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Back to (brand) Basics


In bringing some of our smaller to medium sized clients to market, we've repeatedly come across many of the same hurdles and roadblocks regardless of industry, sector or offering. They are amazing problems to have, but can be boiled down to this cute sports analogy: brands are usually planning their championship parade long before their first practice. Now, don't get me wrong, I love working with clients that have lofty goals, ambition and high aspirations, but as a brand storyteller and strategist, much of my early time with clients is spent getting them to refocus on the fundamentals. This is especially hard when our clients come to us having some success already (we call this special group our '3rd Base Clientele' but we'll get more into that later) and have an even harder time pumping the brakes as they barrel towards their perceived finish line.

For context, the strategy part of our business came much later as we were solely focused on production in our early years. My previous life as a pro athlete put me in contact with decision makers at some of the largest sports brands on the planet, so when I launched my production company in 2008 I was lucky to able to collaborate on a high level. The first check my company ever cashed was from a four letter brand that we're all familiar with. As large as the ask was, creating for these behemoth brands was actually quite easy. Besides the technical aspects of storytelling, us filmmakers were given extensive brand guidelines from the marketing department heads to guide us. Essentially, if we colored inside the lines, our deliverable was almost sure to be impactful to the audience. 

Fast forward to a few of these big projects under our belts, some smaller upstart brands approached us, had seen our work and wanted that same production level to help launch their brands. I remember thinking that if I can knock an international campaign out of the park for an industry giant, then storytelling for a small brand would be a breeze...right?! It was this first project (for a now famous cycling brand) that made me realize the importance of these brand fundamentals and how they paved the way to success for all parties involved. 


It was at this moment I went back and dug up those old project briefs and I noticed a stark difference in the asks for the industry giant versus the upstart newbie. Those brand guidelines painted a very clear picture of the brand, their voice, campaign tone, who they were talking to and, most importantly, why. In short, these larger companies had unreal clarity when it came to brand awareness. They knew exactly who they were in this moment in time and they knew our project would make a target demographic feel (and ultimately act) a certain way, so the brand could obtain a stronger market position at a future moment in time. As dense as it was, it painted a very clear picture of what my team's role was and how to clearly articulate it through our visual storytelling. 

This was exactly what was missing in my smaller client's brief – their understanding of themselves. They knew where they wanted to go, but didn't know enough regarding who they were or where they were positioned to make the best choices to get to their desired destination.


Knowing I had to deliver for this client, but now also having the stark realization that neither my team or theirs was equipped with the proper tools to make this campaign (or in this case a massive industry changing product launch) a run-away success, I saw that I needed to bring this level of brand strategy to each one of my collaborations.

It was 2013, and I now understood that my production skills meant nothing without the proper brand awareness to create a strategic north star. So I went to school – literally and figuratively – to learn how to help clients understand what they were lacking, and more importantly, how to work with them to develop their brand awareness. That cycling brand who was the first recipient of my newly acquired knowledge was so grateful. My brand strategy led to internal sales records for their product launch, a Webby nomination and set the stage for them to become one of the most successful cycling brands in the world today...and with a few Tour de France wins to boot. 

So, as a new brand – or even an existing one with a new offering or a needed facelift – what are the brand basics you should be focusing on? Welp, in a very particular order they are as follows:



MISSION STATEMENT

brand mission statement is a concise and impactful declaration that communicates the fundamental purpose and reason for a company's existence. It outlines the company's core values, goals, and the positive impact it aims to make on its customers, stakeholders, and the world. A well-crafted brand mission statement serves as a guiding principle that informs the brand's actions and decisions. A great example is Tesla's mission statement, which is: "to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy. We design, manufacture, and sell high-performance electric vehicles and sustainable energy solutions."


BRAND PURPOSE 

brand purpose is the underlying reason why a company exists beyond just making a profit. It's a statement that defines the higher societal or human impact that a brand aims to achieve through its products, services, and actions. A well-defined brand purpose goes beyond the products or services a company offers and speaks to the positive change it wants to bring to the world. Dove is a great example: "Dove exists to empower women to embrace their real beauty by challenging narrow beauty standards and promoting self-confidence."


CORE VALUES

Brand core values are the fundamental principles and beliefs that guide a company's decisions, actions, and interactions both internally and externally. These values serve as the moral compass and foundation of a brand's culture, shaping its identity and influencing how it operates in the marketplace. These can be very simple as long as they are direct; such as Apple's: "Think different."


At this point in the game, we can now shift our focus to Visual Identity and Tone and Voice which usually throws a lot of our clients off in term of the Visual Identity. Most companies make the mistake of locking down a logo or a brand color palette long before these steps, but we have to understand that the above will greatly impact our color or logo design and not the other way around. For example, if your brand works in certain sectors you want to stay away from strong primary colors, or perhaps you'd want to lean hard into them. But it's hard to say without your values, purpose and raison d'etre firmly in place. 

With some SWOT analysis we can then work on your Brand Positioning within your industry or sector which, in turn, does two things: First, it gives us a good understanding of your Target Demographic which then allows for us to craft your Tag and True Lines, which are external and internal-facing, respectively, memorable phrases that encapsulates the essence of your brand.


At this point, we are able to now talk Storytelling Strategy as we have an in depth awareness of your brand and can move forward in confidence knowing our content is now going to be carry the weight of our brand to its intended target. 

Now, you remember me talking about our '3rd Base Clientele' which makes up a large portion of our brand roster. These brands exist in their space already and have had some success, but are 'stuck' on 3rd base. Our roster is full of focused entrepreneurs with great ideas, so it's no surprise they're looking to cross home plate. Most often, it's their offering and not their strategy that got them there. These clients are most often frustrated as they just can't seem to get over that final hurdle - which is most often their lack of in-depth brand awareness. By following the above steps, these clients usually find their way home and are often prepped for new levels of success based on their now strategy driven approach.


No matter where your brand falls on this spectrum, developing brand awareness will only refine your offering and streamline your approach. I would love to be a part of your brand journey. For more info, please contact me at: Zach@ZachHeffner.com







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