The Branding Series: Brand experience and how we do it

Here at Single Malt, we love a good branding project, and we’re often asked what really goes into building a brand – and how we do it successfully. Building a brand encompasses everything we believe in, and we enjoy the challenge of helping our clients find their own identity and then work to bring it to life. It’s not as simple as everyone thinks either, the standard misconception is that a brand is just a logo. But it absolutely is not! In fact, the logo is just the full-stop at the end of the branding process. Let’s look at a few definitions that we think work:

What is a brand?

A brand is the perceived emotional image of a business as a whole.

What is an identity?

An identity is the culmination of the visual aspects that make up the brand.

What is a logo?

A logo identifies a business in its simplest form through the use of a mark or icon.

To make sure we get optimum results for our clients, we use a cool little process which helps keep things clear (sounds obvious but is actually really important) and naturally teases out the brand values and purpose in an interesting and engaging way. We aim to create a brand experience that each client, and subsequently their customers, can interact with. We aim for brands that inspire conversations, evoke feelings and encourage interactions.

Here’s a little diagram of the Single Malt process which sums up the steps we take.

You’ll see it’s made up of 10 steps. That’s 10 vitally important steps if the brand is to be a success. Throughout the numerous stages, we will always have refinement and reflection in mind. There’s no point gathering opinion and feedback if you do nothing with it.

STAGE 1: LET’S GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER

This first session is hugely important in understanding the project and setting objectives for what the project needs to result in. We’re sticklers for knowing everything, so this is where we explore things like the current brand (if there is one) and how it is perceived, any actively used collateral, initial employee thoughts and feelings, where a business is currently positioned and where they want to be, current communication vehicles and much much more. We’re a bit nosy, but it’s all for the greater good!

STAGE 2: WE EYE UP THE COMPETITION

By identifying business competitors, we can work to make sure any brand we create has the upper hand. Our research is collaborative and we involve as many of our team as we can. We like to gather everyone’s thoughts, we’re different people and we all think differently. And it’s that age-old saying of two (or more) heads are better than one.

We aim to identify what each competitor does well and maybe not so well – our goal is to differentiate the company from the competition through a strong branding experience that exceeds all current expectations. Aim high!

STAGE 3: WE GET UNDER YOUR SKIN

Here we will highlight any opportunities we think are available by analysing the strengths and weaknesses of a current brand. This is the brand audit step and is pretty much an examination of current positioning in the market place. Add this step to the research steps from earlier on, and you have a perfect path starting to form, in turn creating a fantastic plan for progress.

STAGE 4: GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH YOUR IDEAL AUDIENCE

This step is really exciting as it’s where we get to put the previous steps together and create something visual and tangible. We’ll design up some demographically profiled personas which allow the brand to become more relatable. Based on key behaviours, lifestyles and requirements of the target audience, we build up a picture of who, what, why and when!

A persona is a representation of a group of audiences who have similar behaviours or patterns when interacting with a brand. This gives understanding and guidance that informs our design choices in the next stages. We can create a brand that works for the people that matter most.

STAGE 5: LET’S SEE WHAT WE FOUND

We love this stage as we get to present back to the client everything we have found from our research and brand audit. We enjoy chatting with our clients so this stage is a perfect opportunity to do so, to encourage collaboration and comment on the foundations that now make up the beginnings of the brand.

STAGE 6: LET’S WORK TOGETHER

Prepare for a full day workshop where we dig into thoughts, feelings, experiences and vision. We’ll actively pull out what the project team see the future of the brand to be, what the brand purpose might be and really plan out how it will leave an impact on customers.

The use of well-known models is key to this stage as each one has a different focus, so that when collated at the end of the day – naturally creates a wealth of useful information, some of which probably hasn’t been thought about previously. Models we use include but are in no way limited to:

  • SWOT Analysis
  • Brand Purpose Model
  • Golden Circles Model

We’ve found that this particular stage works best if all key stakeholders attend, that way ‘buy-in’ is achieved from the start, everyone gets to voice their opinions and most importantly, feel part of the process.

STAGE 7: WE GO AWAY AND WORK OUR MAGIC

This is where the new brand really starts to come to life. We begin to engrain the brand purpose and highlight the core values in everything we produce. We want to make sure that even just the sight of a new brand or logo reminds customers of who a business is and what they stand for.

Here at Single Malt, we are BIG believers that a brand is more than just the way you look, so we’ll use the extensive research to appeal to the target audience in a way that encourages them to become repeat customers. We want a brand that is memorable, unique and above all; expressive of a company’s values.

STAGE 8: THE BIG REVEAL

This stage is where we present back the magic. There might be one route or a selection of routes depending on what’s needed – but either way, it’ll be exciting! We encourage detailed feedback on the concepts, refinement is key.

STAGE 9: TEST, MEASURE, REFLECT AND REFINE

This is where everything is put to the test! Literally. We test the brand appeal on key stakeholders and the target audience. This could be through a range of routes; maybe a focus group, public consultation or an online survey. We’ll pick the route that best matches the client and their audience. When you’re so close to a brand (as most clients are) it’s sometimes helpful to gain insight from external sources so the durability and appeal of the creative is tested to the max. We’ll push the limits of creativity and refine the brand until it’s perfect.

STAGE 10: WE HELP YOU AND YOUR BRAND SUCCEED

As we’ve said, a logo alone isn’t a brand. So we’ll provide a brand toolkit to help our clients succeed and stay true to their brand. Both primary and secondary branding elements are considered, so things like brand guidelines, logo, colour palette, fonts, iconography, patterns, imagery and vocabulary for print or digital usage will all be looked at.

Every brand is different and no two Single Malt brands are ever the same. We have a great portfolio of brand work available, so if you have any questions on our process, we’d love to hear from you! Drop us a line, pick up the phone or even better, pop in and see us and we’ll be more than happy to chat over a coffee, our contact details are here.