Among the many shifts we’ve seen over the past decade when it comes to branding, perhaps the most dramatic has been the drastically reduced shelf life of brands and brand campaigns. Always an exercise in diminishing returns, campaigns and redesigns and relaunches have shifted from a span of every few years to every few months to, with the instant wave of popular opinion, plugs being pulled in a matter of days.
It can be difficult to find the balance between staying relevant and protecting your existing brand equity. At Creative Tonic, we talk a lot about dimension when discussing how brands can be successful in this regard – that they have the depth to be both firmly rooted at their core and flexible at their edges.
What allows a brand to have this dimension is the interplay of strategy, design and application. To be both defined and adaptable, you must have a steadfast understanding of who you are as a brand, what position you own in the market and how that translates in the specific medium you are working in.
Strategy: The Foundation
At the foundational level, what we are talking about is the strategic basis upon which your brand is based – its reason for being, the promise it makes to its customers, the values and pillars that propel everything it does and how it does them. These foundational components provide the basis for understanding the essence of a brand and how it fits into the larger world.
In this regard, strategy is an inward focused effort to align internal parties on what the brand is and aspires to be before moving to how that is communicated externally – the why behind every decision that will be made in terms of how a brand looks, sounds and acts. You can’t create consistency and longevity unless everyone agrees on what a brand stands for and what the order of priorities are for how it interacts with its customers and competitors.
How we identify these anchor components differs by project, but ultimately it comes down to determining how a brand is perceived in market, how it’s perceived internally, the desires and goals of it’s audience, the competitive landscape and what makes the brand different. As a capabilities set, it includes things like:
Market Profile & Industry Analysis
Existing Brand & Asset Review
Brand Values & Pillars
Brand Positioning & Mission Statement
Design: Positioning Elements
The positioning level is where we shift from an internal perspective to an external perspective, determining how the core brand values and attributes defined in the foundational stage are communicated to the outside world. In this sense, positioning refers to how the brand fits into the larger ecosystem and is driven by design in the broadest sense of the word – the purpose, planning and intent behind an action or object.
At this stage, we are determining and creating the anchor components of the brand, the pieces that will provide the basis for the look, feel and tone of all the brand’s communications, campaigns and interactions with the public for the foreseeable future. Ignoring for a moment its more specific meaning as a deliverable in the design community, what we are talking about here is the identity of the brand, how people will discover, recognize and remember it. As a capabilities set, it includes pieces such as:
Brand Guidelines + Standards
Application: Campaign Elements
The campaign is level is where the foundational and positioning elements are applied to specific executions and initiatives. This is where brands have the flexibility to explore the nuances of a particular audience, medium or offer, and to create unique extensions of their brand to help further differentiate or solidify their position in market.
In each instance, best practices for each medium or business objective are considered and adhered to, but beyond those execution-specific details very little differs from a mobile app to a trade show or a capabilities brochure. With the foundational elements and positioning elements clearly defined, brands can quickly and efficiently shift and flex between mediums and deliver a consistent, yet optimized brand experience throughout the engagement ecosystem.
When it comes to capabilities at the campaign level, there is virtually no limit or end. Some may require a specific area of expertise to complete delivery of an execution, but from a strategic and creative perspective those boundaries are irrelevant.
The power of a dimensional brand is the ability to quickly and easily capitalize on new opportunities without having to reinvent or reimagine who you are or how you fit into the new landscape. It’s the clarity of message and confidence of mission that allows brands to deliver the responsiveness and relevance audiences demand in the modern age of branding.