Introduction

Want to know the number one reason a branding project doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to? You guessed it.. the brief! A brief is the corner stone to any project and branding is no different. A brief should set out the objectives, the expectations, give the context and provide the gun powder to ignite something amazing.

And in the famous words of Robert Solomon, “a brief… should be brief”!

The purpose of the brief is to get the most out of the Design team by making the brief as clear and concise as possible and where appropriate, providing creative inspiration to spur ideation.

It’s no good brain dumping your thoughts in the hope that someone else can make sense of them. That’s lazy and will create confusion. Creating a brief is a curation process of only providing the information that is relevant to the the task at hand, no more and no less.

So without further a-do, the rest of this article will take you through what you should include on your branding brief to get the best out of your Designer.

The Brief

Company information

It’s important to be able to communicate the core explanation of your business clearly and succinctly. You should be able to answer the following questions in short and clear answers;

  1. What is your product or service? *Offer*
  2. What problem does it solve? *Solution*
  3. Who does it solve this problem for? *Audience*
  4. What makes your solution unique? *USP*

The answers to these questions will form a powerful shorthand for your business introduction, which can be framed as your elevator pitch – a 30 second explanation for “what does your business do?” that clearly demonstrates the value you offer to your audience. 

You can frame your elevator pitch like this; 

Company name* helps *Audience* to *Solution* by *USP* *Offer*. 

Background

Provide any background information about the history of the company, the people involved in the businesses set up and in particular any craft involved in the delivery of the service. These elements can often be incorporated into branding to help give a nod to the heritage and cultural background of the business. 

Explain where the business is up to on its journey and whether this is a new brand, evolution of an existing brand or complete “out with the old, in with the new” rebrand. 

In the event it is an evolution, it’s important to be clear about which elements of the brand you would like to retain and which elements can be redesigned. 

Requirements

Now it’s time to define the deliverables. What do you want delivered to you as part of this project?

 

What 

How many brand concepts do you want to be presented with?

Do you want your brand to be static, or delivered with animation? 

Where

Which items would you like your brand concept applied to? 

  • Business cards? 
  • Website key pages? 
  • Email signature?
  • Leaflets?
  • Signage?
  • Presentation decks?
  • Social media ads?
  • Packaging?

When

What is the deadline for this project? – As a benchmark, branding projects can generally take between 4 – 12 weeks depending on complexity and requirements. 

Audience

Who is your target audience? – What does your ideal customer look like? – Whilst a brand will be designed to reflect your business, it is important to be sympathetic to your target audience. After all, they are the ones that need to like your brand in order to buy from you.  

Rather than trying to please anyone and everyone, we should focus our attention on your highest priority audience persona. 

 

Ask questions like;

  • How old are they?
  • Are they married?
  • What is their income level?
  • What problems do they have?
  • What ambitions do they have?
  • How are our customers different from other people?
  • Why do they come to us for our service?

To do so, either use your own judgment from your own experiences with your audience, or look at your current customers for clues.  Are there common characteristics or interests evident between the people who buy most from you? That’s a good place to start with targeting.

If you are just starting out and don’t have customers to base this information on, look at your service.  Dig deeper into who would benefit most from your entire solution, as well as each of your product features.

Competition

It’s important to define your top four competitors. If you struggle to define these, it’s worth thinking about if from the customer’s perspective i.e. if they weren’t to buy from you, who would they most likely buy from? And if they weren’t to buy from you or that competitor, who would they buy from then? – Keep doing this until you have your top four competitors. 

It’s useful to think in this way, because often it is either geography or search engine results that play the biggest factor here. 

Once you have your four competitors listed, you should define how your company compares to them. For example; 

Competitor A – Is the most expensive, but provides the best service

Competitor B – Is well known for particular style A

Competitor C – Is the cheapest and is often the lowest quality

Competitor D – Is the biggest and is the “go to” name

Your brand – Is well known for particular style B, is mid priced and offers a family run service. 

Value proposition

A brand is often referred to as the “promise” you make to your customers. For example, if a brand looks luxurious and is priced at a high price, the customer has been “promised” luxury and therefore expects that experience. 

It is down to the brand to make an appropriate “promise” that demonstrates a strong value proposition to its target audience, then it is down to the business to make sure that customer expectations are being met by ensuring that promise is delivered to. 

The value proposition looks to define this promise by first asking “what do we know about our audience’s challenges or problems?”. This is the insight. The value proposition is then developed to position the brand as the solution to the insight. 

E.g. If the insight is that customers feel tired and frustrated at airports when they are waiting to check in or they are going through security, then the value proposition can be Security Fast Track offer. 

The Value proposition should then be supplemented with reasons to believe. These are rational, fact based information that supports the value proposition. 

For example;

Insight: customers feel tired and frustrated at airports when they are waiting to check in or they are going through security

Value proposition: Security Fast Track, 

Reasons to believe: 

  • Get through security 40% quicker
  • Fast track lane
  • Dedicated concierge
Personality

Brand personality can be a point of contention for Designers because so often briefs are littered with vanilla words to describe personalities. Words like friendly, technological, modern and dynamic are all wishy washy words that are littered across thousands of briefs. They don’t really mean anything of substance and are very tricky to visually interpret. 

So, when we talk about personality, we are looking to add golden nuggets to the brief. Words that really mean something. Words that rile you. The ones that get you going and make you say, “ah ok, I get it!”. 

How would you describe your brand personality in 1 – 3 words? 

To help with this, think of the brand personality framework, which divides personalities into the following five segmentations; 

Ruggedness

Outdoorsy, Tough, Courageous, Masculine, Western, Rugged, Active, Brutal, Unsentimental

Examples: Marlboro, Nike, Guinness, Harley Davidson, Jeep, Levis

 

Competence

Competent, Skilful, Reliable, Hard working, Secure, Intelligent, Corporate, Successful, Leader, Confident

Examples: Google, Ariel, Gillette, IBM, Toyota


Sincerity

Genuine, Open armed, Down to earth, Family orientated, Honest, Sincere, Real, Sentimental, Original, Wholesome, Cheerful, Thoughtful

Examples: McDonalds, Nivea, Pampers, Hallmark

 

Excitement

Exciting, Emotional, Daring, Trendy, Spirited, Cool, Independent, Dynamic, Imaginative

Examples: Snickers, Pixar, Lynx, Porsche, Absolut, RedBull, Virgin, Apple

 

Sophistication 

Refined, Tempted, Upper Class, Glamorous, Good looking, Charming, Feminine, Smooth

Examples: Lamborghini, Bailey’s, L’Oreal, Mercedes, Calvin Klein

References

Chances are that you have been thinking about this project for some time now and that certain brands have caught your eye recently. 

 

Branding is an incredibly subjective process, so any references that you can provide to your design team will be really helpful in getting to a great result quicker. 

 

When supplying references, it’s generally best to share a website domain or social media handle along with a few bullet points for why you like this particular brand and what you may want to do similarly with your own brand development. 

Existing assets

Finally, it’s really important to share what has been done so far. Give your design team access to any of the following assets that you may have available; 

  • Tone of voice
  • Brand guidelines
  • Brand assets (icons, patterns, illustrations)
  • Images (still photography, videography)

Conclusion

Getting the briefing process right requires a solid understanding of your business, market place, offering and audience. It makes sense to get the questions answered at this stage, before you start the design process because’ if you can answer these questions, your Designer won’t be able to either and the Branding process will suffer for it. Follow this guide to produce a clear and concise brief for your Design team before your next Branding project and you will see a dramatic difference in branding quality.