So, you've decided to brand your firm or company and you have either identified internal resources or hired an expert to help. See previous post Brand Aid (part one).
Once you have the right expertise involved, and have determined who within your company or firm will own this process, the real work can begin. Whether you are naming a new company, rebranding your existing firm, creating a tagline to go along with your existing identity, it's actually a good idea to start from the beginning.
Brand strategy starts with perception. Yours and theirs.
Taking an audit of your market and how they currently perceive your business is a critical first step in the branding process. This should begin with internal interviews with your key people and should fan out to your market, including clients or customers.
It is vital to begin with the way you are currently perceived in the market. This process should also include some questions about your competition and how they are perceived. This evaluation can also include taking a snap shot of your current brand strategy and how you currently manage your brand assets.
Identify and / or review core values.
Using qualitative and hopefully quantitative research, the next step is looking at your core values and the differentiators that set your business apart. No two businesses are the same. Even as a professional services entity, the people within your organization, your history and your accomplishments will differ from your competitors.
Get a clear picture of what makes your firm and business different and unique. This will help immensely in the branding strategy overall.
Align your branding to those values and aspirations.
Many components make for a strong brand. But one very important component is to ensure that your brand in fact aligns with reality or is aspirational and aligns with your business goals. Your branding needs to connect with essential truths about your business.
A great example of this is a tag line that was developed by a friend's law firm in San Francisco. I was asked to help this firm create a new website and provide other communications services for them. When I read the tag line that was on their old firm site I asked who developed it? They did, they said. I immediately asked if I could service mark the tag line because it was that good. Why was it that good? Because it completely aligned with differentiators about their practice, while also reflecting the truth.
The tag line consisted of four words. Those four words reflected something very powerful about the firm and their practice. I have developed some pretty good tag lines in my work, but I could not improve on this one.
This was a rare example of the internal branding getting it right. Usually this does not happen, but somehow these folks happen to have intuited what to say about their business.
More on professional services branding in Brand Aid installments coming soon.
For some thoughtful comments on branding well, check out Brand Thinking.