I'm a branding expert and graphic designer based in NY. I specialize in the development of brands: brand strategy, identity & web design. Need help with your project?—Get in touch
You can use my framework on Miro to run collaborative brand strategy workshops online*
*available only with the purchase of my premium strategy guide.
What goes into a successful brand strategy?
There are 9 elements of a brand strategy grouped into 3 sections: Brand Core, Brand Positioning and Brand Persona.
In this article I will show you how to develop your, or your client's branding strategy like a pro.
This is a step-by-step guide to building brand strategy with absolute minimum theory and maximum practicality.
Developing a brand strategy can be a daunting task, but when you have a clear process and the right toolkit — it's fairly easy.
Learn how to run brand strategy workshops and build successful brands, the strategic way.
And I have to admit that some of my colleagues think I'm crazy for sharing my secret sauce.
They worry that I may cannibalize my business by showing "amateurs" how to do what I get paid money for.
PS. Learn how to sell brand strategy to your design clients in my other article.
While I don't think this guide will put me out of the branding game, I do hope it will put you on.
So if want to learn how to build strategic brands — you're in the right place.
This is my proven 9-step brand strategy process to help you build strong brands.
I filled the worksheets with dummy text, so that you know where the answers go.
However, before you start working on your brand strategy, let's quickly define what brand strategy actually is.
When it comes to this subject, Marty Neumeier is a true brand strategist—this is how he defines brand strategy:
“A plan for the systematic development of a brand in order to meet business objectives.“— Marty Neumeier, Brand Gap
The goal of brand strategy is to shape the perceptions of a brand’s audience so that ultimately we can influence them.
Therefore, the brand strategy sets out the plan for shaping those perceptions through different forms of expression both visual and verbal.
Brand strategy used to be reserved for global brands, but now more business owners have started to realize the importance of building a brand and the strategy behind it.
The objective of a brand strategy is to help you stand out from the competition in the eyes of your audience, so that they can choose you (your product/service) over competitors (even for higher price).
In this article, you’ll learn how I became a brand strategist so that you can navigate your career in the right direction and raise your specialist profile.
This is the main strategy worksheet that I use capture the insights from branding workshops that I run with my clients.
A one-pager that consist the final outcome of each of the 9 branding exercises.
I've also prepared GIF animations that will help you understand the sequence of each exercise.
In this article, I talk to you as if you were my client, in order to maximize its practicality (from intro to outro).
*Full guide with video, examples and other assets available only with the premium guide purchase.
So that you can just read it out loud and run your first strategy session with ease.
Hope you’ll enjoy the actionable tips in this guide.
As a designer, you may wonder why you need strategy.
Let's distinguish two scenarios of approaching a new branding project — with and without strategy.
Meet Arek and John:
Clients usually come to us, graphics designers, asking for a logo, brand identity or other brand design work.
*Click to see the full infographic.
As you can see in my animation, projects often fall flat without proper strategy.
This is because you need to take a step back and lay the foundation for your creative work to come.
Follow my steps for creating brand strategy to align yourself and client on the same vision.
The goal of this workshop is to engage your client in the process and define key brand strategy elements.
So that you can turn these findings into insights that will help you design something that is "on brand".
Your clients will love you, because they'll feel like the ideas come from them.
And you will get clarity for the creative phase - designing brand identity.
Below you will find my branding strategy templates, so you can use them to develop your own process and worksheets.
So there are basically three ways in which you can run this workshop:
I'd strongly encourage you to run a whiteboard session — that's certainly the best option.
Who develops brand strategy? — You, the strategic designer, consultant, or facilitator.
It can be anyone, as long as you follow the framework.
How long does it take? — You should book at least 3 hours, which gives you about 20 minutes for each of the 9 exercises.
Who should be in the room? — You can have multiple stakeholders or just one CEO / Founder as participants.
Where to run the strategy session? — I usually rent a Breather office with at least 2 whiteboards and a TV to display the guide.
Hand out the worksheets to all participants so that they can take notes for themselves.
You can optionally meet your client in basically any quiet environment.
If meeting your client in person is not an option, then you can run this workshop online using Skype or Zoom.
I've also done a combination of both, where I run a whiteboard session over a video call, while my client fills out the worksheets with a pen.
And finally, you can just use my PDF templates (available only with premium guide) on fill them out on computer — either online, or in person.
NEW UPDATE! — I had to remove my template on Miro, now it's available only with the premium guide purchase.
So as you can see, the options are limitless and you can't really have any excuses.
First, get consensus from leadership — Brief the CEO or primary stakeholders on what's going to happen during the workshop.
Enroll them on being a “partner” in the process and explain what you are going to do and why it is important.
Give them a short overview of the brand strategy framework (see Intro) and what you're going to be able to accomplish together.
Here are the three principals that provide the foundation for what makes the workshop powerful.
It's also important to ask participants to not veto, contradict or counter any suggestion a team member makes.
And as a facilitator, you need to:
Note: From now on, use this article as your script.
This is what you say as a facilitator — just repeat after me, memorize it, or at least try to remember key concepts.
So that you can run your strategy sessions with ease.
Let's get started.
So first, let me give you a quick overview of what we're going to accomplish today.
The brand strategy framework is divided into 3 sections:
As you can see on the GIF below.
Firstly, we’re going to clarify your brand internally.
So, we're going to start with your brand core, which includes your brand purpose, your brand vision, and your brand values.
Secondly, we’re going to position your brand in the market.
So then we're going to develop your brand positioning, which includes your target audience, your market analysis and your awareness goals.
And thirdly, we’re going to define your brand persona.
In the last section, we're going to create a human brand persona, which includes your brand personality, your brand voice and your brand tagline.
So to sum up, we’re going to run 9 branding exercises in 3 different section.
I’m going to draw each exercise on the whiteboard, but you can take notes for yourself by using the worksheets provided.
For some exercises I’ve included additional resources at the end that will help us complete these exercises.
But for other exercises we might want to quickly search the internet to help us fill in the gaps.
However, you know your business well, and we're all creative people, so that we can complete this workshop with what we already know.
And later on, we can also expand on that by using actual data and performing deeper research.
Now, we’re going to set timer for each exercise, and it’s important to do it fast rather than being super accurate — speed is more important than accuracy.
Don’t worry about being perfect in your answers, because it’s also going to change and evolve.
Let’s jump right into the first section — defining the core of your brand.
And this is the part of strategy that 99% skip over.
Now, it might not seem overly important early on, but having this foundation in place as the core of your brand, makes all the difference when you begin to grow and expand.
Let's start with your brand core, which includes your purpose, your vision, and your core values.
There are 3 elements in this section of our brand strategy and each plays an essential role in providing clarity for the internal brand.
Knowing these three elements and being crystal clear on each of them, builds confidence for the existence and direction your brand takes.
And this is because the expectations that consumers have of brands today are lot different than they had 20 years ago.
Now customers want to engage with genuine and authentic brands.
So in order to build a genuine and authentic brand, you need to know what you stand for, and then you communicate that well to the outside world.
You see, customers want the brands they do business with to have a strong core, so that they’re about something more than just selling them stuff.
So building up the brand from the inside out, one that has a strong core, is really important.
Brand building strategy always starts with defining the internal brand first.
And when your brand knows who it is, knows where it’s going and knows why it’s here, customers can feel that authenticity and will stick around because of it.
And not only customers, but it will also unite your team internally and will help you make meaningful decisions that are “on brand”.
Now, I’m going to draw each exercise on the whiteboard, but you can take notes for yourself by using the worksheets provided.
Ok, so without further ado let’s jump right into the first exercise — which is finding the purpose behind what you do.
Firstly, we're going to find the purpose behind what you do.
What’s the greater good behind your work?
Here you need to know why you’re in business and talk about it to rally your team and foster connection with your audience.
Let's start off by quickly explaining what brand purpose actually is and why you need it.
Brand purpose is a higher order reason for a brand to exist, other than just making a profit.
But why do we need to do that?
Because once we align your brand with some cause, you will have an uncanny ability to attract a cultlike following.
Our goal is to give people a purpose, a cause to champion, or a reason to believe so that they feel inspired to come to work or to buy from us.
So it will both: unite your team internally and also externally foster a deeper connection with your audience.
Brands that have committed to purposeful endeavors report:
In fact, more and more customers are now happy to pay a premium for ethical and purpose driven brands.
Let me give you an example here: Tesla believes in clean, sustainable energy and saving our planet.
So here, we need to identify that greater good and there are different causes that help either people, animals or the planet.
Ok so how do we find your brand purpose?
Here, we’re going to use the Golden Circle concept developed by Simon Sinek, the author of the bestselling book “Start with WHY”
First, In the outer circle (which is your WHATs
WHAT — List all the products you sell, the services you offer, or the jobs you perform.
Next, in the middle circle, let’s list your HOWs
HOW — all the values, actions and guiding principles that make you stand out.
Whether you call it differentiating value proposition, propriety services or unique selling proposition.
Basically anything that explains how you’re different or better.
And finally, let’s state your WHY, so here we need to define what your brand stands for.
Why you do what you do, and when I say WHY I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result.
By WHY I mean:
WHY — Why does your company exist? What's your purpose, cause or belief?
And here, you can basically link what you do to one of the causes that help people, animals or the planet.
Check out the list of common causes to support and select one that makes the most sense for your brand.
Now once we’ve done that, we need to list a few examples of contribution and impact.
CONTRIBUTION — Think about specific stories of when you've felt most proud to do your work.
Again, this is not about money or other metrics, but it’s about what you have given, not what you’ve received.
So here, we’re looking for specific contribution you made to the lives of others.
At the contribution starts with an action verb, because our ultimate aim is to make your purpose actionable.
Look at the list of action verbs and pick at least 3 that capture the essence of your contribution best.
And finally let’s talk about the impact, which is the result of that contribution.
IMPACT — What did the contributions of your organization allow others to do or to be?
So think about how people’s lives were different after they interacted with your brand.
What were those individuals able to do or become as a result of your contribution?
Let’s come up with 3 impact statements.
And once we’ve done that, now let’s draft your purpose statement.
Spend a few minutes combining your contribution with your impact to draft your purpose statement.
You may actually need to try a few times to find something that ultimately feels right.
Now, let’s put your Purpose statement in the main Strategy Worksheet
We’re going to do the same with there outcome of each exercise — put it into the main strategy worksheet.
So that we're going to end up with 1 page strategy sheet, which makes it easy to share with your team and start acting upon it.
Ok, so once we’ve found your brand purpose, now let’s look into the future and define your vision.
PS. Check out my other article where I feature more examples of brand purpose statements.
Secondly, you need have a vision of where you’re going.
Where is your brand heading?
Here we want to Influence long-term business decisions to ensure that your brand is navigated towards the right direction.
So if your purpose was WHY, then your vision is WHERE — Where you’re going.
So here, we need to create a rough map of where your brand is heading, and this is an opportunity for you to dream big.
Remember that the vision needs to be big enough that both the challenge and possibility of achieving it are audacious and intimidating.
Although the vision should be bold, achieving it needs to be a possibility, so that the team believes and buys into that vision.
So having some clarity on where you’re going will help you make more meaningful decisions and think more strategically.
This is because if a certain action points you towards your future brand, then you’re much more likely to stay "on brand" and on track.
Now, let’s write a short description of the current state of your business.
So where are you now? In terms of business metrics — what’s you company size, customer base, market share, lifetime value and so on.
Of course if you’re a startup, you just just write down overall things like: we invested X amount in this project, burn X amount each month, have a website etc.
Think about what you do in 5 years — what do you want to achieve?
Where do you see your brand in 5 years in terms of growth?
This is a destination of what you want the brand or business to be in the future.
So let’s talk about your ambition, about some day in the future.
Of course you can’t predict everything, but just by writing down your ambitions, it will guide you and your team in the right direction.
If you achieve all your goals in 5 years, then
What will your brand look like in 10 years?
How big will it be? What market share will you have?
And what other products and services could you possibly offer?
Will you expand to other locations or to other categories?
You see, most brands never get where they want to go, because they’re not clear about where it is they’re going.
So let’s dream big and write everything down.
What impact will you have on your industry in 15 years?
How will your brand expand?
15 years is a lot of time and things change so rapidly that it might be hard to predict, but this is not about being accurate.
This is more about avoiding potential mistakes by spreading yourself thin and just rather staying on track and having a bigger vision.
And now, let’s talk about your ultimate aspiration.
ASPIRATION — If it all goes right, how will you impact the category you’re in?
Here you can use superlatives like “The world’s best”.
For example: McDonalds’ would say “The world’s best quick-service restaurant” .
*Check out my other article for more examples of vision statements.
For Tesla it would be “The world’s best electric car company”.
And finally, let’s define the ideal future state — your final destination or desired end state.
What would the world look like if this problem was solved?
And If you were completely successful in what you do, how will your brand change the world?
Remember here to be simple and concrete, and avoid any buzzwords or jargon.
For example, for Tesla it'd be “A world without fossil fuels”.
Ok, once you’ve done that, then let’s put it together and draft your Vision Statement.
And again, it might take a few tries to get it right.
So, spend a few minutes here trying to combine aspiration with your category to draft your vision statement.
Or simply use your ideal as your vision statement.
And remember — its needs to be short and to the point.
Ok, so once you’ve created your vision statement, now let’s define your core values and philosophies.
And thirdly, let's determine your core values and philosophies.
What are your guiding principles?
Define your brand values and create a culture and driving force for what to stand for in the world.
And this is the last exercise in the core section of the strategy framework.
What are core values? — They’re basically the compass that points to the true North of your business success.
You values stand at the very core of your brand.
Here we want to figure out how you want your brand to be perceived in the market.
This is about how you DO things, so it’s more about the experience that your customers, suppliers and the wider public will have with your brand.
Let me give you an example here: Coca-Cola's core values are: Leadership, Collaboration, Integrity, Accountability, Passion, Diversity.
*Check out my other article to see more examples of core values.
Here we want to be clear on how we want to be perceived, and then we will put a solid guide in place, so that you can achieve that perception.
And being clear on your values, just like the other elements of your brand core, will guide communication and decision-making so that your brand remains consistent.
So how to define your brand values? — I see often people choose random values that just sound “nice” or “noble”.
But choosing standard values like “honest” or “timely” or “reliable” won’t help you stand out from the crowd in any significant way.
And this is because it’s not rally actionable, your team won’t know how to put it in practice and communicate it to the world.
So there’s no real feeling or emotion behind these words other than they just sound “nice" and as Richard Branson said:
So how can you can dig deeper?
So first of all, forget about idealized perfections—let’s start actually with things you don’t like, so first:
Describe negative experiences you had with brands in your or similar category
Or figure out what could go wrong.
And here you can even check negative reviews on the internet to see what customers don’t like about your competitors.
Or simply think about those experience you hated — maybe the customer service was terrible or maybe the project wasn’t done on time.
Or maybe it was finished on time, but it was done in a sloppy way.
So in the first cell let’s list at least 3 negative experiences.
And then, in the next one, let’s focus on feelings that this negative experience left you with.
How did that bad experience make you feel internally?
So here, list at least 3 negative feelings.
Now, let’s turn things around — what’d be the opposite,
What'd be desirable experience that you wish you had instead?
Here, turn negative into positive.
And finally, let’s think about positive feelings that those good experiences left you with.
How would that positive experience make you feel internally?
What’d be the desirable positive feeling?
Lastly, find values that you would like to adapt to ensure designing those positive experiences and feelings.
Find a list of common brand values and pick 3 to 5 that fit best.
And then describe them shortly — what they stand for, what they mean to you.
At this point, whatever values you’ve chosen, there’s a meaning behind them.
Once you’ve found your 3 to 5 core values, then let's put them into the main Strategy Worksheet — as you did with other outcomes.
That’s it when it comes to the first section of our brand strategy toolkit.
And here we can take a 5-10 min break to grab a coffee or use the bathroom.
Ok so now, let’s move onto the 2nd part of our brand strategy, which is positioning.
PS. Also check my other article where I feature core values of famous brands.
Since you’ve defined your brand internally, now let’s position your brand externally—in the marketplace.
In the 2nd section, we're going to develop your positioning strategy, which includes your target audience, your market analysis and your awareness goals.
And the importance of each element of positioning can’t be underestimated, because each one give us a clear understanding of your competitive edge.
Equipped with this knowledge, we can shine a light on potential opportunities that your brand can take advantage of.
So when you have a clear understanding of your audience, their problems and needs, but also the players in your space, then you can just
adjust whatever you’re doing to be more appealing.
And these adjustments don’t necessarily need to impact business operations.
It might simply be in the way you present what your brand does.
Because look, positioning is all about perception.
So the way we present your brand makes all the difference in how your brand will be remembered.
Now, you don’t have to be pioneer, or have some original products.
Yes, positioning starts with a product or service, but positioning it’s not what you do to a product.
Positioning is what you do to the mind of the customer, so positioning happens in the minds of the target audience.
So we need to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of your customer.
Even if you deliver similar product or service, you can still position yourself differently.
And just to give you and example — Let's think of 3 luxury car brands.
Perhaps you think of brands like Mercedes, BMW and Volvo.
Now let's do the opposite — Let's think of affordable car brands.
Perhaps you think of Hyundai, Ford and Toyota?
Whichever brand comes to your mind, this brand was able to take a specific position in your mind.
And this is basically the simples way of how positioning work.
However, different customers can position brands differently, based on their lifestyle and experiences.
Certain audience could say e.g. that Lexus Is an affordable car and wouldn’t even consider buying a Ford or Toyota.
That’s why we need to start with getting to know your audience first, so that we can understand and resonate with them.
So let’s jump right into the first exercise in the positioning section of our strategy, or the 4th exercise overall — which is your Target Audience.
Now, we need to get to know your target audience in order to resonate with them.
So, what’s your primary customer?
And we have to understand your audience well, so that you can address their problems and needs with relevant solutions.
So we need to uncover the details about their lives and explore the personal side of their lives and what makes them tick.
We also have to understand the challenges they face, when those challenges come about and the state of mind they’re in as they face them.
And we do this to uncover the emotions they go through, so that we can connect with them on a human level through those emotions.
Ok, so the first exercise in this section is creating your general customer profile.
Here, we need to understand the circumstances of their lives — from their day-to-day activities to lifestyle, preferences, and behavioral patterns.
Essentially what we need to do here is to get to know them better, and on many levels.
Here's the thing: speed is more important than accuracy — and this will change and we will adjust it later and dig deeper..
Don't worry too much about whether it's right exactly, because it's also going to change.
So who are the most common customers, man or women?
The first thing we're going to do is to pick a name for the most common customer.
And then let’s come up with some basic demographics. Let’s just give him or her a simple label e.g. “Stay at home mom in her early 30’s”.
First, let’s talk about their Goals.
What objectives and goals they have as it relates to your offering?
What kind of strategic aspirations or hopes they might have?
List here as many goals as you can in 5 minutes.
And we’re going for quantity over quality, because later we can eliminate those less important facts and focus on what actually matters.
So secondly, let’s talk about their problems.
What are the problems your customers face before they can get what they want?
What are their pain-points and core challenges?
And thirdly, let’s talk about how these problems impact your customer emotionally.
What do they fear because of those problems?
What emotions & feelings that they go through?
And finally, let’s talk about their desires.
What’d be the desirable experience?
Imagine what would be the best case scenario.
What would be the opposite of these problems and fears?
Once we’ve done that, now let’s circle the most important findings in order to describe our target audience in 1 or 2 short sentences.
And then we put this outcome in the main Strategy Worksheet.
Now, since we’ve created the overall target audience profile, now let’s analyze your marketplace to find your differentiator and write your positioning statement.
In the fifth exercise we're going to analyze your competitors to find opportunities.
Who are your direct competitors?
Here we’re going to look for gaps in the market to find your differentiator — how you can stand out and stand for something.
The basic approach to positioning is not to create something new or totally different, but to manipulate what’s already up there in the minds of customers.
I see many entrepreneurs look at their competitors for inspiration for what to do, and they look at their brand identity, the website, their offering, their communication and their social posts.
Then they try to emulate what competition is doing because it’s working for them.
When you look at your competitors, your goal is to set yourself apart, not to copy.
So you must look at them from the point of view of your shared audience and see what options they already have in the market and where the market is under served.
In a world of choice, where we have too little time and too many options — how do we choose?
Well, as strategists we must choose to stand for something instead of just saying “You can choose anyone, and we’re anyone.”
So let’s go to the extremes and find that edge — Let’s stand for something, not everything.
So now, for each axis let’s choose something that people care about.
And It could be something like convenience, price, speed, skill level and so on.
You can find a list of sample positioning extremes in the book "This is Marketing" by Seth Godin.
However, each industry is different and you know your space far better than I do, so perhaps you can come up with some other extremes that are more relevant to what you do.
Once we have 2 extremes selected, then let’s plot the options your audience have on this chart.
Who are your competitors?
Here, we want to list 5 to 10 competitors.
For example, there are six ways to get diamonds across town.
On one axis we have speed, and on the other we have security.
And it turns out that both an armored truck and the postal service will happily insure a small envelope of diamonds.
However, one will take a long time and the other will take an afternoon.
And if you don’t care about security, a bike messenger is even faster.
And if you don’t care about either speed or security, then a stamp is just fine.
The magic of this exercise is that it clarifies that each option might be appropriate, depending on what you seek.
Can you see how this chart would be totally different if the axes were changed to convenience and cost for example?
So once we’ve placed your competitors on the grid, now let’s look at our competitive landscape and think about what we can do differently.
So the goal of this positioning exercise is quite simple — to get people to remember your brand for one thing you want to be known for.
As a business you can do many different things, but as a brand you want to be known for ONE thing.
Not one product or one service, but one idea.
For example: Volvo is best in safety, Volkswagen is known for German quality and BMW for best performance.
So now let’s figure out what’s your differentiator and write it down beside the grid.
What can your brand or product say that no one else can say?
What makes you special?
Are we claiming superiority or exclusiveness over other products or services in your category?
Once we've got this, then we also we need to
State the end-benefit to your customers. Not features, but benefits.
State what the brand does for the target audience that is emotional and intangible.
For example the end-benefit to Coca-Cola consumers is “Feel energetic and vibrant”, and for Dove is “Feel confident and glowing”.
Finally, let’s put this all together to create your Positioning Statement.
It might take a few tries to get to something that ultimately sounds right.
Now, once we’ve done that, remember to write the positioning statement in the main Strategy Worksheet.
Ok, so we’ve created your positioning statement, and now let’s prioritize awareness goals, so that we can start acting upon your positioning and ultimately get people to know you.
In the six exercise, we're going to set marketing goals to bring awareness.
How customers will find about you?
Here, we’re going to brainstorm and prioritize how customers can learn about your brand.
So basically we’re going to list all the marketing initiatives you can take.
And the goal of this exercise is to figure out what we can do to get people to discover you.
This is NOT marketing strategy, but we need to run this exercise to get clarity and define the scope of work for this branding project.
Now, let’s first list all the marketing initiatives that you can take to bring awareness — list them on the left side of the grid.
Sample awareness goals would be: website, blog, stationery, business cards, social media, email marketing, trade shows etc.
Now, once you have a long list of your awareness initiatives, then let’s look at our grid and think about:
First — Is it easy or difficult to do? How long does it take to complete? How much it cost?
So simply move it onto the X axes where it makes most sense, and then second, we need to answer whether it would have high or low impact on your business?
Second — What kind of impact this initiative would make on your business?
Would designing a website bring you awareness and make you money? — probable yes, so its probably high impact.
And then let’s do this with each of the item on our list.
Once we have every item on the grid, it works like this:
Everything that is easy to do and has high impact — we should do those things first, and this is our priority.
Next, everything that is difficult to do but has high impact as well — we need to do those things next.
Then, everything that is easy to do but has low impact — we can plan these things.
And finally everything that is easy to do and has low impact — we can just ignore this for now.
And that’s about it — If everything looks right to you, let’s translate the prioritized awareness goals into the main Strategy Worksheet.
So now, we’ve completed the 2nd part of our strategy workshop and the 3rd and the last part is all about your brand persona.
Now, since you’ve defined your brand internally and positioned your brand externally, now let’s also create a brand persona.
In the 3rd section, we’re going to develop your brand persona, which includes your brand personality, tone of voice, and tagline.
Here, we’re going to focus on making a human connection with your audience.
Because you see, back in the 80s and 90s consumers didn’t have much to say.
There was no social media, so brands communicated with one-way broadcast messages in the form of advertisements.
And if the consumer didn’t feel a connection or had a complaint, they basically had no voice.
Things are a bit different now.
Now, word of mouth, which is leveraged by social media, means that the consumers do have a voice.
So now, they expect that the brand their chose have a human side as well.
People expect brands to have a personality, so that they actually feel like they’re engaging with a person, when they’re really engaging with the brand.
So in this section our aim is to make that human connection with our audience.
Because brand development strategy cannot be fully defined without create a human brand persona.
And the way we gonna do that, is by identifying your brand personality, and then projecting the right voice.
And finally nailing it down with a memorable tagline.
So that we can create a brand persona, a real character that they can trust and feel connected to.
Ok, so without further ado let’s jump right into the first exercise in this section, or the 7th exercise overall — your brand personality.
In the seventh exercise we're going to define the personality of your brand.
If your brand was a person who’d it be?
Here we’re going to give your brand a human side by defining its personality in order to build relationship with your customers.
And the the way we're going to do that is by selecting an archetypal mix.
Archetypes were a concept introduced by Carl Jung, who believed that they were models of people, behaviors, or personalities.
Archetypes, he suggested, were inborn tendencies that play a role in influencing human behavior.
Archetypes are widely used in books and movies so in branding.
For example: Yoda is the Sage in Star Wars.
Indiana Jones is the Explorer, or Maximus is the Hero in the Gladiator.
So our goal is to assume one core archetype and alternatively one secondary for differentiation.
But before we do the exercise, we actually need to fly quickly through all of them, to help you understand what they are all about.
So the Archetype Framework identifies 12 personalities divided into 4 sections that group them based on common desires.
The first core desire, exploring spirituality, is common for:
They all have yearning for paradise.
They want to be connected with the Earth on a journey to know more about themselves and others.
The second core desire, leaving legacy, is common for:
They all want to leave a mark on the World.
They want to make an impact, so something meaningful and be remembered.
The third core desire, connecting to others, is common for:
They're all about having meaningful relationships with other people.
Whether is romance and love, mother love, or just belonging — They want to be around people.
The fourth core desire, providing structure, is common for:
They all want to provide structure to the World.
They desire to build something that wasn't there before, in their own name or in the name of others.
So now, as you can see, I’ve also included some of the famous brands on that wheel - just to give you an example, so that you can relate.
Now, the challenge is to define the right archetypal mix, because often what happens is, I see brands try to cherry pick some characteristic from different archetypes.
But the problem is that by doing so, you will end up diluting your focus and therefore confusing your customers.
So the key and the trick is to keep you archetypal mix refined and focused.
You might end up with 70% of the core archetype and then 30% of the secondary archetype for differentiation.
Look at the archetypal wheel and identify the core desire of your audience.
And based on that let’s think about what role your brand plays in their lives.
For example: If they desire power, it doesn’t necessary mean that your brand should chose the Ruler archetype.
Because if your brand is providing them with some kind of education, to help them get that power, then they're likely will be drawn to the Sage personality that demonstrates wisdom and knowledge.
So based on the research you’ve done so far, let’s now take all this into consideration.
Look at the wheel thinking about
What archetype would define your brand personality best?
Let’s just simply mark it on the wheel and decide on the percentage ratio.
Once we have that, then with your archetypal mix in mind, answer the two questions about what you (as a brand) love and hate.
This will allow you to form your brand attitude and express your personality in simple messaging.
Ok, so once we’ve done that, then translate that attitude together with your archetypal mix to the main Strategy Worksheet.
Now, since you’ve defined your personality, now let’s add to that by projecting a compelling voice for your brand.
In the eight exercise, we're going to project a compelling voice for your brand.
How do you want to sound to others?
Here, we’re going to define your tone of voice to set guidelines for how you want to sound to your target audience.
*Also check out my other article that features best brand voice examples.
Now, What’s the tone of voice? — it sis basically how the personality of your brand comes through the words you use.
Tone of Voice is essentially, an extension of your personality.
So that your personality and voice will work together, to represent the HOW - how your brand message is delivered.
And the tone of voice should be used consistently across all communication channels, to allow the audience to familiarize themselves with your brand as if they’re talking to a human being.
Your tone is not only about how you speak, but also the words you use and how you use them (the cadence and rhythm, velocity, and length of your speech and so on).
For example, do you speak fast or with a drawl? Are you loud and bombastic or quiet and reserved?
Do you speak in long, ornate sentences? Do you use industry jargon or plain English?
So how to capture and craft your tone and voice?
First, let’s revisit your target audience profile from the positioning section.
Your tone of voice should feel familiar to them, so your voice needs to come off as someone they’d get along with.
Second, let’s look at the personality — your and voice must align or complement your personality.
Here, we can use different attributes, but the basics would be the following:
Funny or Serious? Are you trying to be humorous?
Or is the subject approached in a more serious way?
So simply let's move the slider toward the left or the right side — What do you think?
Casual or Formal? Are you formal and keep it professional at all cost?
Or more Informal and Casual?
Sassy or Respectful? Do you approach the subject in a respectful way?
Or do you take a sassy approach?
Where does your brand live on the spectrum?
Enthusiastic or Matter-of-fact? Are you excited about the offer?
Do you seem to be enthusiastic about the subject?
Or is the writing dry and matter-of-fact?
For example: Geico is an insurance company that uses a funny tone of voice to distance themselves from their competitors in a traditionally serious industry.
Once you’ve completed the voice sliders exercise, now let’s elaborate on that.
Fill in the blanks "We are X, But we are not Y".
For example: “We’re funny, but we’re not sarcastic.”
And finally, let's translate those sentences describing your voice to the main Strategy Worksheet.
Ok, so once you’ve projected the right tone of voice, now let’s seal the deal by creating a memorable tagline.
PS. If you're working on a marketing project (website, emails, ads) then also check my complimentary Brand Story Framework.
In the ninth exercise, we're going to craft a memorable tagline to seal the deal.
What is your mantra that creates interest?
Here, we’re going to distill your message to a selection of a few concise and memorable words that tell the story of your brand.
We need to basically define what we want our audience to remember us for, and giving them an easy to remember tagline is key to helping them remember your brand.
While your positioning statement is for internal purpose, your tagline is for external purpose — its customer facing, but your tagline should be aligned with your positioning of course.
So now, what’s the difference between a tagline and a slogan?
Slogans are similar to taglines, but they’re shaped around a specific campaign.
While the tagline is related directly to the brand.
So that the brand can have a tagline that uses consistently, and it may also have many slogans created for different marketing campaigns.
And a really good example is Nike with the tagline Just Do It, but they also have slogans like “There is no finish line”.
It’s common that brands often adapt the most successful slogans as their tagline.
Your tagline is definitely one of the most important elements of your brand communication.
And you want your audience to get an idea about your message in just a few very concise and memorable selection of words in a creative sequence.
So, how to create a tagline? — first, let’s create a mind map.
And here, we’re going to select keywords from previous exercises, to help us fuel our creativity.
So first, let’s start by writing the brand name in the center of your paper or whiteboard.
Here, each branch symbolizes a different thought or idea related to your brand.
So simply look at all the previous exercises and highlight the most important keywords that you think could do for thoughts or ideas.
And then from each branch more ideas can branch off, so there is no limit to the number of levels our your map.
Here we can use thesaurus to look for synonyms and related words or phrases.
You should end up with a whole bunch of keywords on one page or one whiteboard.
Now, once you’ve created the mind map, let’s jump into the second part of this exercise.
We basically have 5 categories of taglines and we’re going to try to:
Create a couple options for each category.
And then, we will focus on the most promising taglines, okey?
So the first category is Imperative, which basically starts with a verb and commands action.
A good example would be: Nike "Just do it", Apple "Think Different", and Coca-Cola "Open Happiness.
Let’s look at our mind map and set timer for 3 minutes to brainstorm as many Imperative Taglines as you can.
Now, the second category is Descriptive, which basically describes your service, product, or brand promise.
And here a good example would be Target’s “Expect more. Pay less.”, General Electric “Imagination at work.”, or Ted’s “Ideas worth spreading.”.
The next category is Superlative, which positions the company as best in class.
A good example here would be De Beers “A diamond is forever.”, or Budweiser “King of beers.”, or BMW’s “Ultimate driving machine.”
Then, we have Provocative, and these tagline are just Thought-provoking and are frequently a question, like Dairy Councils “Got milk?”, Sears “Where else?”, or Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?”
And lastly we have Specific category, that just basically reveals the business category.
For example: Ebay’s “Happy hunting.”, or Oley’s “Love the skin you’re in.” or Volkwagen’s Drivers wanted.”
All right, so once we have at least a couple options for each category, then let’s look at them again and judge them against our positioning strategy.
So that way we can select 3 strongest candidates and circle them and put them in our main Strategy Worksheet.
PS. I've also released a case study video tutorial of this exercise on my YouTube channel.
Thank you for participating in this workshop.
Thank all participants for their time and input.
We’ve gone through many exercises and this is going to help us design relevant concepts.
So that ultimately we can build a successful brand that your customers will love.
This is how the worksheets should look like at the end of this workshop.
Collect all the notes or take pictures — don't forget to record everything.
I hope you enjoyed my tutorial of how to develop a brand strategy.
Graphic designers (like John) are good at making beautiful things—I know I used to be one.
But running workshops and building a brand strategy will bring tremendous value to your clients and to your design practice as well.
Feel safe and strong about your process and as a result attract powerful clients.
You will be able to charge money for thinking, rather than having clients forcing their ideas onto you.
With a proven strategy framework, you clients will see you as a competent, strategic designer rather than just hands to do the design work.
And most importantly, you will level up as a designer, charge premium fees and run projects effortlessly.
This is what I help my clients to do, and if you want level up and become a strategist I suggest you do it too.
Use this guide to run brand strategy workshops with your clients prior to doing any type of design work.
Need more information?—Check out my YouTube video where I present you with brand strategy examples.
PS. Also check out my Brand Story Framework and Brand Naming Framework.
What's next?—Check out my tutorial on how to translate brand strategy into visual design.
If you're a designer, check out my premium brand strategy kit and level up in 2020.
With the purchase of my premium guide, you will get all brand strategy resources that you need to successfully run discovery sessions with your clients:
Don't be just a designer (like John), level up and become a strategist.
Buy my premium Strategy Guide and level up today!
If you have any questions, just shoot me an email or leave a comment below.
If you're a CEO or Founder, book me to run the workshop for you and let's build your brand fast in 2020.
And don't forget to check out the preview of this strategy workshop on my YouTube channel.
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