An FAQ of the five most common questions you might have before branding to guide you through the decision of engaging in branding.
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When I walk into a barbershop it’s easy, predictable and usually delivers a pretty consistent haircut no matter where I go. I don’t need to ask questions along the lines of, “I don’t like my hair-do, but do I really need this haircut?” or “others do it cheaper, why are you more expensive?”.
There may be times when I want something different but I’m not sure what would be better than the 2 back and sides, with a shorter length on top request I usually go with. Though if I did, guess what? I’d trust the person cutting my hair for what they think would be best — after all, they do this day in, day out.
Funnily enough, I actually drop this on a barber a week before my wedding and told him it was for my big day…the guy freaked out and nearly dropped his scissors and comb. So there aren’t really many if any, unknowns apart from specific tools or hair products a barber uses. This is contrary to the experience many business owners have when considering branding.
Which, if I’m honest, is a real shame that it’s not a crystal clear service many people understand before getting into it and make an informed decision. It was something I’d not even realised before offering to help clients with their branding when I started my branding consultancy, G’day Frank.
To be fair, it’s totally reasonable given there’s not really any set-in-stone process every marketer or branding person/team follows, or exact deliverable handed over at the end of it all, especially as every brand is different and not every branding project will need the same deliverables. The crazy thing though, is that most of us (branding and marketing people) have a different definition of what brand and branding means — myself included. So it’s no wonder you’re confused if we’re not clear on what it is we deliver as an industry and help you with to succeed in business. But I’ll say this as a consolation, the common goal is to connect with the most viable consumers so that they buy and keep buying what you have to offer.
As a result of these unknowns, no matter where you are in the world, I encounter the same questions during initial consultations with business owners and teams about their brand and the process of developing and growing it. So this is a guide for you if you’ve thought or are currently thinking, “yep, we need better branding than what we have” but have been unsure of:
What you actually need to succeed at minimum or at most
What you actually get as a result of branding, and
How much you have to pay to get it
All of these thoughts are baked into 5 responses to 5 frequently asked questions I’ve fielded over the last 4 years that I hope will deliver some clarity to see branding not only as a worthwhile investment but as a part of your business that needs to constantly evolve and adapt.
So here are the five FAQs — you can collapse the one that is most relevant for you right now as each response is far more detailed than most FAQs you’ll typically see… or read them all if you have time, given this is an article too.
Q1. Do I need branding if I’m just starting out?
Yes — the short answer is yes because every business that has succeeded at becoming a known name to you or a product/service you have bought, it’s due to an investment they’ve made in branding (and marketing) to use it to their advantage for that outcome.
Just think about that for some of the brands you know and buy. The colour they use to stand out. The shape of their packaging. The signage on their shop or vehicles. The price point or placement on the shelf amongst a certain category of contenders. The voice it uses to captivate and connect with the right people it has targeted. The reviews or testimonials it touts from its customers. The word of mouth their customers push out to others about that brand.
All of this is done for a reason and without it, would you have known about them or bought what they have to offer?
The big part for any brand, especially if you’re starting out, is to stand out — that first impression.
In my last article, I talked about being a distinct brand and how that can help your brand grow, so you’re welcome to give that a read to expand on this point. But in short, if you’re a new player entering the market with a service or product that is not revolutionarily new and a consumer could easily substitute your offering for a competitor, ask yourself:
How are they going to discover us?
How will they notice us?
Why would they choose us over others — especially if they know of others that offer a similar thing to us?
This is why I define a brand as a captivating moment of connection because you really do need to captivate and capture a consumer's attention, especially when starting out to stand out in a crowd of options. If not, the equation is quite simple, you’ll never be noticed.
The best part is that captivating attention is the relatively easy part, connection is the harder part — which is knowing who to connect with and how to best connect with them to take a leap and choose you over others.
For this reason, my definition of a brand extends into a definition of branding as a process of creating captivating moments of connection from clarity. The key additional part being clarity.
So push aside standing out with colours, logos, packaging, signage, etc just for a second. Because yes, it’s the fun and most tangible element of branding. But just like an iceberg, there are a number of layers beneath the surface of what you can’t see that need attending to make the glitzy stuff dazzle above the surface.
This is where a business plan and a brand plan (aka. brand strategy) mix. So be shocked, amazed or surprised that a branding person can actually help you devise a business plan, or part thereof, as it forms the basis of a brand plan for the direction you need to take your brand for it to grow.
What I’m talking about is a plan for success that starts with researching the market you’re entering, competing with and assessing needs and wants (research). We look at all the types of consumers you could potentially help (segmentation). We choose the most viable groups of customers (targeting). We think of how we can position your brand to effectively capture the attention of that target and be their go-to choice (positioning). We set a list of goals to achieve that can measure the success of this process (objectives) and then we plan out what steps you’re going to take to connect with those consumers (tactics — eg, new packaging experience or refreshed brand identity). This is all bookended by how much it’s going to cost and what timeline is associated with that (budget).
For more detail on this process, check out this additional article I’ve written about brand strategy.
And that really is it. The process might sound simple (and it should be, as you don’t need to reinvent the wheel). But this is what most brands, big or small, spend time, attention and money on to get right each and every year to successfully develop and grow their brand by connecting with new and existing consumers time and time again.
The result of it is that it helps everyone in your team to be on the same page and market your brand effectively with a game plan everyone can follow. And it’s why I believe we should always be branding.
Lastly, there is one objection I have experienced a few times during this line of questioning and it’s popped up a few times.
“We don’t think we need this now, we’ll invest in it later once we’ve got our footing” .
Even if you’ve already got a solid footing because you might be moving your existing consumers across to a new business/brand experience, I get that but only to an extent.
The reason is that while it’s all well and good to have an existing consumer base in your back pocket, it comes back to having a brand that keeps those existing customers around AND attracts new ones. Because I’d assume that you’re not changing things up not to attract new business, right?
So I’ll say this. If you’re starting out and you don’t have your footing, why not dig in to start with clarity and confidence to know what the next step is going to be? To look at your market. To target the most viable market and position your brand so that when you do attract them with your pretty colours. To be able to communicate with them on their level by understanding their pain points and needs or wants.
This is something I personally can’t understand not needing — unless you don’t have the money to spend which is the obvious and likely dealbreaker — which is ok.
That said, if possible, why not factor it into your business plan if you’re seeking investment to start your business just the same as you might be doing for your premises and equipment? Because the reality is that this is an investment if done right, that can make a lasting impact for many years to come.
For more on this, I’ve also written an article here that talks about 5 ROI positive ways branding can have a valuable impact on your business, which may be worth an additional read.
Q2. Why does it cost more when people on Fiverr charge so much less for a logo?
I’d hope the previous response to the first question suggests that branding is not a logo design. It can be part of the process, but not always.
Logo design is the most thought of deliverable of branding as the term branding comes from the act of hot-iron branding a livestock animal — a cruel process but putting a stamp on what you offer is where the term branding comes from.
It’s also why every person that gets into branding at one point or another will tell you “your brand is not your logo”, most likely in a social media post.
So yes, logo design can be done for $25 on a site like Fiverr. No disagreements there.
Now if you recall my anecdote about the barber at the start of this article, I said that if I didn’t know what I wanted, I’d ask the barber what kind of haircut I should get and let them decide. This is where cutting hair and branding are similar yet different.
The difference between the two is that I need a haircut every six weeks, but a logo I’d only want to have made once if I’m lucky. How they’re similar is that I pay $25 and tell them what I want — my usual cut. However, if the haircut was $25,000, I’d be leaving it to them. Why?
Well, I’m sure you’ve heard that great proverb or story (whatever it is) of the ship engineer that was needed to fix the massive propeller after no one else could fix it. If not, it goes a little something like this. The engineer goes out to the shipyard, assesses the problem and simply gives the propeller a little whack with a hammer and the propeller comes to life again.
Upon reviewing the engineer's invoice, the shipping company disputes the $40,000 fee and asks for a breakdown of why it cost that much when all the engineer did was hit the propeller with a hammer and they spent all of 5–10 minutes on site. So the engineer amends the invoice to reflect this request.
Line 1: Hammer - $50
Line 2: Knowing where to use the hammer at the precise point - $39,950
Personally, I don’t think service-based businesses charge exorbitant amounts just to fuck with you and take you for a ride. Especially those who are professionals with the experience and results to show for it. But this is the other contributing factor to why branding is typically charged at a vastly higher rate than a $25 logo on Fiverr and that is the value of what is being delivered and the value that exceeds the investment.
The value of what is being delivered is knowing where to use the hammer at the precise point.
In the context of branding, it’s knowing what colour to use so it stands out and is usable for both print and digital. It’s knowing what font in your logo is going to be legible from 200 meters away and at 20 millimetres in size because we assess the context of your brand touchpoints. It’s assessing and understanding the most viable target markets to develop an offering that could be positioned at a price point those consumers are willing to pay. It’s creating a logo that won’t infringe on trademarks of others in your territory or industry. It’s focusing on the unique benefits and feelings to evoke from consumers to feel connected to your offering and be compelled to buy.
And to add to all that, it's bringing your team together and helping develop a company culture that helps deliver a far better consumer experience while even attracting and retaining the best team possible. Not to mention making sure you’re confident with the brand you represent so that you’d be proud enough to wear it on your shirt each day or even tattoo it on your body — because if you’re not, how will your consumers be confident your brand is for them?
In terms of a $25 logo, it’s less likely to be reflective of the brand in its entirety or be representative of a unifying concept that unites the message you deliver, the internal culture of your team, where the logo is placed. Designing a logo without great context might come from your personal taste or the designer’s style, rather than what’s best for your brand to help it connect with a consumer. This isn’t to say that logo design on its own isn’t of value as it’s an art unto itself and it’s why I take pride in getting to develop a timeless logo I hope you won’t ever need to change.
The value that exceeds the investment is the ship being able to sail 3000 passengers each paying $1500 for one weekly voyage. That’s $4.5m (a 11150% ROI). Let alone subsequent weeks/voyages.
Or in a branding example, it’s a $10,000 investment that attracts 5 specific types of vendors within 12 months to your real estate agency and for those 5 houses you sell, you receive an average commission of $20,000. That’s $100,000 (a 900% ROI). Let along subsequent years. In terms of a logo, yes, a logo like Nike’s cost Phil Knight $35. However, everything else Nike has done to develop its brand for the past 50+ years since it was designed has turned that swoosh into a $26b logo. Disconnect it from the brand, it’s just a pretty swoosh any designer is technically capable of designing.
Truely, that logo could have been anything from day one until 2022 or at least been a different tick/swoosh shape and still be worth the same. It’s what has been done since to make it one of the most identifiable marks on the plant.
With both those reasons in mind, to put it simply, is a $25 logo of value to your business? Because that’s the reason branding costs more. Let alone the cost of getting it wrong which is not just a monetary cost to your business but also time and attention wasted for you and even your consumers when trying to find your brand again.
Q3. I don’t like my logo and colours do I need to rebrand?
This is the most common rationale for a business owner/team wanting to change things up and approach someone like myself.
Maybe your logo was designed by your ex-business partner’s nephew that was good at art in high school. All good, it happens.
Maybe there is too much detail in your logo that you can’t make it out on your social media profile icons. Business is changing and we all need an online presence.
Or perhaps your colours are “living in the 70’s” like the Skyhooks’ hit song — they were an Australian rock band in the 80s for those of you playing at home — in other words, the colours are drab and dated. So it’s time to change the carpet and drapes.
They’re pretty drastic but hey, sometimes that’s the reason. Either way, I’m all for a rebrand of your visual identity (logo, colours, fonts, etc) for a complete overhaul that looks vastly different.
Alternatively, a simple refresh that keeps elements of what you have but modernises things and aligns with the direction you’re now taking is another less-invasive approach. Eg. A more mature look to show that you’ve grown up as a brand — this is something QANTAS, one of Australia’s national airlines does every few years by slightly refreshing its visual identity (including its logo) like a new lick of paint.
However, this type of question will lead me to always ask if changing things is simply because you don’t like it? I mean, sure, if I agree what you have is ugly as sin and it’s not serving your brand well, we’ll change it up. But for some clients I engage with, there might be other motivations beneath the surface.
There may be things you don’t think are relevant but do have an impact on your brand, but they may be worth looking at to make sure you’re going about connecting with consumers the right way for your business to succeed.
So if you know there are indeed underlying reasons, then definitely, let’s change things up as I’d most likely agree that you need a rebrand.
If you think it’s just the paint job, I’ll still have a look under the hood to let you know if things look and sound like they’re running fine. If I find an issue that can be fixed by branding, I’ll definitely recommend a rebrand or refresh of all or certain aspects of your brand and the reasons why so you can make an informed decision.
But if we agree it’s just the tip of the iceberg that needs a refresh or rebrand, we can simply work on the visual identity of your brand.
Q4. We do a better job than our competitors but they are market leaders, can branding help us?
This is a hard question to have the courage to admit and then ask. Because every business owner wants to be or even believes they are the number one and if they’re not, they should be. To that I say of course you should be, but what are you gonna do about it if you’re not?
I mentioned in my response to the first question that every business that has succeeded at becoming a known name to you or been a product/service you have bought, it’s due to an investment they’ve made in branding (and marketing) to use it to their advantage for that outcome.
Now I’ve had experiences with clients where their direct competitors are bigger players that have been around longer and as a result, have a reputable name — especially those that are franchises and multi-national brands. The kicker is that my client’s direct competitor, most likely geographically close to them, offers a shit service or product or customer experience or all of the above, which doesn’t live up to the recognised name and marketing leading statistics that pale in comparison to what my client offers.
So yeah it’s a shit one. In my last article about being distinct or different as a brand, I talked about those who talk the loudest win. Bigger and more established companies typically have the reach and money to talk the loudest and stick around more consistently in more places. But this is where your distinctiveness combined with consistency and cadence of communication can come to your advantage. Yes, there word six C words in that sentence.
This means that you can get your branding right and combine that with a solid marketing plan to show up for a particular consumer in the places you know they’re likely to notice you. If you’re smaller with a smaller budget, use that budget wisely to connect with the smallest viable market. As you grow, you would then target a wider pool of consumers. It’s not rocket science but branding, including your brand strategy (as mentioned in my response to Q1) will responsively help you determine how you can beat your competitors at your own game, not theirs as you grow and pivot or widen your attention to more consumers.
Now I said your own game because a few years back I used to work in television production. A big part of television and measuring its success and market that success is ratings. Let me tell you, you can spin “The №1 rated show” clout in so many ways it’s actually kind of laughable — it’s a bit like that scene in the movie Thank You For Smoking, where the lead character played by Aaron Eckhart teaches his son to argue that chocolate is better than vanilla ice cream as a way of debating political issues to win an argument by talking about what you want to talk about.
This is no different to marketing your position in the market if you know where you stand in relation to the competition. If being №1, or the best, or most 5-star rated brand is of value in your consumer's decision making to know they are getting the best result, then great. There is a way of finding that and making that a part of what your brand promises to its consumers.
However, there are other ways branding and marketing combined can help you communicate that you’re a better option. These can be things like video testimonials, sharing user-generated content, referral programs and even just a consistent and appealing user experience so that your consumers perceive your brand as having its shit together.
For example, having all your social media looking well-curated and designed, your website has the same look and feel and your signage, stationery, packaging and team apparel are consistent. This communicates a professional impression that really does say you know what you’re doing, without needing to say it or say “trust us”.
So it’s just understanding what is best for your brand that determines what is done to help your business succeed in its market and there is always a way, if not multiple ways of doing it.
Q5. What do I get at the end?
I’ll try to dance around the detail for this question as I’ve written a companion article that outlines how to use your brand identity and it covers each of the things I help you develop and how to make use of it day-to-day.
So in short, a brand identity is what I typically deliver for my clients as a result of a branding process which starts with an in depth workshop together. That brand identity results in something that you will likely evolve over time, but at its core, if you can keep it the same and use it consistently, it will serve you well. A brand identity from me comes in 3 parts:
The brand direction is simply that. A direction to know what the brand is there to do next. So that you know what your brand is at its core (a unifying concept), what is it going to be known for and who are you connecting with so that your team has a direction to follow. This includes a purpose, values, target market(s), personality and sometimes a communication plan, vision and mission.
Brand messaging is how your brand will sound and speak verbally or written. It includes a tone of voice, USP/UVP (essentially it’s your elevator pitch), tagline, slogans, brand story and other brand language that could be used as a basis for communicating why consumers should choose you, explain who you help and how you help them.
Then your visual identity is your logo (made in different orientations and colourways), colours, fonts and typography hierarchy, imagery, graphic elements like icons or patterns and supporting mockups that demonstrate how the brand can be used in context and might inspire ideas for how you could show up visually for your consumers to be captivated by. Eg. Clothing looks, types of signage, branded merchandise, and what your social media posts could look like.
Now there are other elements to a brand identity that I don’t produce myself but could refer you onto others. Some examples are things like audio/sonic branding (eg. Logo title sounds and music), mascot design, photography, videography, animation and even unique smells as part of your unique identity. Because I see a brand identity just the same as a person’s identity that we recognise, connect with and remember. It’s multifaceted and not just based on how we look — which quite frankly for many branding service providers, is all they can help you with.
To help you stay on target with this identity and even pass it on to other external vendors like marketing, photography or advertising agencies to work with, what you get in addition to visual identity files is a brand guidelines document (and team handbook if needed) to refer back to when using your brand identity. So that it can be utilised correctly, consistently and be understood in context.
END OF FAQ
Well, that’s 5 hefty responses to 5 common questions I’m asked by clients.
You’d have thought I’d have more succinct answers. Though as I said towards the start, this is an article and I hope it serves as a bit of a catch-all depending on your needs and the type of brand you have — especially with some links sprinkled in there to additional resources I’ve written that may be of further help now or after engaging in your branding. Which you can find here on my blog.
So in the event you’d like to get in contact, we can skip right past these questions and get to the root of what your ambition is with your brand to get the ball moving! My contact info is below and even if now isn’t the time, why not say G’day anyway on Linkedin or Instagram or drop me an email.