Step 2: Creating a Brand Frame
So far in our investigation into your brand, we’ve done a Deep Dive into your company — learning about your core business, mission, vision, and culture. This included our R&D process (reviewing your collateral, conducting interviews with key stakeholders, checking out your competition), and the very interactive Branding Workshop.
Next we move on to creating a “brand frame” for your company. The Brand Frame is a description of the gems we uncovered in our R&D process, distilled into a narrative that’s meant to capture the essence of your brand. This is a simple, internal document to use as a guide for building the brand over time. It’s also a living document, so it can evolve and grow as does the brand. Adherence to this document is what creates a consistent, recognizable, authentic brand.
I’m happy to open the kimono here, and share the Brand Frame I’ve developed for my little company. [Yes, even a teeny little design agency should have a brand frame. It’s how you know what you are all about — not just what you think you are all about.]
1. Mission & Vision
We start with defining the purpose of the company, and your big audacious vision for the future.
2. Core Values
We determine what are the most fundamental guiding principles of the brand. These are distilled down from a much more exhaustive list. The test is this: if you remove one of these values, it will not be the same company. Distilling down to just three is probably the most challenging part of this exercise.
3. Brand Essence
This is probably the most critical part to get right, as everything is built upon these few words. The question is: what does your brand boil down to?
Can you guess which big brands these belong to? (answers at bottom of this post)
4. Brand Promise
This is basically the mission, stated in a more meaningful way. I like to think of starting this statement off with Above all else, we promise to…
5. Strategic Targets
We also like to include the Strategic Targets in the Brand Frame, so we know who we are talking to. These are usually potential (and existing) customers, but they can also be others like press or staff.
In my case, I like to develop brand for small business owners and non-profit organizations, but I also like to work with other marketing consultants to help their clients build brand. So these are who I’ve determined are my targets.
6. Brand Metaphor
This is where the words begin to form into a more creative concept. The brand metaphor is a visual or symbol that captures the essence of the brand. While you should be able to explain why you used this, you also should not have to explain, Caterpillar.
I wanted my metaphor to express beauty, the concept of making perfect sense, and symmetry in good design. I also like the concept of scalability in this image and that it’s “pure” and of nature.
7. Key Brand Attributes
These are more practical adjectives that describe the brand. These are key attributes that draw your Strategic Targets to your brand and thus what the key messaging in your communications will be built on.
8. Code of Conduct
The code of conduct is where the rubber hits the road — where your brand syncs with your company culture. These commitments are a guide for how you and your staff behave to strengthen the perception of the brand internally and externally. It’s sort of the table of contents for your Brand Bible. You should be able to respond to “Why?” for each one. There can be as many of these that make sense.
9. Communication Style
You can see that we are getting into more and more realistic applications for the brand at this point. The further you get into the Brand Frame, the more these tenets can evolve as they are tested and the brand evolves. These guide the tone of the writing and the look and feel of the design for the brand.
10. Proof Points
And finally…why should your Strategic Targets believe all that the brand promises? These are actual “company sparklers” that are measurable and provable. They should support everything you are saying about the brand. This list can also be exhaustive, and can be a resource for your communications content.
You can see that all the parts of the Brand Frame work together to tell the story, so the words should not be re-iterative, but descriptive. We spend a great deal of time mulling over the words that are chosen for these 10 “simple” ideas. You can see how important it is to say more with less, so that deep understanding of your brand can grow from within.
Interested in learning more? Contact me.