Defining a brand’s identity can be exciting and daunting. Here are a few do-it-yourself branding exercises to get the creative juices flowing. Whether it’s a new product launch or a rebrand, these activities can help facilitate the brainstorming of fresh, new ideas in no time.
About a year ago, I conducted a brand strategy process that completely redefined a consumer brand. From a seemingly business facing brand, it truly became consumer focused in content and imagery. This resulted in a clearly defined brand personality and vision, which helped guide strategic marketing plans.
On a side note, even if you do hire a branding agency, I recommend taking a team through these exercises. It’s helpful for your internal team to develop key ideas about the brand first, because the agency will be asking questions to help guide them in the branding process. Plus these exercises can be really fun, doubling as team building.
Brand Hack #1 – Decide Which Archetypes Fit Your Brand
There are 12 common archetypes: Hero, Magician, Caregiver, Innocent, Sage, Explorer, Outlaw, Everyman, Creator, Lover, Jester, and Ruler. Each represents an individual psyche that is realistic and helps people relate to the character. Why pick a brand archetype? Actually, I recommend picking two. Creating an authentic character means its two-dimensional. These archetypes give direction in creating a compelling brand story that can guide content marketing efforts of the new (or existing) brand. When we think of the brand as a person, it becomes clear what the tone should be. How would this brand speak to me? What would it say? What kind of emotional connection do I have with it? Is it here to care for me or to save me from something? It’s not only about what the brand says, but primarily what it does.
Once we have the archetypes, advertising campaigns can be created around specific storylines. Say we have a hero brand and we want our next campaign to tell a specific story of how the product “saves” us from something (e.g. chapped lips, bad credit, dehydration).
I constructed a rebrand process that centered heavily on determining the two main brand archetypes. We went through brainstorming processes about the brand promise, value proposition, customer perceptions, thoughts, feelings and imagery.
Mapping out the brand archetypes of industry competitors can reveal the popular and not so popular archetypes, helping to see where possible opportunities lie for your brand. Competitive brand archetype research I conducted revealed that most brands were either “Jester”, “Caregiver” or “Everyman” and very few were “Outlaws” or “Rulers”. After this research, I began to see how popular the Jester archetype has become in U.S. advertising and brand positioning. It’s apparent that, getting a laugh, has become the quickest way to endear emotion in a viewer (Geico’s Caveman, Flo from Progressive, Mac guy vs. PC guy).
Brand Hack #2 – Brainwrite Instead of Brainstorm
I chose brainwriting over brainstorming so that every team member would have a chance to participate candidly and honestly. There are always team members who dominate discussions, which distorts overall feedback. I wanted each team member to know that their opinion matters and that no one person was going to dominate the idea generation. An added bonus was that the writing from these exercises ended up being used in new content creation, even new taglines and ad copy.
Brand Hack #3 - Brandscape
High Five has a brandscape exercise that uses picture association. Simply decide on the different categories and print out various images for each one, such as cars, animals, actors, landscapes, etc. Each team member picks a picture from a category and then explains why they picked the picture as it relates to the brand. Is your brand a Jeep, a BMW, or a Toyota? This was actually really fun and revealed personal preferences and perceptions. Consumer behavior at its best.
Brand Hack #4 - Competitive Namescape
Another strategic exercise is the competitive namescape. Brand names fall into four categories: Functional (e.g. Whole Foods, OfficeMax), Experiential (e.g. Facebook, Ford Explorer), Evocative (e.g. Skype, Apple), or Invented (Oreo, Acura). Are all competitors using functional names? Maybe most are functional, a few are experiential and none are invented? In that case, your brand could stand out with an invented name over a functional one (as long as it fits the brand personality).
Brand Hack #5 – Understand Brand Colors
Brand colors are important and understanding their meaning will help to answer questions during the branding process. Color is directly tied to the brand identity. I have also had questions about brand colors thrown my way when working with established brands. Color preference can be very personal. We might get tired of looking at our blue logo and yearn for orange instead, it’s helpful to return to the brand meaning vs. the color meaning and see if they match up. During a brand refresh, this is the perfect time to review the color palette. Be prepared for the inevitable color discussion and have brand examples.
Many of these brand exercises helped to establish a more strategic marketing process around branding. So far, the result has been the complete rebrand of an e-commerce consumer brand, identification of two major brand archetypes for the company, branding for new technology products set to compete with some of the top tech companies out there, and the branding of a spin-off company.