A No-Fluff Guide To Branding


If you’ve sat through a branding meeting recently, you’ve probably seen it: the slide deck filled with fuzzy, all-caps words like “authentic” and “caring,” fancy slides labeling your company as the “feisty underdog challenger” and all sorts of other fluff. (“Fluff” is the polite term for this type of thing; I can think of another word.)

This isn’t branding. Or, at least, it’s not what branding should be. At its heart, a brand isn’t about a series of pretty words, but rather owning a favorable position in the customer’s consciousness. Do that and you’ve won the branding game.

Here’s how:

1. Start With The Customer And Competitive Landscape

Customers typically want to know what they can get from you, and why they should get it from your company instead of from someone else. Cut through the color schemes and fonts and lists of core values and ask yourself the following: What are people looking for from your company? And what are you already delivering?

The answers to these questions are far more important than any buzzword or cliché.

Think for a moment about the world’s best-known brands and you’ll see just how clear the customer value proposition is in your mind. For instance, I can’t list Apple’s core values off the top of my head, but I can tell you the company is known for creating beautiful, user-friendly devices. I can’t tell you anything about Nintendo’s latest branding deck, but I can tell you that it’s one of the world’s leading companies for family-friendly gaming. That’s what effective branding looks like.

Remember that brands exist in a larger ecosystem. This is the real reason that design decisions like color schemes are so important — they set your company apart from the competition.

I’ve seen branding decks that include a competitive landscape matrix where nearly every box next to the company’s name is checked off. This is a major red flag. If a branding agency is trying to convince you that your company can be all things to all people, it’s time to go elsewhere for your advice.

2. Prioritize Substance Over Style

Many people think of branding largely in terms of logos, websites and other design elements. But you can have a sleek, modern design and customers still might not have any idea what your company does or why they should care. That’s why it’s important to start with strategy and then let that drive your design decisions.

Another common mistake: People get bogged down with lengthy conversations about things like purpose, promise, tone and core values. Yes, these are important, but the leader of a company should be able to articulate these four things fairly quickly. This should be the easy part. The branding team should spend the bulk of its time and effort on more tangible things like competitive landscape, brand architecture, customer value proposition, customer pain points and go-to-market messaging.

Even more importantly, these branding decisions must be backed up by action. Look at a company like Southwest Airlines. The brand is anchored by the idea that it takes care of its customers, but this lofty ideal doesn’t live solely in a branding deck. Instead, the airline takes concrete steps, such as allowing customers to change their flights without paying a fee. Any other airline can claim to be caring, but when customers get charged an extra $100 to switch to an earlier flight, they’ll instantly see through the branding nonsense.

3. Embrace Simplicity

Beware of branding bloat. A client recently asked us to do specialized branding for their human resources department, but we turned down the project. “You already have a brand,” we told them. “Use the strength of that brand to recruit new employees.”

Also, it’s usually a mistake to include a very large group of stakeholders in brand meetings. It’s great that branding is no longer just a marketing function, but conversations can quickly become muddled when branding teams are trying to please people from sales, human resources, corporate social responsibility and other departments. Make branding a strategic function that starts at the top.

Finally, be incredibly skeptical when an agency rolls out an overly complicated branding methodology. Branding may not be “easy,” but when it’s done right, it tends to be fairly simple and straightforward. If a branding agency’s approach seems complex or tedious, cast a wary eye. And if they ask you to define 25 different terms before you even get started, run away.

By taking a pragmatic, business-focused approach to branding, you can connect with your customers, set yourself apart from competitors and cut out the fluff — or whatever you want to call it.

Read the full trends article here.

The New Viewstream.com


Viewstream is where your story becomes extraordinary. We’re excited to announce the launch of our new website that reflects who we are as a creative digital agency.

We spent a lot of time talking to our customers about why we do what we do. We realized that our clients are doing amazing and innovative work that is truly moving the world forward. We all agreed that our passion lies in telling these stories, and making your story extraordinary. Viewstream partners with innovative companies to build brands, launch digital marketing and acquire customers.

To that end, our new website offers a clear expression of what we offer, including digital marketing, video and creative, and the award-winning work examples to prove it.

We look forward to telling your next story. If you’re interested in learning more, let’s talk!