The Importance of Brand Strategy | Breanna Rose

actual snippet from a brand strategy presentation of mine.

I’ve spent a lot of time the past couple of months experimenting with new or updated additions to my design process. And as promised, I’m ready to share some of what I’ve found with you all, starting with the importance of brand strategy. This is something that I’ve struggled with for years, mainly because I wasn’t sure how far to go. I saw some designers keeping things simple with a short (but important) list of questions for their clients to answer, while others spent months digging in and getting to know their clients inside and out, complete with an elaborate presentation, all before the actual design began. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about branding a business, it’s this: the better you understand your client and their business, the better you are as a designer. It’s as simple as that. If you are genuinely invested in your clients and doing what you need to do to understand their goals, it’s going to be THAT much easier to help them create a brand that works + lasts. So what exactly do I do? Here’s a step by step overview:

01. CLIENT QUESTIONNAIRE The first thing I do in any branding project is send over a comprehensive client questionnaire via Google Docs so that my clients can edit directly within the document itself (no sending back and forth necessary). My questionnaire is divided up into several parts. The first part asks fairly obvious questions about their business (so I can better understand what they do). The second part has them define their target market as well as competitors. The third part is where I have them describe their brand in a more visual way so that we’re both on the same page about their overall aesthetic + vibe. The questionnaire isn’t terribly long, but the questions have been carefully tailored over the years depending on what has given me the best response. I feel like client questionnaires could be a post in and of itself, so I’ll save that for the next few weeks. ;)

02. DIGEST Once the client questionnaire has been filled out, I set aside a couple of hours to fully immerse myself into their answers, all in one sitting. I’ve found that in order for me to truly dig in + understand a business, I need a no distraction environment where I can spend time with who they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. And as I’m running through everything, I jot down words, phrases, and anything important that sticks out. I always end up with a few new pages in my notebook filled up with scribbles, circled words, and a really rough plan of how to move forward.

03. STRATEGIZE At this point, many designers “strategize” differently. Some simply send a list of brand buzzwords. Some get on the phone and go over the questionnaire + findings. Others put together a thorough presentation. While there is certainly no right or wrong way, I’ve found that putting together an actual presentation has been the most rewarding solution for me and my clients because it forces me to really dig in and ensure that we’re all on the same page. Here is an overview of what I include:

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THE GOAL This is where I define what the goal of our project together is. For example, maybe our goal is to rebrand an existing business so that it better reflects their target market.

MISSION If my client already has a mission statement, I like to reiterate (or even tweak) it here. If they don’t, I’ll work with my clients to develop a short + sweet phrase that better defines what they do as a business.

TARGET MARKET I also like to define WHO my client’s target market is. I try to get as descriptive as possible here instead of resorting to simple phrases like “young females” or “millennials.” You gotta dig deep and explain what these people are like. Where do they live? What do they enjoy? What are they looking for? Be creative. That’s what we’re good at anyway, right? ;)

COMPETITION Once you’ve outlined the target market, it makes sense to go over who the competition is as well. This is usually specific brand names or a more general niches description. I also like to give suggestions for how a client can stand apart from said competition. For example, if a client of mine is focused on locally made products (and their competitors aren’t), that could be a big selling point. Something to highlight!

BUZZWORDS Remember when I talked about jotting down words and phrases while learning more about my clients? Those very words and phrases are the ones I typically end up using for brand buzzwords, which is just a simple way of capturing a brand’s overall vibe. Check out the image above to see how I share buzzwords with my clients within the presentation.

MOODBOARD I’ve been putting together moodboards for clients since I began freelancing. But recently, I’ve started including them in my brand strategy presentations instead of having it be a whole separate thing. This way, the moodboard is a special surprise after the client has been reading through their goals, mission, target market, etc. It’s kind of like icing on the cake, where what you’ve been digesting is visually displayed at the very end.

OVERVIEW Before I close off my brand strategy presentation, I like to include a brief overview that highlights the important pieces from the strategy as a whole. In reality, it’s kind of like the conclusion you’d would write in any old paper back in school. Remember those? Restate the mission. Summarize. Close it off nicely.

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Remember, a brand strategy can be whatever you want it to be. Seriously! My presentations are simple, but informational … typically 12-14 pages with small bits of content on each page. It does take a little extra time to put these presentations together, but after testing them out over the past few months, I can already tell that it’s a straight up game changer. Everyone feels that much more invested and on the same page, which is a beautiful thing when you are visually helping somebody else share their own story.

  1. Kelsey says:

    Amazing! Thank you so much for sharing all of this and how you put it together. Game changer.

    • breanna says:

      You are SO welcome lady!! I’m currently experimenting with a lot of new things & hope to share even more on the blog over the next few months. :) :)

  2. Maja says:

    Thanks for the insight. Optimising my design process stays one of the hardest parts for me, so this is an glimpse into how it could be done in different ways.

  3. Tara says:

    This is helpful! As a recent graphic design grad, I’m thinking more seriously about leaping into freelance work and this is such a helpful guide! Thank you!

    -Tara
    http://www.themountaincreative.com

    • breanna says:

      Glad it was helpful!! And if you’re looking for more in-depth information about starting up a freelancing business, our Be Free, Lance workshop (http://befree-lance.com) is the perfect place to start. :)

  4. Mimi says:

    I get it now! This post is totally excellent. I’m a marketing major, who wishes she had the art skills to be a graphic design major. I love reading design blogs, but I cam constantly wondering “How do designers do what they do? How do they work? I don’t understand!” when I read about their current projects. It all seemed so abstract. Until I read this. I feel like I finally understand how a designer attacks a project and creates the “vision” now. You should write more posts like these! They are super useful!

    • breanna says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post — I certainly hope to share more in-depth posts about my process like this … I’m currently testing out a LOT of new things and am so excited to share. :)

  5. Jess Levitz says:

    This is a great idea! I usually do the hop on the phone thing, but I like this idea of getting everyone on the same page in a visual way. How many revisions do you typically allow for this part of the process?

    Thanks for sharing! xo

    • Alicia says:

      YES! I wanted to ask that too….especially when clients seem to not know what they want, as I mentioned in my other comment

  6. Alicia says:

    I love this! I tend to do this “presentation” via e-mail. However e-mail threads quickly get long and buried and disappear. Plus they are not pretty :p I love the idea of having a little visual presentation to put together, almost like a pre-brand guide.

    I would love to know what you do with clients who don’t seem clear on their direction. Have you ever wrote a post about that? I am always editing my questions that I send out and improving them, but every so often a client will come along who answers too superficially and I just don’t know what to get out of it. I obviously follow it up with more questions and ask for more details, but sometimes it seems like they actually don’t know. They tend to excuse it with “when I see it I will know”, which is such a dangerous trap.

    Write a post on that :p haha

  7. stephanie says:

    The little details you put into your client’s businesses and into this blog post (like how many pages are in your presentation) are so valuable! mucho gracias:)

  8. Beth Alessi says:

    Fantastic post! I would LOVE to hear more about this: “The third part is where I have them describe their brand in a more visual way so that we’re both on the same page about their overall aesthetic + vibe. “

  9. This is such a great guide for brand strategy, thanks for posting! I’d love to see more of your client questionnaire in a post!

  10. Dara says:

    This is awesome! I mostly do dev work where this kind of thing isn’t part of the process, but when I do take on design work, I’m always tweaking my process and find it so helpful and interesting to see how other people present their work! So thanks for sharing :)

  11. Sarah says:

    I missed these in depth looks into your process as a designer! Thanks for bringing them back :)

  12. Rachel says:

    Love it! So very helpful and expands on some of the items from the BEFREE LANCE workshop! I love that you shared how it takes time to find the right questions to ask clients because it really does depend on us as designers and how we take in information. I’d love to hear more about the buzzwords!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this – it’s incredibly generous of you :) Like Alicia, I would love to know how to handle clients who don’t know what they want or who are super indecisive. Crossing my fingers that you’re willing to share your strategies behind this. You write excellent and inspiring process posts, they’re my favourite :)

  14. Thanks for sharing this . The design process is something, no matter how much help you get, advices from outside etc … will take years of freelancing experience to slowly make it your own. We all work in such different ways, different pastes, and our minds are triggered by different things . Love seeing how yours work ;)

  15. […] • Bre just shared a really insightful post on the importance of brand strategy. […]

  16. Kaylie Sirek says:

    Thank you for sharing more about your process! I have similar steps but it’s nice to hear what others are doing based on their individual experiences. Love it!

  17. Noor says:

    I’ve missed you posting stuff like this, so happy to read it. Thanks for sharing this with us and I hope you’re well.

  18. Kaitlyn says:

    This is the post I didn’t know I was waiting for. Thank you so much for the (always) helpful insight to your visual process! Can’t wait to hear more details about how you work with your clients in the following stages.

    http://kaitlynrichert.com

  19. Kayla says:

    I really like this idea! I was wondering: At what point do you send this questionnaire? Do you ALSO have a kick-off call with your clients? Though I like to do a kick-off call (some clients I never get to meet in-person, so it’s nice to get contact with them that’s a little more personal than emails), I imagine it would be nice to have info about their business in their own words, in a formal document (rather than just my phone call notes). But if you also do a call, do you feel like you’re just asking the same questions twice? I usually have “goals” as part of my contract / work proposal: if this questionnaire comes after that, doesn’t it keep you from adding those to the initial documents and thinking of more ways you might help your client? Thanks!

  20. Asia says:

    This is amazing Breanna. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Questionnaires sound amazing! Would love to read that post! Thanks for this one, really helpful!

  22. Marianne says:

    Wow this was an awesome way to describe your thought process and I really appreciated this transparency. I have been (silently) watching your brand boards and your own brand evolve and it always continues to amaze me. You are one talented lady!

  23. Juliet says:

    Thank you for putting this out there! It is so incredibly helpful! Please keep them coming!

  24. Juliet says:

    Sorry, forgot to ask in previous comment… Do you send the strategy to them in a PDF or some other form?
    Again, LOVE this post!

  25. Lexi Smith says:

    YES Brand strategy is very important! We have to make brand strategy presentations in all my design classes at school and I always feel like I know much more about the brand when I practice this. Love this post, so informative and it is very useful to any designer!

  26. I just wanted to say I’ve missed seeing you pop up in my feedly feed! I hope things are going well for you, Breanna! (And I have my fingers crossed that you’ll be back before long!)

  27. Rishi Shah says:

    This is such a great guide for brand strategy, thanks for posting!!

  28. Toya says:

    Thank you, I found this very insightful. I like the idea of doing a presentation of the proposed strategy. I may consider doing this going forward.

  29. Milena says:

    That is brilliant! I will definitely try to incorporate that in my work. Thank you so much for sharing!

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