Branding is vital to your company. It communicates all you have to say about your business using your look and feel, tone of voice, and story. Basically, it helps your company be more human, more lifelike, more reachable. A strong brand identity is a groundwork for raising awareness, building loyalty, and retention. Ultimately, branding will help you gain a huge advantage over your competitors.
In a previous article, we talked a bit about what’s a brand audit and how to perform one.
Let’s go into more detail and see what questions should we ask our clients, so as to extract the key elements that will help us, creatives, build a powerful brand.
1. Who are you?
It is absolutely necessary for you to know what your client actually does. Understand the big picture and try to gain a basic understanding of the company of your client and the industry they belong to. Listen and don’t make assumptions.
Set into place what core values and attributes you want to express. Extract as many keywords (and related expressions) as you can.
2. How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
Or 10 or 15. Once you have determined your core values, we suggest making a list of all the words that you want to associate with your brand. Avoid using terms such as quality, consistency, values, customer service, commitment. Or at least don’t stress too much on these concepts since most of the brands describe themselves as being consistent, qualitative, valuable, committed, etc.
You can do better. And these words are so vague they literally mean nothing. Give people something to hold on to. If you want to talk about the quality of your services or products, talk. But prove. And be more specific.
3. What’s your story?
Brands are driven by storytelling, don’t you ever forget that. You may want to share a few words about your client’s history, but people will eventually want to hear a story. What are their motivations, philosophy, values, what do they stand for, and against. Talk about what is it that the company does that brings people together. Or help them. Find its unique selling point and wrap a story around it.
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
The answer to this question will help you understand your client’s long-term aspirations, and get a feel for the direction they want to head towards with their branding, whether you should think about creating a trendy brand or a timeless one. Neither of these approaches is right or wrong, but they both come with costs. And compromises.
5. What pain points are you solving?
A brand shouldn’t be the hero everybody needs to save the day. We’re past the days when brands were the superheroes and people were just some targeted consumers. Being a hero sometimes implies that people are weak and they need saving. And some of us do need saving – from poverty, wars, hunger, diseases.
However, if you can’t save people in that sense, or can’t do anything about it, at least build a brand that’s a friend, that treats their customers as their equal, go for an honest, helpful, and well-intended approach. Just like a real person.
6. Who is your target audience?
A target audience is a set of individuals you want to reach that will most likely purchase what your client has to offer. Create user personas, conduct surveys, use Google Analytics, or Facebook Insights to get a more comprehensive view of your audiences. Identifying the target audience won’t necessarily change what your client does, or their mission, vision, services, and products. In other words, knowing who you’re talking to will help you develop a better branding and communication strategy.
7. Who are your main competitors?
The goal is to know where your client fits in and what do you need to do to highlight their advantages. Make a spreadsheet. Write down what are their competitors’ key messaging, what’s their unique selling point, how do people rate them, how do they communicate their message across different channels.
Be aware of what your competitors are up to, what are they doing well, and where they fail. Remember: don’t imitate your competitors. Instead, get inspired.
Get inspired by their strengths, and think of ways to be different than them. Or the same, but better 🙂 Get inspired by their failures and learn how to avoid doing the same mistakes.
8. What is the biggest challenge you face as a company?
Designers solve problems.
Knowing what your clients’ biggest challenges are will help you identify what might work in order to solve them. And will create trust between you two. On one hand, your client will open up to you and share some of their secrets (uuu!), and on the other hand, you’ll be there to help them find creative solutions to their problems.
9. How do you make your clients feel?
Knowing how your clients’ clients feel about their services, products or company is one of the most important things you have to be aware of. Do they feel safe? Trendy? Beautiful? Less stressed? Less busy? Happy? In what way?
10. What problem are you solving?
This is the second most important thing you have to extract from your client. You will probably appreciate your client’s USP from the conversation, but you have to ask them straightforward just to be sure. What problem are they solving? What makes them special? Why are they better than their competitors? Why should your clients pick you instead of one of your competitors?
Now, all these questions have nothing to do with the design process per se, but are an important starter when starting building a brand. You must know the whys, hows and whats, above all.
Remember: the more you put into this stage (into research & discovery, in general) the easier the design process will become.