As straightforward as branding might sound, it is still not well understood by the general population – including an alarming number of business owners. I’ve spent countless hours battling clients who wanted me to create outputs with no strategy, wanted to do their own strategy, or wanted me to retrofit my strategy to their pre-existing output. These recurring experiences exemplify how fundamentally brand strategy is misunderstood. Fortunately, as branding service providers, we are becoming more conscious of the knowledge gaps and misinformation in our industry. This increased awareness is already in motion, but there is still a long road ahead, and it is up to us to pave the way – together.
The elephant in the room
It must be acknowledged that one significant obstacle is a lack of clarity and awareness in our industry. Many marketers, designers, and developers should be allies of brand strategy. Instead, they often fail to acknowledge the impact of inadequate or absent strategy. The truth is, even within the industry, brand strategy tends to be underappreciated and downplayed. This often leads to a major disconnect between brand strategists and those responsible for implementation.
Sometimes, even brand strategists themselves will agree to skip or cut significant stages of strategy short. And while service providers may bear some responsibility for accepting to work without a proper strategy in place, the root cause of this is typically the client’s ignorance and their insistence on following suboptimal methods.
Obviously, these scenarios are a generalization, and it doesn’t apply to everyone or happen all the time, but when it does, the work suffers and clients, as well as brand professionals, end up feeling dissatisfied. Then fingers get pointed, and everyone assumes a critical turning point was missed. Most likely, that turning point was the beginning of the project, when the client first demonstrated their lack of understanding on the topic and the business’s actual needs.
Let’s inspire, not just educate
I’m sure that, like me, many others in the field have experienced the symptoms and effects of this common occurrence. Although the outlook may appear gloomy at times, fixing it is less complicated than many realize.
The best way to address strategy issues with uninformed clients is remembering that teaching through inspiration is always more effective than teaching through education.
If you can successfully convey your passion and admiration for the process, you will be more likely to gain attention and trust than when you regurgitate branding concepts. This requires tapping into an authentic appreciation for the craft of branding and operating from there. When this happens, and you convey that feeling, everything can fall into place effortlessly. What you end up with is a receptive and excited client who’s much more open to letting you do “your thing.”
Assuming that a client doesn’t fully understand branding tends to be helpful. Because even people with a fair appreciation for the topic often ignore its nuances and can’t see how much a comprehensive brand will impact their business. But an inspiration-based approach will allow you to educate them indirectly without the risk of making them feel ignorant or inadequate. In short, the more excited we are about our work and process, the more receptive clients will be to it.
Enthusiasm is contagious and can lead to meaningful conversations and greater appreciation for the branding process. Fortunately, branding is not quantum mechanics, so if you figure out how to pose the topic right, there are significantly higher chances of getting everyone interested.
Although this issue is complex and layered, the future seems bright. As technology advances and businesses permeate our lives in more complex and all-encompassing ways, the effect of brand experiences becomes more evident. Consequently, service providers and clients will become increasingly aware of the value and importance of strong, strategic brands. This will make our jobs as brand educators and brand builders even easier and more impactful.
When approached correctly, the brand-building process unites service providers, clients, and end customers in unique ways. The common thread originates at the point of brand conception, is amplified through its application to the business, and is then received and integrated, leading to a positive response from the target market. That’s precisely why we have to insist on shining the light of clarity over this very misunderstood process – possibly one of the most important components of growing businesses.
Together, we can roll up our sleeves and get to it.
Cover image source: Dzmitry Tselabionak