Giving Up the Known
Most leaders approach a new branding/rebranding project with a healthy amount of fear. They don’t always voice their concerns aloud, but I can usually spot them. Nervous smiles, repeated questions, asking how many versions they’ll receive. At this moment, they are looking for certainty in an uncertain process.
That fear (like so many fears in life) is rooted in the unknown. They’re walking away from an existing identity that no longer serves the organization well but is known and understood. They know how it works and where it’s clunky. They feel the emotional connections that have been built over time.
And they know nothing of this new identity. The one yet to be created. It’s still a dark, unrevealed concept in the future.
This fear is what drives questions like, “how many versions and how many revisions will we get?” They are an attempt to de-risk the process, but these questions don’t achieve their goals. When limited capital and energy are divided, there is always less impact, less polish, and less potential. So asking for more versions may result in a number of deliverables, but it always reduces the quality of those delivered.
The Broken Approach
We’ve been working on a different approach to solving these issues. This new approach solves two fundamental problems. First, fear. The ‘what if we don’t like any of the ideas’ uncertainty. Second, it brings the clients along on the journey from start to finish, almost like client-led art direction, without all the terrible moments that a concept like that could bring.
Before exploring the new branding process, it’s worth understanding the old way (and the wrong way). Branding projects commonly begin with an intake questionnaire or workshop. And after that moment, the agency goes dark for five to six weeks, maybe longer. When they reappear, they have concepts to explore and a lot of hope that one of them will work.
This is an inherently dangerous approach. Creative is moving forward with little direction and hopes to arrive in the right direction. The client is not available to help adjust or course-correct along the journey. If the destination is missed, a lot of time has been spent without gaining traction. This is where client/agency relationships usually begin to sour.
The Pulse Approach
Our new branding process, heavily influenced by Bill Kenney at Focus Lab, has been refined to work for our best-fit clients and us. The process is centered around pulses. The pulse is different and effective by understanding two key expectations.
First: Our team delivers work every week. Every single week. Beat by beat, pulse after pulse.
Second: the client understands they are seeing branding work “as it stands” rather than in a polished state. And seeing unpolished work, they agree to respect the process.
Reviewing the branding creative as it stands allows the client to see the direction and provide thoughts, guidance, and adjustment. They get to say, “ooh, let’s explore this more,” or “ugh, no need to chase that idea further.”
The clients that we have used this branding process with rave about the experience. At every step and turn of the journey, we get more input and feedback. Rather than crossing our fingers and hoping things land, we know we’re moving in the right direction.
Understanding that the creative won’t be polished initially has other benefits. It allows us to explore more ideas without hiding behind surface polish to make the concept look better than it is. Let’s explore a large number of directions without worsening the quality.
This branding process also fits a variety of personality styles. People who are more nervous about bigger ideas can explore those ideas safely and test a number of variations. And for those who like to explore wildly, they can rove far and wide and then return to what fits best.
We suggest implementing a pulse process if you’re exploring a branding or rebranding project. Below we’ve sketched a loose overview of what it looks like and how it works:
|Workshop and intake||2 weeks|
|Creative direction||1 week|
|Explore, round 1||2 weeks|
|Explore, round 2||1 week|
|Explore, further rounds||1 week|
|Refine, round 1||1 week|
|Refine, round 2||1 week|
|Refine, round 3||1 week|
|Refine, further rounds||1 week|
Check back next week as we dive into what goes into a brand guide and why your business needs one. If you are ready to get started on branding or rebranding for your business, our branding agency is ready to get started today.