Why we don’t do 4D for branding. Part 2 of 2

Last week I wrote about the 4D process, the pitfalls we have experienced and why we stopped using it for branding projects. If you missed it, you can find it here. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-we-dont-4d-branding-part-1-2-dean-whitney/   This week, I’ll discus the process we now rely on and why we use it. And I might add we have been using this process for about 5 years for our B2B and B2C clients for branding companies, products, services, technologies, and even things like trade show experiences.

So, what we have learned at Catapult is that successful branding projects require 2 main components: 1) Defining what is important to the company or brand, and 2) defining what is important (or relevant) to the audience.

The first part may sound easy, but it can be the hardest part of the process because it involves making decisions and getting agreement on what the most important message is – note I did not say, “what the important messages are.” Too many times we have found companies are trying to say too many things and trying to be too many things. This usually manifests itself in when they have 4-5 position like descriptors they like to use and more than 6 personality attributes that they try to embody. That tells us they have not really defined their value proposition (or brand promise) and have not aligned their team around it. There are just too many moving parts to have a clear definition and without clarity, you cannot have internal alignment. Consequently, you cannot execute consistently. (I’ll stop here with the discussion about this, but it could be a topic for a future post).

Defining what is important is the critical part. And this ranges from values and personality, to channel consideration and profit drivers. This is critical because we are not going to brand you as something that you are not (or do not want to be), and we are not going to develop a brand that does not help the business be successful (or move the sales needle). We have developed a way (which I won’t share) that aligns teams and clearly defines these elements for teams.

Now that we know what is important for “us,” we need to know what is important for them.  And the first part of this involves clearly defining who the key brand stakeholders are (note: yes, we use the term “stakeholder” to avoid the whole user, consumer, customer, etc., discussion which we can have later). There are many stakeholders for a brand – from internal ones like brand managers, to external ones like first-time fathers (you get the point). The key here is nailing it down to the 8-10 key brand stakeholders who are most important for your brand messaging. This can be challenging for companies because either a) they feel they have more than 8-10 stakeholders who are all so equally important that they cannot possibly decide on 8-10, or b) they feel like all their stakeholders are totally different and they could not combine 2 similar stakeholders because their needs are so different. Again, we have developed techniques that drive teams to consensus on defining the important stakeholders for messaging – and we can get them down to a manageable set. (again, this could be a topic for another post as we realize this is a challenging activity for some marketers.)

Now that we know what is important to us – we essentially have our criteria for branding and use it to develop the look and feel, as well as the tone of voice. And when we do this, we can develop stimuli to use for stakeholder feedback. And now that we know who the important stakeholders are, we can recruit them for feedback and discussion. We can show them “stimuli,” which can be “fake” packaging executions or “fake” printed brochures, and ask them for their opinions and what they are taking away. From here we can fine tune our imagery, messages, language, or other elements we need to tweak to make sure what we are trying to say is indeed resonating with our audiences. (our research methods could be a subject for another post).

This is an overview of how we do it. The key things we have learned are: involving internal teams and aligning them on what is important is critical. Defining the stakeholders and what resonates with them is as critical and takes the subjectivity (or “like”) out of the design process. What results is a clear definition of what’s important to the brand and what their audience wants to do here. Everything else is white noise.

In the end, these definitions may not be 100% correct. But you have established a strategic foundation and defined the brand tenets. From here you can test, learn, adjust, and modify. We stress, nothing is ever 100% certain (if you need that, you may be in the wrong business), but you cannot have a version 2, unless you have a clear version 1 and understand the assumptions behind it.