Category: Branding Insight

Brand Strategy Q&A with Hillery

Hillery Kemp Brand Strategy
Hillery Kemp Brand Strategy

Often, prospective clients ask us how we arrive at our design choices, or how are we able to create a full brand identity in just three weeks during Brand Sessions. The answer always comes back to brand strategy.

Hillery, Four Fin’s Brand Strategist, gives us a glimpse into its importance.

What’s the difference between a brand strategy and a marketing strategy?

This is a great question that similarly goes with the classic “what’s the difference between branding and marketing?” inquiry I receive when telling people what I do. We wrote a great little number on this a while back if you need a refresher.

The strategy of a brand is the map guiding foundationally how the brand needs to show up in the world, based more on emotions than logic. This strategy is utilized by those responsible for bringing the brand to life visually and verbally (e.g., designers, copywriters, agencies, etc.) or through action (e.g., company management, employees, etc.). It’s truly the DNA for a brand, and although the components vary, they will often include the: brand concept, brand positioning, brand values, brand pillars, and brand personality traits. 

A marketing strategy, on the other hand, is a map guiding functionally how and where the brand needs to show up in the world to effectively reach target audiences, based more on logic. It is utilized by those responsible for articulating the brand’s value to audiences (e.g., marketing managers, social media and other digital marketers/agencies, etc.). These strategies often contain customer segmentation, promotional tactics and timing, and evaluation. 

Marketing strategies exist to help companies promote products and services, and are ultimately informed by the strategy of the brand . 

What’s the risk of not having a strategy in place for your brand?

Imagine building a car without knowing what kind of engine will be in it. How would you design the body style? How big could it be? How would it perform? A basic metaphor to say that managing a brand without a clear strategy is a blinding endeavour. 

If there is no framework for consistently showing up, several things happen:

  • Audiences will have a harder time remembering your brand
  • Internal alignment for both branding AND marketing activities become impossible
  • More time and resources are wasted attempting to solve brand and marketing challenges every time they come up (which happens often)

How do you create a brand strategy?

In developing brand strategies, being an outside perspective for our clients is key. It provides us with 360 degrees of context without getting too deep into the weeds of their businesses. 

At a high level, we look at the client’s business, competition, industry, and (often most importantly) customers. We understand the important factors influencing each of these aspects of our client’s brand and work to uncover the authentic space they can/already own. Capturing this ownable space are the grounds for building out the components of the brand’s strategy. 

Have a strategy-related question or could your brand use an outside-in perspective? 

Reach out to us! 

Brand Evolution: Just the Right Fit

Mission Driven Finance

Brands don’t always need to completely rework their identity to signal change or growth. A Brand Evolution (improving upon what’s existing) or a Brand Revolution (creating something completely new) is the lingo we use to describe what kind of brand solution clients embark on. Deciding on which solution is best for the brand depends on answering questions like:

Is our brand still relevant to our audiences/markets?
Has our business outgrown our existing brand?
Are there certain aspects of the brand (logo, colors, etc.) that resonate with stakeholders we need to keep?

To name a few…

Here are four clients that maintained existing visual equities, yet evolved their brands to keep up with their evolving businesses.

Mission Driven Finance

On the cusp of celebrating their five year anniversary and announcing major funding partnerships, Mission Driven Finance was looking to clean up before these big milestones. MDF tells a great story their brand evolution on their blog here

GIA Wellness

GIA had been a well-known brand in wellness consulting circles, but in shifting to a more Direct-to-Consumer model, they needed a fresh take on their visual identity beyond the logo. We partnered with GIA to make a subtle, yet impactful, refresh to the brand’s web and packaging consumer experiences. 

CEG Multifamily

After developing the brand for Unfold Development, CEG’s newest division, the 30-year-old company was ready for change. The updated visual identity incorporates graphical elements kindred to Unfold while maintaining its typographic roots.

CPA Collective

CPA Collective provides high-caliber accounting solutions and needed its brand to meet the same level of quality that the business provides. The evolved, refreshed visual identity and website express a more tasteful, experienced CPA Collective.

Are you considering an uplevel to your brand identity, but not sure if a brand evolution is the solution?

Reach out to us!

Your brand is either make believe, or it makes believers

Chase Baker, Unsplash

The difference can be seen in your culture. 

A big part of our brand discovery process is to uncover the good that already exists and lean into your strengths: the differentiators, the value, the heart and soul of the business, the why. That discovery process is enlightening. 

Sometimes, you find that you’re aligning your external brand to reflect what you already know and live by internally. Sometimes, thinking about how you want your brand to show up in the world makes you realize there’s work to do internally first. 

We are committed to our customers living more eco-friendly lives.” – Says the company that makes everyone commute into a city for in-person jobs that don’t pay them enough to live near the office. 

We all strongly believe that by helping green-tech startups with IT support, we’re contributing to their impact on the future of our world.” – Says the CEO of a company that runs on strict processes, entry-level talent, and little internal training on the “why” itself.

See what I mean? 

Tom Wolff, Unsplash

Your brand is only as good as the trust you build in it. 

Once we know your strengths, we can identify where the intersect is between what you want to be known for and what you can be known for. We find where you can position yourself to plant your brand in hearts, minds, and markets. Then, we build people’s trust in that position so it’s obvious to everyone how firmly you’re holding your spot.  

That trust starts within. If you’re not living it, you can’t be known for it. Period. Living it looks like passion and energy shared across the organization toward a common mission. It’s a code of ethics, values, spirit, personality, operational practices, and more. 

It’s culture. 

When a strong internal culture supports and validates a meaningful and impactful external brand, believers are made.

Not sure what you are supposed to be “living”? 

A Brand Session is a good place to start. This 3-week sprint is highly effective in uncovering your truth and translating it into a visual system ready to show the world. Living up to it is an ongoing game, but we’d love to help you get started. 

My Footer Fetish (SFW)

I have a website footer fetish and I’m not afraid to tell the world about it. 

There. I said it. Website footers are just as important (if not more important) as the rest of a brand’s website. They are essentially the go-to map of pertinent information visitors should be able to access quickly, but also an opportunity to provide a final branded experience.

I’ve rounded up several of my favorite footers currently out in the wild to share why they matter. Don’t worry, this is all totally SFW and hopefully provides inspiration for those thinking through their site’s user experience.

Take up some space.

Tall, dark and handsome, this footer for Pioneer Square Labs takes up space unapologetically. I love the large type for important links because who says footers have to have tiny type?

Think inside the box.

Blady Gros Holdings’ footer is minimal as far as information, but delivers maximum impact with design. This is a good reminder that a footer doesn’t always have to be full-width.

Simply delightful. 

Tend‘s footer is a solid example for simplicity. It’s nicely organized with good typography, but also captivates  with a mesmerizing animated bar just above.

Be my friend?

Cute illustrations and a small, but friendly invitation to be friends won me over on Palorama’s footer. What other ways can you engage your audience during this tail end experience?

One more little moment.

Finally, VOTD’s fun icon and message provides one last moment of delight for visitors. If the contact and navigation information can live somewhere else, jump on one more opportunity to send a message about your brand. 

I know I’m not the only one who loves a happy ending to my scrolling. If your website could use some love and attention when it comes to what’s on the bottom, reach out!

B2B branding shouldn’t be spooky*

*Spooky is a-ok if you’re Sam Mazzeo, Co-Founder of B2B firm Better.

Just because your target customers happen to be other businesses doesn’t mean your B2B brand has to suck. Really. We’ll prove it. 

You may not be selling the hottest new tech toy or surfboard that requires a certain level of consumer appeal, but you are selling something extremely important for B2B brands; your reputation. Do you want your reputation to be perceived as cold, boring, (too) serious or (overly) functional? Of course not!

Below are several of our B2B clients that have captured the perfect balance of emotion and professionalism through brand, steering clear of being just another boring (maybe even spooky) business to business brand.

AccessParks contracts with National Parks, RV sites, and campgrounds to deliver broadband internet to the great outdoors. The brand captures the essence of adventure and exploration, the ultimate desire of AccessParks’ end customer.

Cyclopure develops sustainable water purification solutions at the consumer, commercial, and government levels. The brand went from functional and scientific to friendly and relatable in order to ensure its mission ‘to make water safe for everyone, everywhere’ could be quickly understood.

Better is a community-focused law firm that educates and empowers early stage businesses, non-profits, and freelancers. The new B2B brand is unexpectedly fun and engaging for its industry, reminding young businesses that they aren’t alone in their journey to being better then they were yesterday.

BAM is a powerhouse communications agency for tech firms and ensures its brand is as fast moving and forward thinking as the industry itself. Movement, storytelling, and bold visuals push BAM to the forefront of their client’s hearts and minds.

When working with B2C and B2B brands, we always look for the emotional connection that will resonate with our client’s target audiences. Because at the end of the day, everyone is a consumer, whether they’re making a purchase decision for themselves or their business/employer. 

Want to talk about your B2B brand with us? Let’s chat!

Brand collabs that go together like ice cream x skateboarding

Source: nikesb.com

Collaborations between brands appear to be the new norm. Put that ‘x’ in place (e.g., Honey x Bear) and apparently a legit collaboration is happening and we should take notice. 

Usually these partnerships make sense from a brand personality and values perspective like this Nat Geo x Parks Project apparel line. Both brands will often generate greater cross exposure and can command higher prices (which will either work in your favor or not as the comment on this post below shows).

Source: Instagram

It’s 2020 though, and I think the zany, unexpected collaborations are far more fascinating from a brand and business perspective. I say unexpected because either the collaborating brands exist in completely different ecosystems/industries or have wildly differing emotional connections with their audiences. I say fascinating because the imagination and bravery needed to create these partnerships often require true creative brilliance, hallucinogens, or both. 

I’ve discovered that the brands brave enough to make unexpected collab moves not only get twofold the hype and can command higher prices, but they stick in the memory banks of their fans. And loyal fans, as we know, are a brand’s best friend. Here are several that stick out.

Ben & Jerry’s x Nike Skateboarding

Source: nikesb.com

When I saw the Nike SB x Ben & Jerry’s collaboration for the Skate Low Chunky Dunky shoe, my head almost popped off in excitement…and wonder. How? Why? Realizing this is a total sneaker culture thing (which, admittedly I know very little about), I still wanted to know just how much hype these kicks were getting. 

A limited quantity of the shoes were released back in May, retailing at $120. One look at current resale prices three months later (yes that’s a $2,592 price tag down there) and I don’t need any convincing that the demand (and equity) for the brand is through the roof.

Source: Google Shopping

 

Fireclay Tile x Rose’s Taproom 

California craft tilemakers Fireclay recently collaborated with their client, Rose’s Taproom in Oakland, to release the Emerald Drop, a craft beer inspired by the backsplash tile that serves as the watering hole’s centerpiece. Random, brilliant, and an ingenious way to celebrate the brands’ partnership and commitment to craft + design.

Although the beer was probably produced in limited quantities, it certainly didn’t last long and managed to receive a fair amount of reviews/ratings on beer social platform Untappd. 

Source: Instagram
Source: Untappd

Supreme x Oreo

Streetwear brand Supreme isn’t new to surprising collaborations, but it’s Oreo collab might be the most surprising. And apparently surprising works for Supreme (and Oreo), because the release garnered TONS of hype (over 23k retweets alone from Oreo announcing it). A pack of three cookies commands a mere $40 from one streetwear reseller (they originally retailed for $8 per pack).

Source: Twitter

TLDR;

Whether your brand is about cookies, shoes, beer, or even clay tile, there’s another brand out there willing to collaborate. You might share kindred personalities or you might be in opposite industries altogether. Either way, collaborations bring with them increased exposure and, if it’s wild enough, exponential demand and love from your customers.

We usually don’t think about unexpected collaborations during our client’s Brand Sessions, but maybe we should given the unexpected world we live in today..

Our Brand Session Obsession

We talk a lot about Brand Sessions over here now because we absolutely love doing them. We love the pace, the experience, and the results. 

A Brand Session is Four Fin’s three-week branding service that we formulated in early 2018, formerly known as Brand Camp. It’s our flagship service and usually how we get acquainted with new clients. While many of those clients continue with Four Fin to paddle out and make waves, it all starts by defining the brand core. 

We created Brand Sessions as a way for us to set our clients’ brand foundations without 4+ months of development. Most businesses don’t have time for that. While the process has shifted a bit since we started and we’ve renamed the service to better align with our brand, we’ve seen great results. We look forward to adding more progress-driven brands to our roster this year while continuing to improve the experience.

So, what is a Brand Session? 

It might be easier to define by defining what it’s not:

A DIY branding tutorial, group coaching, or an online offering.
There are plenty of resources out there for those wanting to tackle their brand refresh in-house. This is a professional service for busy founders, CEOs, and CMOs who want their branding done right without attempting it themselves, capitalizing their team’s energy in the process, or waiting 6+ months to see the results.

A service for new brand visuals alone.
While the visual results of Brand Sessions are easier to see, this service goes far beyond a new or refreshed visual identity of logos, colors, fonts, etc. We are experts at defining a brand from the inside out; with strategy exercises, work sessions, and what we internally jokingly call Brand Therapy. You will get to know your brand better throughout this process and that clarity informs much more than your look. 

Superficial.
While our branding service is quicker than most, it doesn’t lack quality. We cut out time-thieves like fine-tuned presentations, time redirecting junior-level talent, research to validate what you already know, rescheduled meetings, design overthink, and an especially dangerous time-killer: backward motion due to personnel changes or stalled progress. 

All you need.
Brand Sessions are foundational, setting the course for what your brand will become when you win the hearts and minds of your audience. We do not win the hearts and minds of your audience in three weeks. That comes next.

We guarantee your Brand Session will make you smile.

Brand Sessions are introspective and aspirational, resulting in a clear guide for what will be your true brand-building efforts: external marketing, brand experiences, product releases, partnerships, employee onboarding, etc. We help clients with all of those initiatives as well, but they are not near as effective if the guidebook hasn’t been written yet. 

So, a Brand Session is step one, and if done right, every step you take afterward will feel lighter and more exuberant, almost like you’re skipping toward brand success, and skipping is contagious. 

We’d love to chat if you think you are a good candidate for a Brand Session, or know someone needing to undergo a brand refresh. While it’s not right for every company, many have found it to be the perfect fit. We are starting to see that we’re not the only ones who love it. 

Cue the reviews

The “safe” choice for your rebrand actually holds a ton of risk

Courageously choosing a brand that sets you apart is not easy. Even if your stakeholders agree that it’s time for a bold change, there still might be the feeling of being unsure how it will be received.

Will our audience hate it? Will it be too out there? You might weigh the options of spending on focus groups. You might present the new brand concept to your board or investors to get their feedback. You show it to a broader internal group to get feedback. Everyone has an opinion. Some absolutely love it. Some are impartial. Others want to see what alternative options there were that lead you to this choice.  

Caution: This is where dangerous decisions are made. 

In some instances, in business and relationship building, it’s great to compromise. It’s great to meet in the middle, find common ground and please as many people as possible. In other instances, it waters down strong approaches. Chris Voss champions this concept in Never Split the Difference.

When it comes to branding, the truth is, you don’t need everyone to love it. You need a group that loves it. You need a loyal following that will help spread your brand organically. You don’t need everyone to be on board. If they “love” it, it will be because they relate to what you’re trying to do. They will be excited that you “get them.” This is true internally too. Employees that grab on to your brand will help your business grow much faster than employees who “are fine with it.”

As the old marketing adage goes, “appeal to everyone and appeal to no one.” If we’re taking stock of the risks of growing a business, “appealing to no one” should be high on your list of pitfalls to avoid.  

Tl;dr

If you compromise and settle on a brand strategy or visual identity that is safe… it will inspire no one. Instead of a core audience who organically promotes your brand because they strongly relate to it, you’ll have a larger number of people feeling mediocre about your brand… and that’s the riskiest move you can make.

Should you Invest in Branding?

When you are ready to move past your company’s humble beginnings, and develop a lasting brand based on strategic core concepts, the first question that often comes up is, “What does working with an outside firm cost, and will it be worth the spend?” 

The answer can vary from $5,000 to $100,000 depending on the firm you work with. Yeah, I realize that’s a big range. We can tell you that our foundational Brand Strategy and Identity Design programs start at $10K and go up depending on your specific goals, needs and challenges. 

We’re not about to tell you to invest in professional branding without a strong business case behind it, so we made a handy flowchart to help you decide if now is the right time for you. 

Every brand is different. This is meant to be a reference based on our experience. When you are in the right stage of growth, and choose to invest in a re-brand, it pays off.

Some of the results our clients have shared with us are below:

  • A new million dollar partnership was made due to increased trust in the vision and future of the company. – Water Purification Technology Client
  • Prices were raised due to the company reaching a new level of clientele after a re-brand effort. – Consumable Goods Client
  • Teams are re-invigorated and inspired to drive their company forward. – Multiple Clients
  • New levels of talent are attracted to the company. – Multiple Clients

It’s impactful to see the returns for our clients, which is why we love what we do. We hope you found this chart useful. If you are still not sure whether a rebrand is right for you, we’d love to learn more about your specific challenge. Reach out and let’s chat. 

Take your marketing for a spin without flying off the highway

Tim Patch, Unsplash

‘What is consistency in marketing?’ Hearing this question nearly made me fall over in my chair snoozing. Probably a bad thing to say coming from the person who received her degree in marketing, right? I say this in all honesty though, because the marketing of today is not the same as it was when I painstakingly attempted to memorize the ins and outs of those four ‘P’s’ many moons ago (free stickers to the first person who emails me with them hillery@fourfincreative.com). 

Okay, I’m not that old, but marketing was something I studied back before ‘Content Marketing’ was a gleam in Hubspot’s eye and 11-year-old ‘Influencers’ weren’t pocketing millions in YouTube ad money. 

So, before I lost it wondering why I didn’t think of the unboxing phenom or some cool wanderlust Insta account with countless sponsorships, I sat back in my chair and asked…W T F is ‘Marketing’ today? And, if I could even get my head around it’s multiple facets, how does consistency come into play? Who is killing the game when it comes to having a solid, sustaining strategy?

Branding: Marketing’s guardrails 

Thank goodness I chose to pursue the path of branding…the holy grail of foundation-setting and, ultimately, consistency. Without it, myself and countless companies would be face down in a gutter somewhere.

Why? Because branding is ground zero for defining the core of who you want to be and how you want to show up in the world. This is what we do on the daily here at Four Fin, so I won’t overindulge, there’s plenty more where that came from (let’s have coffee). 

When we start with a core brand concept and define the core brand elements, every decision made — from marketing to social media to customer service — better be informed by the brand. Simply put, think of your brand as the guardrails that will keep your marketing engine safely on the highway. 

Marketing: Your Lambo ready to go for a spin

Wait. Do you even want a Lambo? Maybe you’re the Prius type…or a classic VW fan like me. At this stage, since we are now blazing down metaphor highway, marketing is less about what you want as a business and more about what your customers want or need…Do they need the speed of the Lambo, the zero-emissions of the Prius, or the cool factor of the classic? 

Yours truly in her ‘74 classic VW Bug

A clear understanding of what your customers want, value, crave, etc. is at the crux of marketing and this hasn’t changed since prehistoric times. What has changed, is where we are meeting customers to communicate the value our brand provides and how. Enter the mind melting, infinite list of marketing tactics in use today. Pause though, and remember that brand is here to help.

If our brand concept is clearly defined (let’s go with ‘Exploration,’ for instance), everything from our name, visual identity, messaging, and vibe will echo this concept; keeping us from flying off the highway. And since we did our customer research, we (hypothetically) know our customers value luxury, curated experiences, and nostalgia. Combine the brand concept and customer insight, and can’t you just picture our Land Rover Defender cruising through the Moab desert? (LET ME DREAM).

landroverusa.com

When brand and marketing unite to deliver authentic experiences, it’s a seamless, and beautifully natural thing to witness. Factory and adventure tours, mouth-watering Insta shots, and high-end competitions most certainly capture hearts and minds of the Land Rover customer, but doesn’t it just make sense?

instagram.com

This, of course, is just one example of a well known and established brand, but just plain smart because they’ve established guardrails with a solid foundation (brand strategy, core elements) and deliver key experiences that marry both brand and customer desire in a consistently rad way. 

So, consistency in marketing is really more about consistency of brand, and what highway we should cruise down with those brand guardrails intact to meet our customers and invite them along for the ride.

Grab the keys and let’s go!