Brand with Empathy

By Adnan Kussair

When we talk about empathy, we mean to make branding decisions based on what would connect with your audience. We know that good design inherently makes emotional connections with its audiences. And these emotive designs are what stays in people's memory. By this logic, we aim to help clients find a clear, coherent brand strategy with their customers in mind.

Brand Strategy: Top Five Considerations

Naming your business or writing content for your brand isn't always about what is efficient, but what sends a clear message. This messaging will come from the story you tell from (what we determined to be) the top brand strategy components: business's name, promise statement, understanding your differentiators, products and services, and your brand voice.

Here is our roadmap for a strong, well-differentiated brand, each with their own Dos and Don'ts:

1. Name

When it comes to conceptualizing and finalizing a name for your business, you’ll quickly find that a great name will inform your overall brand strategy. The two are inherently linked, because everything rides on the name: from how “catchy” and memorable it is to conveying the way you think and what kind of products or services you offer. Add in the complexity of finding a domain name to match, and you’re up against a daunting challenge.

It’s true that some are fortunate enough to have that one light-bulb moment when the name simply comes to them out of nowhere. But such random inspiration doesn’t always happen, so starting with some core brand-strategy considerations will help jump-start the process and hopefully get those creative juices flowing.

Brand name is first on the list for a reason. As we’ve said, the name informs everything else. A clear, easily understood name that resonates with people will be your most valuable asset.

Don't

In order to create a name that conveys empathy it’s important to steer clear of a few bad habits. Any inclination to go with complex acronyms that are obtuse and understood only by insiders will cause confusion and should be avoided. You might be able to get away with an acronym if it forms an actual word. Nevertheless, unless you’re IBM or BMW, best to stay on the safe side and brainstorm a little more. Rule of thumb: If it needs an explanation, don’t use it.

Do

Instead, focus clearly on who you are, what you offer people, and, critically, who your audience is. The more you can narrow your focus, the quicker you’ll arrive at that perfect name. Concepts that evoke visual images are also a great way to go, as they can then play into your entire design strategy and aesthetic direction. And again, tap into words that speak to a consumer’s need to be heard and understood.

2. Promise Statement

Don't

By this point, most of us are oversaturated with companies professing “integrity, quality, and excellence.” These qualifiers are so overused that they have become white noise.

Do

To dodge bland-and-canned statements that savvy consumers have heard already, craft a promise statement that holds you and your team accountable. Avoid words and phrases everyone else recycles ad infinitum and focus on the value and purpose of your company. Make it clear, authentic, and even aspirational and you’ll find yourself in a unique position that sets you apart.

3. Differentiators

A strong brand is a well-differentiated one.

Don't

A lot of companies fade into a sea of competitors that offer the same things. But there is a reason you started your company, there is a story. Letting your audience know what your unique position and story are, is important to understanding and evaluating your company's value in the big blue ocean of competitors.

Do

Ask yourself, “Why should someone choose your company over another that does the same thing?” Here is where understanding your target customer is absolutely essential. The more you can identify and hone in on a core group, what differentiates you from the rest will become crystal clear. And conversely, along the way you will learn from your customers, giving you the opportunity to progressively refine your key differentiators.

Identifying your target audience will involve systematic research. You’ll need a comprehensive understanding of their needs and how you alone can fulfill them. What are their perspectives? Their goals and priorities? Once you answer these questions, you’ll find marketing ideas and messaging will flow naturally and growth will happen organically.

4. Products and Services

What does your company do? What does it sell? How can it help people? Your discourse around your products and services are like a house of cards: If customers are at all confused about this, everything else will fall, from what differentiates your business to successfully building your brand name.

Don't

The most common bad habits we've seen around content for products and services is inconsistent use of terminology and terminology only understood internally. Not establishing ahead of time the exact name and definition of all products and services results in confusing, loose language. If your own content isn't confidently identifying your products and services, how can we expect a confident customer?

Do

The language around your products and services must be clear and consistent without ambiguity. As with your company name, relying on any industry-insider terminology is a mistake. Consumers need to know exactly what they are getting and how to get it. In some ways, being clear and concise is the best way to convey empathy. Removing confusion and frustration is in itself a service you offer your customers.

And perhaps most importantly, a clear, concise naming structure will be scalable and allow you to build and grow. Adding future products and services will be easier and without any confusion for your customers.

5. Voice

A company voice is what gives your brand its personality. Your products, services, and target audience will automatically inform your brand voice. Once clearly defined, your creative team will be able to craft a marketing strategy, build your website, and write messaging that is both consistent and unique to your business.

Don't

Again, it's all about consistency. Not having a consistent voice throughout your company and brand is like hearing the advice from opposing parents - "I hear you both, but I don't know who to listen to." We want every element of your company to be as one, like the space explorers who come together to pilot the super robot Volton.

Do

To narrow it down, determine your audience. Will you speak to them with the perky, enthusiastic vibe of Flo from Progressive Insurance? Or would your corporate rep embody the deep-voiced seriousness of the Allstate Insurance guy? What is most appealing to and appropriate for your target clients? Determine your verbal identity and give your brand the right personality.

Brand Strategy Success

These five steps toward a comprehensive brand strategy move your entire design process forward. Good design is founded on brand voice and messaging that’s clear and resonates emotionally. Designs crafted in response to strong emotions are those that we remember most.

Tie this together with clarity and empathy and you’ll find yourself well positioned in the marketplace and poised to easily adapt, scale, adjust and grow your business into the future.