the shorter process just makes sense. Let's unpack this.
In 24 Months Your Competitive Landscape Will Have Changed
Every brand must be built for the long-term. A solid brand should stand the test of time for 15-20 years, or longer. Your brand essence, that thing that makes your company unique, should be true as long as you are in business, even though technology will have entirely changed by next year.
So, if this is true, then why does it matter if you take 24 months to develop your brand? Well, there's a real opportunistic factor to consider as well.
Any effective branding agency will take time to thoroughly analyze your competition and identify opportunities for differentiation. They'll also look for where you could leapfrog in front of your competition. But, in today's world, if you take 24 months to act, those potential areas of advantage will be gone. Speed is more important than ever before. The good news is, speed doesn't mean a bad process.
Get 80% of the value in half to a third of the time
A longer branding process might include half a year for research and competitive analysis, then six months to develop initial concepts, and another extended period to finalize the brand identity and develop a visual identity to match.
By embracing an approach that emphasizes qualitative research, workshops, and an iterative approach, we're able to check the boxes of research, competitive analysis, concept development, brand identity finalization, and visual identity development in less than 8 months.
We use a workshop-driven process to create a brand identity that is pretty damn good and then put it out in the world for real people to interact with. We fine tune in real time. Which leads me to the next point.
Testing In The Real World Leads To Real Iteration
The ultimate success of your brand, no matter how hard you've worked on it, will be decided by your customers and prospects. An accelerated yet thoughtful process starts that feedback loop far sooner, and at a much lower price point.
Once your brand is in the real world people are going to tell you what they love about it, what they hate about it, and what is just "meh." In the first months following launch, it's your job to sharpen the strong points of the brand and refine the areas that people aren't inspired by so that they can drive real interest and excitement.
It's ok to evolve how you're sharing the brand to the world based on feedback. Just make sure it builds on what you've already done, and make sure you stay true to the essence that you decided on.
Energy For Iteration
The final thing that we love about the shorter process is that it means you have some energy left over for implementation, including the iteration mentioned above.
Typically it takes 18 months to three years of hard work to successfully implement a brand. And unlike the brand development process, this step can't be shortened. It just takes time for people to internalize the essence of a brand.
This process takes some discipline. It requires relentless repetition of key messages. It requires discipline to not be distracted by a shiny new campaign. It requires always asking whether the content you're releasing or the new service you're launching matches up with the essence. It's hard work.
Our experience has been that getting through the brand development process quickly means that the team responsible for implementing the brand will still have energy to do it. And a motivated team will be key to your long-term success.
Ok, I'm Sold, What Now?
Regardless of the process you follow, you must be able to answer the question "What makes me unique?". The competition is simply too steep today to be able to succeed if you can't differentiate.