This is where the art of creativity meets the science of data to create successful new brands. This is where the magic happens!
Or, this is where your company dies before it even leaves the crib.
Your brand is a shorthand for everything that your company stands for. You probably have entire folders filled with your value propositions and mission statements and product designs, not to mention the countless emails and notes you’ve exchanged with your co-founders about your vision for the company. All of this has to be distilled into a singular brand, and that brand will represent everything you envision to the rest of the world.
A Brand is More Than a Logo
Your brand is more than just a logo or a tagline. As your company grows, you’ll need to have a clear, cohesive, easy-to-understand idea of who you are as a company. When you bring on new marketing people, you’ll want to provide them a Brand Playbook, a pre-written guideline that explains how the brand feels, sounds, and speaks. This helps ensure that everyone who speaks for your brand sounds the same, so it gives a consistent brand image to your consumers regardless of who’s actually doing the content creation.
Your Brand Playbook should be fairly comprehensive. It will explain details, like whether you use the Oxford comma or whether you use emojis (and under what circumstances). It should also include things like your customer avatars (see below), which will need to be updated fairly regularly. Your Brand Playbook will include writing and design samples that epitomize your brand image so new marketing people can use it as inspiration, as well as color schemes, typography, and design guidelines that will give a consistent look and feel to everything you create.
What is Involved in Brand Development?
The following steps are involved in developing a Brand Playbook:
If your company has not already create a Core Values list, a Mission Statement, a Unique Selling Proposition, and a Value Proposition, I’ll assist you in creating these assets. I can refer you to some qualified graphic designers to assist with a logo if you need one, and I can assist you with slogans, taglines, and other copy-related assets if you do not have them.
Once you have those basic elements, I like to do some brief interviews with the company founders or leadership to talk a bit more about their vision for the company. The Brand Playbook will need to reflect the future of the company as well as the present, so I need to know where the leadership is taking the company. I’ll also want to talk to your current marketing leaders to find out more about your best customers, and the customers you want to target in the future. I may talk to your product development team to get a little more information about the product, what makes it special, and what makes it sell.
I can work with your in-house graphic designer or provide a referral to several graphic designers, but we’ll want to work closely together to establish visual guidelines for the Brand Playbook. These guidelines will include color schemes, typography, and various formats of the logo and stylized company headers. We will often include a UI/UX designer for additional support during this process.
In most cases, we’ll establish 2-3 customer avatars. A customer avatar is a semi-fictionalized representation of your ideal customer. For example, if your ideal customer is a 25-30-year-old woman, we might create a customer avatar of her named “Fashionable Flora”. We’ll delve into her life, her interests, her psychology, and her thought processes. This allows us to really build the rest of our marketing strategy in a way that’s customer-centric and communicates to the needs of your customer.
For your marketing professionals, it’s a useful psychological “trick”. It’s easier to write and design if you pretend like you’re writing for one person that you know, like writing a letter to a friend. Writing for an “audience” is hard; writing to “Fashionable Flora” is easy.
By establishing customer avatars for your company first, we can tailor your brand to appeal directly to your ideal customers. This helps to ensure that we attract the people we want to do business with.
We start with very broad copy guidelines, discussing things like dialect, tone, voice, and “vibe” or “feel”. Some writers are more artistic in nature, so they understand this sort of creative direction. Is your company fun and quirky, or serious and business-like? When we establish the “feel” of your copy, we can help give guidance to your future writers, and this will help them be faster and more accurate when they submit work to you.
Then, we’re going to drill down into specifics. This is where a lot of Brand Playbooks are lacking, as many “Creative” types lack the analytical side. We’re going to give clear instructions for things like sentence length, reading level, gender, slang, spelling conventions, grammar conventions, and structure. We may even delve into very granular areas like rhythm, alliteration, nuance, cliche, and figurative language. At this level, we’re writing for the much more analytical writer who needs precise yes-and-no answers about how to write effectively for your company.
The heart of every Brand Playbook is its sample pieces. Once we’ve hammered out all of our guidelines and avatars, we’ll put together some sample pieces that future marketers can use as inspiration. Ideally, we like to use pieces from a few different formats and we’ll want to include several different options to suit our different customer avatars.
Some Brand Playbooks may have additional sections. For example, heavily regulated industries may need a special section for “Words We Don’t Use” (based on current laws and regulations), and complex products may need a separate area for “Commonly Confused Terms”. These sections may be added at the end, based on projected need as determined by consultation with the leadership team and the stakeholders in the project.
Once everyone has a chance to look everything over, make their changes and edits, and everyone can agree, the Brand Playbook is formatted into a printer-friendly PDF that can be uploaded onto the company’s shared drive, given to new employees, or transmitted electronically to contractors. This dramatically speeds up the learning curve for new marketing team members and gets everyone up to speed much faster.
Why Do I Need a Brand Playbook?
You’ll want to consider having an expert come in to do a Brand Development if you’ve never had one before. Internal employees may be able to assist with Brand Development, but they’re often too close to the company to accurately see your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOTs). Bringing in an external consultant helps you get the most accurate, most reliable perspective for your Brand Playbook.
A good Brand Playbook can help you in the following ways:
Faster Onboarding for Future Marketers
By having a single source for brand guidelines, it’s much faster to onboard future marketing team members. You won’t have to repeat this work every time a new team member comes on board.
Better, More Consistent Customer Experience
You will eventually have many people creating content for your company. Customers want a feeling of consistency and authenticity, so a good Brand Playbook allows everyone to operate from the same page.
Avoid Negative PR from Marketing Gaffes
With a clear Brand Playbook, your marketing team doesn’t have to “make it up”. You avoid a PR nightmare from someone saying the wrong thing. When you give them the right words, they don’t have to use the wrong ones.
A Stronger Company Identity Benefits Everyone
From sales to recruiting, your Brand Playbook helps the entire company feel like a cohesive team. Everyone is operating as a unit, and that benefits the entire company with additional growth, revenue, and retention.
I've Got You Covered
Finding a good brand developer can be a challenge, because it’s a job that encompasses so many different disciplines. You’ll need someone with a background in market research, market strategy, product marketing management, data & analytics, copywriting, and consumer behavior, just to name a few.
Fortunately, you’ve found exactly what you need!
- Experimental design and data collection involving a wide range of data sources, including online surveys, detailed interviews, focus groups, and offline data collection
- Statistical analysis and data processing
- A/B testing, multivariate testing, & conversion optimization (CRO)
- Strong research skills utilizing a variety of existing market research resources
Let's Get Started!
Your Copy Isn't Going to Write Itself!
But I can write it for you!