If you are planning to brand or rebrand your business or that of your client, you are embarking on a path of transformation. It’s an exciting path full of twists and turns with an end that is yet unknown.
Before we embark on this journey and start imagining the future that awaits us to be created, we need to prime ourselves for success. The best way to do this is to kick off your branding mission in the right direction through a well-run brand strategy workshop.
I’ve already given a birds-eye-view into the phases of brand strategy development within my article “What is a brand strategy and why do you need one?” This time, I’d like to dive a bit deeper with you into each of these phases.
I’ll share what I’ve learned when running brand strategy workshops at various companies and incubators around the world: Google Campus London, Paris Telecom Incubator, Barcelona Makers space, Beirut Digital District, Casablanca Technopark, MTV Lebanon, etc.
So let’s get started!
Your role, as a brand strategist, is to lead this workshop towards creating a solid foundation for a new or refreshed brand that will help your client to get to the next level of their success.
You’ll have to catch all the floating ideas about the future, explore them together with the client, review the previous successes and fall-outs, aspirational brands and, in the end, help your client narrow in on their vision. This will give them the utmost clarity for what the next level of success looks like. This is a great moment to witness. Celebrate this blissful moment of clarity!
After this, the exploration phase is over and you’ll need to map out a brand that would help your client to reach that next level. You’ll need to find the best way to position the business, the best words to describe what the brand is all about and the right image that would resonate with the target audience pulling them your client’s way like a siren’s call.
You’ll be uncovering a lot of new information along the way. There will be a lot of ideas floating that you’ll need to consolidate and prioritize.
In order to stay on track and focus on the essentials, I’ve created a Brand Canvas. It will help you to write down the most important pillars of the brand and steer all the workshops in the right direction. Download the brand canvas for free and read how to use it. An A2 printed version of the Brand Canvas is included in the Brand Strategy Kit.
I orchestrate the brand strategy workshop around the key topics that need to be unfolded and clarified in order to weave a successful brand strategy together. Here they are:
I like to start the workshop by taking the client out of their daily work routine and exploring what has made the biggest impact to come to this point? What were the previous successes and fall-outs? How does the next level of success look like? What are the blockages to get there?
Then, we can dive deeper into understanding the nitty-gritty aspects of the product or service on offer.
Then, we can explore the current target client and the aspects of an ideal client for this product or service. If possible, it really helps to talk with the client’s customers.
Knowing where the client wants to go next, we should then explore the best way to position this business. We need to structure all the key elements into one coherent statement which will be the backbone of a brand’s story. The Branding Workbook included in the Brand Strategy Kit gives you a template for doing this easily.
In order to develop a successful brand story that will pull the right people in, we need to clarify one more component - the core message that the brand will share with the world. This one can be a biggie.
But don’t worry, you don't need to get it right at this point. For now, it’s more important to capture all the floating ideas around and get a copywriter on board. S/he will take it forwards from here.
This part is the fun part! We’ll be shaping the brand’s personality and setting the right direction for its visual identity. Now is a good time to involve a good brand designer.
We’ve created a fun tool - the Brand Cards - to help you successfully facilitate the conversation around the Brand Personality. The Brand Cards will surely add more life and playfulness to your brand strategy workshop!
As you can see, we start by understanding the current state of our client’s business and projecting a bit into the future of where s/he would like to be next.
Your job, as a brand strategist, is to prime our clients for this next level success by putting the right pillars in place to serve as a springboard for this transformation. It’s quite a forward-moving, clarity-igniting and impact-making mission!
Developing a successful brand strategy is a collaboration between the client, sometimes the client’s customers, your collaborators, and yourself.
I’d suggest clarifying the brand’s future direction with your client first before you start involving external collaborators to crystallize the nitty-gritty of the brand strategy.
Since you’ll be collaborating with quite a few people and distilling information from multiple sources, being a good facilitator is at the core of a successful brand strategy. Here are some tips to help you fine-tune your facilitation skills:
1. Every project starts with a kick-off meeting. Its purpose is to create synchronicity with your client and collaborators so everyone looks in the same direction. During this meeting, reiterate the purpose of the project, introduce the decision-makers, the team, and your process, present the schedule, and explain everyone’s responsibilities.
It is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page and takes ownership of their tasks. Provide enough space for everyone to ask questions in order to clear the air for a successful flight.
2. Schedule all the upcoming sessions upfront on your Google Calendar and invite everyone relevant to join in. This will help everyone to plan ahead. If you are conducting your sessions online, I suggest using Zoom. It is the best tool for successful meetings online from my experience.
3. Create an agenda for every session and send it out before the session starts. It will help to keep things focused by structuring the meeting.
4. During each session, reiterate the common goal. This will ensure that the vision is not lost when the discussion gets hot or when the feedback time arrives.
5. After each session, send a follow-up email to everyone on board. Reiterate the key points discussed in a meeting and outline what is coming up next.
6. Structure feedback giving into sprints. Business decisions taken during the brand strategy development phase are instrumental for business success. We can’t take this lightly and we shouldn’t rush it because it could backfire. So give enough time and space for everyone.
For example, if you need to make a decision on a particular topic, give 1-2 weeks for everyone. During this time, you might need to have additional calls or meetings with your client in order to help the client explore all the angles and crystallize the details. This is part of the decision-making process. Don’t rush it. Clients will appreciate it.
7. Enjoy the process! If you do a good job as a facilitator, you’ll help your client uncover a lot of interesting insights that could spark those blissful “aha” moments of clarity. It’s great to witness them! There will surely be ups and downs along the way so don’t forget to have some fun to keep things balanced.
We’ve created an in-depth Master Brand Strategist Program that will teach you the foundation of strategic brand experience design. During this program, we’ll learn the components of brand experience design and how to orchestrate a successful brand strategy that will drive measurable results for a brand.