Six crucial branding stages

Oct 21, 2023

Discover the art of branding beyond logos. Dive into the deep process of crafting identities that truly resonate & the six steps to get there with heartbeat, the branding experts.

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Brands are not just names. How do people relate to you? You're crafting an identity that resonates. It's a deep process that goes ways beyond surface looks. It's about making real connections with the people you want to reach. Plus, the world changes, people change, and so should your brand. It has to keep up with market fluctuations. 

It's really important to understand the difference between a brand and a brand identity, why brand identity matters so much, and how to decode the branding process.

Understanding brand and brand identity

While often used interchangeably, the concepts of 'brand' and 'brand identity' are different. But what sets them apart?

Brand vs. brand identity

A brand is how people see you, what they think about when they hear your name, and what sets you apart. It’s similar to your reputation. On the other hand, brand identity is how you present yourself. It comprises logos, mascots, website designs, and even flyers; it’s the tangibles that help people recognize and connect with your brand.

Why brand identity matters

It takes about 10 short seconds for someone to form an opinion about your brand. That's how long you have to make your mark. And when your branding is consistent, it can boost your company's revenue by up to 25%. An eye-catching colour or design can make your brand 80% more recognizable.

Here's how a strong brand identity can change the game:

  • Building trust: When people can recognize you easily, they trust you more. It's as simple as that.

  • Driving engagement: A well-crafted identity grabs attention and keeps it, making people engage with your brand.

  • Staying ahead: In a sea of competitors, a distinctive identity gives you the edge. It can influence decisions, extend your market reach, and even retain more customers.

In today's fast-paced world, a thought-out brand identity isn't a luxury—it's essential for success.

Branding process...

While brand identity offers a wealth of advantages and opportunities, realizing its full potential requires a clear understanding of the entire branding process.

What is the branding process?

In essence, the branding process is the ongoing effort to shape and refine a brand, ensuring it resonates with current market demands, fortifies perceptions, and secures the company's longevity. Think of it as a roadmap, a systematic strategy underpinned by methodologies designed to achieve specific marketing goals. heartbeat's process offers a privileged peak into this intricate dance.

This process aims to ensure a company's survival, to grant it the upper hand in a competitive landscape, to unlock hidden potential, and to drive consistent progress. Beyond metrics, this process enriches the business world through superior services, products, and a compelling brand narrative.

That's not it. You need to understand the real purpose of a strong brand.

Purpose of the branding process

  • Ensuring longevity: One primary goal is to extend the company's lifespan, allowing it to thrive and evolve amidst shifting market dynamics.

  • Gaining a competitive edge: In a saturated market, a strong brand identity acts as a beacon, distinguishing you from the crowd. Take a look at some of heartbeat's work to see how they've helped brands stand out.

  • Unlocking potential: A meticulously crafted branding process helps identify and tap into latent opportunities, pushing the envelope of what's achievable. This article on branding exercises for startups can shed more light on the subject.

  • Enhancing overall progress: It's not just about growth but about making meaningful progress that contributes positively to the world. Whether it's through top-tier services or a powerful brand image, the idea is to leave an indelible mark.

When is a complete brand process necessary?

Ongoing branding does not mean constantly revising every step for every brand tweak. Instead, think of the full branding process as a support system for key moments in a company's life. So when should you consider a complete overhaul?  When you’re starting a new company, merging two businesses, launching a fresh product line, or if your branding has begun to feel dated. Some agencies like heartbeat offer brand evaluations to determine if the full month is required.

Duration of the branding process

The journey of branding, from positioning to visual identity, typically spans two to eight months, excluding post-launch phases. The duration is influenced by company size and niche, market dynamics, required deliverables and tools, budget and goals, the team (especially if partnering with a popular agency like heartbeat, and adjustments during launch. 

A Word of Caution: Even in a fast-paced market, don't rush. Initial branding stages are foundational and demand your full attention. Collaborate closely with your agency, invest time, and ensure each step is flawless. This patience and dedication will pave the way for a brand that truly resonates and succeeds.

Key stages of the branding process

The branding journey comprises several pivotal steps divided into six critical stages. 

Stage 1 – Brand Research

This is where the journey begins. Before laying down foundations, it's vital to understand where you stand and where you aim to be. This involves:

  • Market positioning: Understanding the company's current place in the market helps gauge strengths, weaknesses, and potential opportunities. This is about market share, brand perception, and how the brand is positioned vis a vis its competitors.

  • Audience insight: heartbeat believes in drilling down deep into the target audience's psyche. What are their needs, preferences, and pain points? These insights are the crux of creating a brand that resonates.

  • Competitor analysis: In a competitive landscape, knowing what others are doing is paramount. It’s not about imitation but rather its about understanding market norms and then finding unique spaces the brand can own.

Stage 2 - Brand strategy

The strategy phase provides the blueprint for your brand's future. It provides direction, ensuring that every subsequent action aligns with the brand's core values and objectives. Key facets include:

  • Vision & purpose: Where does the company see itself in the future? What impact does it aspire to make? This is the manifesto that informs every subsequent decision.

  • Audience & competition: a perfect balance must be struck between what the company offers and what the audience seeks. Recognizing the competition helps in carving out a unique space for the brand.

  • Brand framework: This is where the team at heartbeat formulates the brand's value offering, promise, personality, emotion range, and positioning. It's about creating a coherent narrative that both internal stakeholders and external audiences can relate to.

By focusing on these stages, brands, especially those in the software space, can craft an identity that not only stands out but also fosters trust and loyalty. The subsequent stages, such as tools, launch, and building, are based on the strong foundation laid here.

Stage 3 - Crafting the brand identity

Brand identity is more than just a logo or color scheme; it's the visual and emotional representation of your brand's strategy. It's what customers see, feel, and remember about your brand. It comprises:

  • Visual elements: This involves designing key components like the logo, type, colour scheme, patterns, and icons.  For instance, when you think about major brands, it's often their mascot or symbol that immediately comes to mind.

  • Voice & Messaging: Beyond visuals, the heartbeat team focuses on establishing the brand voice. This covers everything from taglines to the overall messaging style. It's about ensuring that every word aligns with the brand's persona and values.

  • Collaterals: In the digital age, brand touchpoints extend way beyond traditional mediums. This means designing everything from business cards to digital ads, packaging, and even company swag like mugs and pencils. Each item is a chance to reinforce brand identity and values.

Stage 4 - essential brand tools

While the brand identity establishes how the brand looks and feels, brand tools are about ensuring the brand lives in the daily lives of its audience. This is where strategy turns into real-world interactions:

  • Digital presence: In today's connected world, having a strong online presence is non-negotiable. This includes a functional website, an engaging blog, active social media profiles, and even a YouTube channel. Each of these tools plays a role in interacting with and engaging your audiences.

  • Engagement initiatives: Branding goes beyond passive mediums. Activities like industry-related conferences, awards programs, and research projects position the brand as a thought leader and influencer in its domain.

  • Business development toolkit: This is an ensemble of resources, like company descriptions and video overviews, that aids in pitching the brand's value proposition, and furthering the mission set out in the brand strategy phase.

In essence, with the right brand tools, companies like yours can ensure that the brand is consistently visible and resonates with the audience across various touchpoints. It's about nurturing relationships and driving engagement, all of which can be achieved with the support of experts at heartbeat.

Stage 5 - the grand brand launch

The brand launch is more than just a logo reveal; it's a milestone moment in the company's journey. Here's how it unfolds:

  • Internal prep: Before unveiling to the world, it's essential to ensure everyone within the company is aligned. Professional firms like heartbeat recommend starting internally. By introducing the brand to your team first, you ensure they are knowledgeable about the brand's essence and can champion its values to the world.

  • External debut: This is the big reveal. Depending on the strategy, this can be a single grand event or a series of planned exposures. The key is ensuring your target audience gets the right message, making that crucial first impression count.

Stage 6 - continuous brand building

As the saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day," and neither are brands. Post-launch, the real work begins. 

Adapting to trends: The digital world is in a constant state of flux. Whether it's embracing new platforms or updating strategies on existing ones, the brand must evolve to stay relevant.

  • Refining Strategies: Even tried-and-true approaches may need an occasional refresh. This involves revisiting and tweaking strategies to ensure the brand remains at the forefront of its industry.

  • Collaboration is Key: This phase often necessitates working closely with a digital marketing agency. From SEO strategies and social media campaigns to email marketing and PPC, these tools are vital in bolstering the brand's presence and impact in the digital realm.

Brand building is a journey, not a destination. And the path twists, turns, and transforms. With a partner like heartbeat, a brand can navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape, ensuring they not only survive but thrive.