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May 04, 2014

Discovering Brand

May 04, 2014

We recently undertook an exciting, albeit substantial challenge for Indy-based sourcing and purchasing software pros, Iasta: planning a new brand position for an established industry leader with major roots in a crowded and highly competitive industry.

Where do you even begin understanding how to differentiate yet stay true to the company’s values? Exactly. This is a toughie!
The approach below is meant to give insight into the “how” (not necessarily the “what” - outcome). There are MANY complementary approaches but our favorite is a series of collaborative exercises that help pull the brand from the language and stories of organizational stakeholders.


Invented Future

We began tackling this challenge head-on by identifying an ideal (sometimes aspirational & future) brand essence. Enter collaboration FTW! Creative Director extraordinaire, Leigh Marino, lead both teams through an exercise called “Brand Wheels”. The idea is to determine:
  1. Attributes: state the plain facts about the brand (what we know)
  2. Benefits: how customers benefit through the product or service
  3. Values: how it makes a customer feel (get emotional)
  4. Essence: what it all means to a customer (the outcome or takeaway)


Apples to Apples

Once the ideal brand essence has been identified, it’s time to compare it to the present. We’ve found that one of the easiest and most telling ways to gauge a brand’s current essence is to talk to customers and listen to the language they use. This can be done easily through interviews and surveys. You can even pull copy directly from marketing materials and web content to ensure you're covering all bases.

We blended customer interviews up into a word cloud and found that what the brand was projecting and the customer experience were out of sync. The example below was pulled from the SmallBox blog.



This is very telling of the gaps in the promise your brand makes to its customers. In the case of Iasta, customer language told us that the brand experience is much stronger than the promise it is making. They’re exceeding expectations all over the place!

These exercises helped pave the way for a larger and more visual brand project that will help Iasta realize their ideal brand. The best and most crucial part in all of this is that Iasta is walking the walk - i.e. they’re exceeding customer expectations and have outgrown their current brand language and messaging. In many instances the reverse happens: brands fail to meet expectations and a brand project can help reset the promise to customers.

Again, this is just a single example of how to begin looking at an organization's brand through fresh eyes. Have you found success with other exercises?

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