What’s branding good for, when should you start branding, and how is it more than design?
We at Splendex are producing a video series with the goal of connecting professionals in the IT industry and creating value for those who want to be educated on business development processes. These discussions are centered around actual challenges our clients have struggled with, and genuine questions that our partners have been asking us.
We invite independent specialists (CEOs, developers, freelancers, and other experts) to share their honest opinions and real-life experiences without any restrictions.
Most recently, we talked about branding at length with key players such as:
The moderator of the roundtable was Levente Székely, the founder and CEO of Splendex.
If you were to ask 1000 people what branding is, they would give you 1000 different answers, and there is nothing wrong with that. To some people, branding is a logo, and the company image. To others it means even more, to whom branding is a holistic visual communication tool.
If you’re running a business, then you are branding in some form or another. You can’t scale a business without communicating your core values to your prospects and your team.
Even this video discussion and blog are part of our branding, we invited specialists, and we’re sharing value with you!
What we know for sure is branding must provide a message to be effective. It’s the combination of all the emotions you feel when you hear a company’s name. It also plays an important part in establishing a meaningful connection with customers and clients. It’s a tricky and complex thing to influence these emotions and connections with visual work.
On an operative level this can be achieved via the company image, and the products or services themselves. It’s very important to maintain a coherent brand, with harmony between your company mission, your products, and the customer.
While branding usually refers to the external visual communication to the customers, branding has two more important uses.
A company can use branding to communicate with potential employees during the recruitment process. During recruitment, it is important to establish common ground with the prospects, to make them feel connected and understood. We at Splendex communicate our story and our values to each potential hire, to ensure a mutually beneficial fit.
A company should also communicate their core values and mission to every employee already at the company. It’s a good rule of thumb to build the values around the founders’ and the first few hires’. This is because they have traits that will ensure the company’s growth, and a strong cohesive team.
There are no rules to branding, but experience goes a long way in this profession too. Our participant, Kata, has played important management roles in 3 successful startups. She believes you should start branding from the very beginning, especially in case of startups.
This is because as soon as an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is finished, you might need to adjust and reimagine your brand. These adjustments can only be done if the brand was established properly in the first place. If you start out too specific, your brand will fall apart, but if you go too neutral, you won’t be memorable enough to customers. You must be able to present a coherent brand to B2B partners, and hundreds, if not thousands of visitors. As soon as stakeholders invest in your startup, there are certain expectations to have a consistent brand.
The startup ecosystem is also particularly active, with competitions, investor summits, conferences, and other events. Without an agile, future-proof brand, you may fall behind.
For small and medium enterprises, you might be able to take your time with a serious brand. However, the longer you wait, the more expensive it is going to get. By starting with smaller improvements, you can save your future self a lot of hassle and money.
Almost all B2B and B2C companies have some sort of marketing strategy, to stay competitive. If there is no coherent structure, and a well thought out visual system to carry these marketing efforts, they will be less effective. So, by saving money on branding, you might be burning money by not attracting or convincing customers.
As for the tangible output, you can expect a type of corporate identity manual. This includes all the visual content like color codes, the logo, fonts, and typography, and so on. However, before you receive all of this, the agency needs to provide some sort of strategic consultation, where they gain an in-depth understanding of your business. Péter holds workshops for his clients when they partner with zwoelf, where they discuss what the client’s product and target audience are. This part overlaps quite a bit with UX research because it also takes the audience’s pain points into account, and details what message you would like to send. It’s serious work from both parties, but this type of thorough understanding cannot be neglected.
Other than workshops, designers can get a better understanding of what they need to create by asking about the ‘personality’ of the brand. How youthful, playful, conservative, or professional the brand should feel can be measured on a simple scale. These answers and results are all written in the brief, from which designers need to use their visual skill set to create something to support all these goals and ideas.
Startups are in a unique position because digital agencies can work directly with the founders. This gives opportunity for an honest, direct look into how and why the startup was conceived, what the mission and vision are. For multinational companies there is a company culture which they operate, but it is a lot more strategic.
Our participants have all worked at huge corporations. When you walk through the door of a huge multinational company, you are immediately met with posters and screens broadcasting the company values. This is important because they hold together a huge community of people from several different countries and cultures. Hearing these messages and values every day can be great to really solidify them.
A dull way of introducing the brand can be a huge 100 page user manual. Of course, people need to know exactly how and what they can or can not do on a brand management level, but there are much more creative ways to go about it. Trainings and workshops where the brand is “brought to life” can be an enjoyable bonding experience for everyone. A good example of internal branding is decorating the office with the company’s products or mascots or setting up a photo frame in the cafeteria.
It is the responsibility of the trade marketing department to ensure that the licensed products only show up in a way that’s consistent with the brand guidelines. Without their work, there would be lots of altered products, and it would be hard to tell the originally intended creations apart from the fakes.
Branding can be measured via intense industry research, and lots of fiscal data. However, chances are if you aren’t among the world’s top 100 brands, you won’t be able to really measure branding. For large companies, in accounting and on the stock market the brand itself can be a huge intangible asset. So, brand is technically measurable, but not within the first few months.
Our participant, Péter, shared an interesting game regarding branding. Try to guess the brand based on just the colors!
Guess the soft drink brand…
Guess this player in the travel industry…
What about this IT player?
In the case of startups and SMEs it’s difficult to measure branding. There are no ROIs, conversion events or foolproof formulas to calculate the value of it. While it is not that tangible, your branding can make clients, or employees feel connected, who provide you with valuable insight on what made them feel that way.
What’s much more measurable is if you cause damage to the brand. If you mess up and create an inconsistent brand or the wrong visuals, you may have people confusing the brand with another firm’s. This can cause actual financial loss to a company if the client decides to work with the other firm.
We don’t believe that all press is good press. Just think of Ronaldo and the Coca Cola incident at the UEFA EURO 2020. As one of the top footballers in the World, his opinion has huge importance to thousands of fans. One sentiment can have an intense butterfly effect which is hard to mend.
As human beings, we still ultimately always seek connections, enjoyment, and value to make our lives better. While branding isn’t measurable down to the dollar, there are a lot of factors you can get a feel for. Such as how loyal your consumers are, how actively and continuously they follow the brand, and whether they purchase the company’s new products.
People enjoy hearing stories, and a part of branding can be as simple as telling the story of your company. Splendex practically started from a garage, and that resonated with a lot of people we’ve come in contact with. The founders of Splendex had a startup mentality in a sense that they tried to bring motivated, like-minded people to get the company rolling towards bigger opportunities. All of this – whether intentional or not – is branding.
Branding is also important right now because with the help of social media platforms, it’s accessible to everyone. Before the digital world, advertising belonged to a thin elite class of huge companies, because only they could pay the fees of television, or radio ads. In 2021 everyone wants to create some sort of image for themselves, and it’s never been easier.
Branding and strategy consulting is more and more widely known to decision makers, but they often believe that it would be too costly for them.
Péter shared their pricing at zwoelf which includes strategic workshops, moodboarding, conceptual planning, presentations, iterations, a final visual pack, with email signature and social media posts. This comes out to about 2800 – 4300 euros and takes about 4-8 weeks. Of course, a freelancer would charge much less, but as opposed to freelancers they are an agency that won’t vanish if something goes wrong. They are there during the company’s growth as reliable partners. It is extremely costly to change the agency or freelancer you’re working with, so it is better to evaluate your options before committing.
Whenever the team at zwoelf or Splendex creates something, we create it in a way that another developer team can easily take over. If the client wants to go and work with another agency, we won’t hold them back.
If you don’t start out with a consistent umbrella brand, you will have a really tough time expanding it later on. Don’t start with a brand that’s too specific.
Build out a strong base for your brand, and structure it. The rest of the ideas will fall into place naturally.
The beginning of a brand project should start with a lot of questions, this is the only way you’ll actually receive the appearance and meet the goals you want to achieve.
Both parties should always know exactly what the next step is, the client should be educated, and the agency should keep the deadlines strictly. This is the only way you can allocate resources and time to the project correctly. If the agency you’re planning to work with isn’t a professional, they may struggle to write a timeline, that’s a big red flag.
If you’re building a professional business, don’t go to Fiverr or a logo shuffling website, because even though it saves money in the first step, it can cause huge problems in the long run.
The logo is just a by-product of branding, the real value of branding is the clear vision and path you want to take with your company.
Seemingly the same product at a different agency can cost 10 times as much, this is because you’re paying for the team’s experience, consulting and guarantee to deliver what you require. Choose the agency that seems right for you and your business needs.
If you enjoyed this summary, consider watching the Hungarian discussion by clicking here, or get in touch with us for a free consultation!
Getting professional advice from a consultant outside the corporate bubble gives you mental fitness to make more well-grounded decisions.