Building Your Brand – Part 1: Research

Emily Del Favero

Building a brand is a lot like building a home. You want to make sure it’s done right from the ground up. Even before the foundation is laid and physical walls are built, you have to hire a surveyor to identify property boundaries, an architect to design a blueprint, and an engineer to test the soil to determine if the land you are building on is stable. Without the proper research, your house won’t weather many storms.

The same rules apply to your brand. If you want a brand that stands strong and lasts through many years, you must do your due diligence in research.

The Brand Discovery Phase

At 116 & West, we call this initial step The Brand Discovery.

Our brand discovery phase begins with an initial meeting in which we meet with our new partner’s key decision-makers to learn about their business and their brand. We understand our client is the expert in their discipline and we seek to learn from them. Our goal is to ask the obvious questions, as well as unexpected ones, to make our clients think about their business in new ways and open the window of creative possibility. We aim to question, listen, observe and learn. Collaboratively, we identify and prioritize our client’s needs.

 Examples of Discovery Questions:

  • What are your goals?
  • If you could do anything with your brand, no matter how bold, what would it be?
  • What brands inspire you?
  • How do you feel about your brand?
  • How do you want others to feel about your brand?
  • How do you think others actually feel about your brand?
  • What is your current audience demographic?
  • What is the single most important thing about your brand?
  • Who is your biggest competitor?

In most cases, the brand discovery includes an on-site visit and facility tour to learn the ins and the outs of the business firsthand. We have conversations with upper management as well as entry-level employees to understand the company at its core and gain insight into the overall perspective. Our goal is to know our client as if we are an extension of their company.

A Quote About Brand Discovery

116 & West COO and Partner, Carolyn Lodge, talks about the brand discovery with our client Starr Ranch Growers:

“During our initial discovery phase, our team visited Starr Ranch at their home office, toured their packaging facilities and met with a variety of their team members and partners.  Being in a room with the leaders of the organization allows us the opportunity to hear the vision first hand and to begin to understand the complexities of the business.

While our intent is to use this information for the development of brand architecture and marketing strategy, it’s important that we have a full picture of the business needs and all aspects of the organization in order to provide sound recommendations.  Our goal is to know our clients’ business inside and out, so this requires the time and direct conversations to uncover needs and talk frankly about the past and future of the brand. Our findings from the discovery phase are then used to create marketing strategy and to inform the development of brand architecture and the pillars and messaging on which our work is based.”

Discovery and…?

In addition to the internal discovery, we do in-depth research into audience demographics, competition, current market trends, and website analytics. We conduct a SWOT analysis and learn as much as we can about the market. We look at outside influences and observe the external perspective of the brand.

Combining what we learn from our own research with what we learn from our clients becomes the flat, solid ground on which the foundation will eventually be laid. Without this essential step, the foundation of your brand could be laid on an ancient burial site or on top of a hidden pocket of quicksand–dangerous places to be.

Building a Strong Foundation

Utilizing a discovery session is the best place to start and well worth the investment, whether you decide to work with an agency or do the exercise internally. (Tip: If you do choose to build your brand in-house, it’s helpful to add an outside opinion or strategist to avoid bias and bring fresh ideas to the table.) Through this brand discovery process, you might also come to see parts of your business that aren’t being utilized effectively or find your customers see your business in an entirely different light than you thought.

Just like your home, a brand is something you want to love. It should serve as a space that grows with you for years to come. Give it the best chance by doing your discovery process first. From there, you can continue to invest in your marketing and advertising efforts in the most meaningful, compelling ways.

(To read more about our process, MooreCollaboration, please download this handy PDF.)

We will break down our Brand Development Process in a 5-part blog series. Stay tuned for the next chapter, Building Your Brand – Part 2: The Brand

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