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Preliminary Branding Research

This blog post goes out to @jamesfletchr, who asked the below question. Hopefully others of you will likewise find it interesting/useful!

@MadeBySidecar Article idea: You talked about brand presentation, but would love some insight into your preliminary research process.

BrandingProcess

Let me talk ‘atcha a little bit. But first, you might wanna look back at a post about what goes into our Brand Strategy process. We start each branding project with a Discovery phase, during which we delve into and craft brand strategy, the foundation for our production work.

Not everyone has the time or resources for a full-blown Discovery/Brand Strategy engagement, but everyone should approach their design with intention. To ensure that design work is meaningful, here are some things to checklist during your preliminary brand research.

YOUR CLIENT

You want to make these people happy. So you need to know as much as you can about them. We start with a questionnaire that is equal parts standard and customized. Think: OkCupid. Lots of questions. What is their company history? How many people do they work with? What services do they provide? Where is their geographical presence? Can they describe their company culture. What is their value proposition? What is their brand trajectory? How do they best interpret information? How do they make decisions? You get the picture.

“*Technically* we aren’t designing for our client; we’re designing for our client’s client, or customer. To ensure success, their resulting brand experience should resonate with and engage their target audience. ”

THEIR TARGET AUDIENCE

*Technically* we aren’t designing for our client; we’re designing for our client’s client, or customer. To ensure success, their resulting brand experience should resonate with and engage their target audience. So start by learning more about their target audience. Define personas, look at brands that successfully engage them, talk to them (if/when you can). Where do they shop? What is their socio-economic status? Are they predominantly male, female, younger, older? What do they drive? And, most importantly, why will they want to use the client’s company?

MARKET RESEARCH

The challenge of branding teams is to understand a lot of industries. If you’re anything like us, at some point or another, you have to be well-versed on the on-demand economy, game-changing app technologies, maternity brands, trendy restaurants, trendier boutiques, and super straight-laced financial institutions (to name a few). That ain’t easy. Rely on your client (see questionnaire suggestion) to describe the industry they are in. Then go out on your own. Research their competition and the overall industry landscape in which they compete. Who is the old guard? Who is cutting edge? How does your client stand out in the crowd? This research will give you clear ‘do’s’ and ‘dont’s’ for the design process. It will also give you more to talk about at cocktail parties.

“Benefits of this creative practice are twofold: you connect the dots between research and design for yourself, but also for your client. You help them visualize the design work to come. And you give yourself a visual springboard. ”

IDEAS FOR VISUAL DIRECTIONS

Some people approach this via concepting, others make mood or inspiration boards. Still others show a few examples of existing brands that are achieving the appropriate target vibe. Sketching and team brainstorming also follow under this header. There should be a great deal of offshoot research in this phase in the form of searches on design sites like Behance, Under Consideration, Dribbble, and Designspiration, and even more broadly on Google, to see how others have tackled a like design challenge. Benefits of this creative practice are twofold: you connect the dots between research and design for yourself, but also for your client. You help them visualize the design work to come. And you give yourself a visual springboard.

I think that’s a fair primer and attainable gameplan for preliminary brand research. I’d love to answer any additional questions y’all may have, and hear more from you on how you approach your research. Thanks!


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