Purple Papers

A Brand Doesn’t Just Happen

Nike's "Just Do It" didn't just happen.

The tagline and the brand that's been built around it was developed through a process–and a fairly long one, at that. It most likely entailed numerous interviews in focus groups with athletes and aspiring athletes to understand not only their wants, needs and thoughts about Nike, but what drives and inspires them to compete and/or workout. The process included market, competitor and SWOT analyses, demographics, consumer psychology studies and a host of other data and research. In the end, all the information was compiled in a single document. Some advertising agencies and marketing communications firms call it a Brand Strategy Outline or Strategic Positioning Document. At Moire, we call it a Brand Platform. In any case, somewhere within that document–usually near the end–is a brand positioning statement or unique selling proposition that defines what it is that makes the company, product or service stand out in the market. In Nike's case, the statement might have read something like this: "Nike athletic shoes and apparel offer the fit, style and performance that inspire you to action–to participate in a sport instead of watching from the sidelines, to get out of bed at 5 am to run instead of sleeping in, to become fit and healthy instead of reaching for that donut–and give you the confidence and ability to achieve your goals."

From that mouthful–or something like it–"Just Do It" was born. It is the artful distillation of all the data and information contained in the brand strategy document into a statement that is concise, evocative and memorable.

Whether it's consumer advertising, b2b or professional services marketing, developing a brand entails a process that's half science and half art. At Moire, our brand development process is comprised of two distinct but equally important steps–the Brand Platform and the Brand Expression. Of course, there are other steps to our overall branding process, such as Brand Experience (which entails design and the execution of communicating the brand through various media channels) and Brand Management (metrics, brand guidelines, content management, etc.). However, I'm just going to focus on brand development, here. After all, without the Brand Platform and the Brand Expression, there simply is no brand to experience or manage.

Brand Platform

The Brand Platform is the nuts and bolts of the branding process, providing the framework upon which the expression of the brand–tagline, logo, creative style–hangs. It is comprised of a number of steps, which include competitve and market analyses, internal and external research, as well as internal and client interviews. The Brand Platform document that our clients receive transforms the research, interviews and insights into a strategy that provides a clear direction for the brand. It culminates in the statement of a brand promise that defines, organizes and articulates the brand's strategic approach and place in the market. The Brand Platform is an internal document that is only used by our clients and our agency to inform our designers and writers regarding the tone and key messages we want to convey about the brand.

Brand Expression

This is where the magic happens. It involves a creative process where everything in the Brand Platform is distilled into a message, style and design that communicate the qualities that the brand represents. Three elements go into the expression of a brand:

  • Brand Identity and Tagline/Theme
  • Brand Voice
  • Brand Visual Style

Whereas the Brand Platform is prose, the Brand Expression is poetry. The tagline or theme, the voice of the message and the visual style convey the brand's qualities and benefits in a way that is meant to connect and resonate with the target audience.

There are no shortcuts to developing a brand. You can't have the creative and compelling expression of a brand without the hard facts of figures of a brand platform. But without the art of Brand Expression, there really is no "brand." I explain it to clients this way: your brand is like a living being. The Brand Platform makes up the bones, flesh, blood and organs of the brand. The Brand Expression, on the other hand, is the soul, the personality, that gives life and meaning to the brand.

What processes have you gone through to develop your brand? Do you think one part of the process is more important than another? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

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