You’ve probably been in a situation where your branding agency presents creative that falls flat. Whether it’s the first round of identity design when you finally see logo options, or the initial reveal of your new website’s home page, it’s a disappointment when the creative is off the mark. The good news is that it’s very seldom that nothing can be salvaged. Typically, the design team can refine, rework and make it into a final design that everyone loves.
However, if you can avoid being in this situation in the first place, the easier it is for everyone. So how can you give yourself and the branding agency the best chance to hit the ball out of the park? Doing some upfront work can save you a lot of time and prevent rounds and rounds of creative revisions. It all starts with giving your branding agency enough context to create.
Here are five ways to help your branding agency deliver creative that you love:
1. Develop Your Brand Strategy
Did you skip the development of your brand strategy? A good branding agency will offer to create your strategy or ask for it. The creative team needs the background context that thorough self, competitive and market assessments provides, along with a well-crafted internal positioning statement and a key brand messaging hierarchy.
A great tool to help conduct a self-assessment is from Jim Collins’s Hedgehog Concept. It will lead you to ask essential questions about your company. For instance, what is your organization passionate about? Where is there a viable market? What is a skill or process where you can become the best? These questions are a good starting place for developing your brand strategy. Supply the answers in a document to your agency and you’re already on better footing for creative development.
2. Establish Your Mission, Vision And Values
Have you defined your organization’s mission, vision and values? For a start-up company that moves fast and is product-focused, the answers to these questions can be challenging. In large, established companies, there may be a disconnect between what’s stated and what customers really think. Regardless, the mission, vision, and values are critical information that serves as a foundation for the creative team. Real, authentic and clear business thinking leads to clear brand communications.
If you’re still working through these fundamental ideas, I suggest starting with your values. Think about the individuals and teams that are top-performing in your organization. What attributes would you use to describe them? What qualities do they embody? This list of attributes and qualities is a great way to describe your culture and serve as a basis for your values.
3. Create Customer Personas
Did you create profiles of your customers? Start by defining the different types of people that your marketing will influence. Develop complete profiles consisting of a name and bio, demographics, the media they consume, and examples of similar products and services they own and use. Then, share these profiles with your branding agency. These profiles are critical for the creative team to get into the minds of your consumers and understand what moves them.
4. Identify Your Brand Pillars
What are your brand pillars? These are vital descriptors that make up your creative platform and that all other creative elements must ladder up to. They’re typically a list of adjectives with brief descriptions. If you’re unsure of yours, it helps to think about what you want the perceptions and beliefs to be of your potential, current and past customers. How would you want them to describe your brand? Ideally, you’ll land on three to five unique pillars where the combination perfectly depicts your brand and yours alone.
When done right, the brand pillars will describe the look of the final creative result and give your creative team a target to hit. They will also give you a helpful tool for feedback. For example, you have a brand pillar of “energetic,” but you’re not seeing that quality in the visuals. It’s now easy to identify what isn’t working and let the creative team know to dial up that attribute in the next round.
5. Participate in Creative Exploration
Did you skip the creative exploration? Working through initial mood boards where your branding agency presents general directions allows you to tell them what photos you like, what colors you hate, and what type treatments you love. If you’re unable to put words to any specifics, your branding agency can react to the bigger picture of how the elements are grouped together and how they make you feel. Every step in the creative process is important, and the more information you can give during exploration, the better.
Ultimately, It’s About the Customer
After following the above advice, if you still don’t love the creative that your branding agency presents, ask yourself, “What will influence my customers?” When it comes to creative, start with your brand and communicate what it stands for and why it’s unique, but also ensure that it’s relevant to what your customers want. In the end, it’s their opinion that matters most.