#6 / diving deep into Brand Strategy: Your Target Audience

I hope you have enjoyed the first section of the series focusing on the Brand Messaging Framework.

We left our last newsletter with a method on how to develop your Brand Positioning. However, many questions came through as to how do you identify your Target Audience and I thought it would be great to tackle this part right now.

how_to_identify_target_audience.jpg

I found this question telling and so great for you to ask because sometimes small businesses feel that they cannot afford to be selective with their clients, right? we sometimes feel that we need all the business we can get!

I get it, however this “not-so strategic” approach ends up thinning out your marketing and brand building efforts. You find yourself moving away from your core competencies to adapt and re-adapt your services to suit every different type of client.

When you are looking at defining your target audience you’'ll want to start with basic questions such as demographic and geographic characteristics, are they consumers? or is this a business to business relationship? where are they based? in the same city as you or all over the world? all the way to the desires, needs, wants and worries of each group.

The objective of this exercise is dual: 1)  that you identify all those customer segments that may find your offering attractive and 2) that you identify and decide which segment or segments are you going to target.

Because one of the most basic and most important principles of brand strategy and marketing is that we cannot be everything for everyone. That tends to be a recipe for failure. We need to be great for someone!

Here are some questions that will guide you:

  • Where are your clients located?

  • Who are the purchase decision makers? Are they the same as the users?

  • Can you define some demographic characteristics such as age, urban / rural, life cycle stage, profession, interests and know that in some cases some of these factors are relevant and some others are not.

  • What needs does this group have? What are their desires, worries?

  • Where do they find their information?

  • Where do they buy? How do they buy?

  • Who do they trust? How do they analyze their options?

  • How does our offering help solve their problems or satisfy their needs?

For example:

On a recent case, we looked at the target audience for an architectural designer. Many people all over the US have needs for building, decorating, remodeling, etc. Our client is based in the Pacific Northwest and wants to serve this region. Additionally the firm has experience remodeling and building considering the changing life stages of the population. They understand the importance of taking into account life transitions (growing family, empty nesters, passive income needs) to design and build timeless spaces that address those very important needs.

Within that group we identified three specific types of clients and left the rest (commercial clients) because even if they are interesting, they will be a distraction from their core business. Ultimately, you’ll see that all this means that our client is not just designing or building additions, they are clearly specialized in understanding the life transitions of this specific audience so they can serve them better and once the project is completed, this client will be an advocate and a source of additional clients.

With a clear understanding of your audience you’ll find it easier to focus your energy on crafting the right content, using the right advertising tools to reach them and make sure that your offer stays relevant to them. Using surveys and reviews you can help build a clearer image of those clients as well as boosting your recommendations and referrals.

I am glad you guys asked! And I hope this is very useful to you before we tackle our next section: Brand Personality and Brand Story.

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Sharing resources with the creative community.

  • How does this cool young generation see their preferred brands

  • Why you have to look inside (employees) as well as outside (consumers) in brand strategy

  • Are you in the hospitality business? What matters, according to Landor.


#5 / diving deep into brand strategy

In my last newsletter I discussed the framework for how to develop a solid brand strategy for your business. If the ideas are not so fresh, have a quick read here before moving forward.

I want to stress this really really strongly: do your brand strategy work before jumping into developing a website or finding a graphic designer. In summary, the process looks like this:

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Sharing resources with the creative community.

  • Bobbi Brown talks a lot about her intuitive brand development style. Hear her out here.

  • the next book on my reading list

  • reach out to work together on your brand strategy. I will guide you step-by-step.

At this time we will look at the specifics of Phase I - the Messaging Framework.

Whenever I work with a new client I spent about 4 sessions working in this first section. We dive deep into the business, the brand and what you are about.

This is where the strategic thinking happens. Where we look at the big picture, where does your business fit into the landscape? How do you identify what is different and appealing about you and your brand? What are your offerings and what type of needs (desires or anxieties) are you satisfying through your product or service?

Because I cannot take you on one shot through the entire Brand Strategy, we are going to focus on the first two points: Brand Statement and Brand Positioning. There are exercises and examples included here, so give it a try!

 
 

First things first. Let’s look at your Brand Statement. This is your elevator pitch. For a lot of us it can be hard to describe clearly and succinctly (and also excitingly) what we do.

Can you tell me in one paragraph what your business or your brand is about? Try it. If you can and you are happy with it, great, you are good with this first step.

I use a method I learned whilst researching on brand strategy and personal brand. In her Brand Mapping Process, Karen Leland asks you to look at your brand statement as your elevator pitch.

The Brand Statement has be concise and to the point and it needs to define what you do, what you offer to your clients as a result and how you work. It also has to allow for conversation, so that you can build on those other points that are relevant and that will help you position yourself in the mind of those who need you.

Take this really good exercise and spend some time drafting your answers:

A year from now you hear someone talking about you:

  • What would you want them to say about what you do?

  • What would you want them to say about the results you produce? what do they have after working with you? results, outcome, impact of your work

  • What would you want them to say about the way you do your work? qualities, characteristics, way of being,

Give yourself 20-30 minutes and write a good first draft but know that as we work together and discover your strengths as a brand and the attributes you bring, this statement will organically evolve.

I have worked with many clients and it is so satisfying to help them get to that point. As a example to help you along, here is what I came up for myself:

Exercise: Alessandra Brescia - Brand Strategist

  • What would you want them to say about what you DO? Alessandra is an expert in brand strategy and understands the importance of building a solid brand for every business that wants to be relevant and successful in the long term.

  • What would you want them to say about the results you produce? (what they HAVE after working with you): Alessandra helped me define my brand and helped me analyze my industry, clients and competition to identify what is unique about me. It resulted in a clear brand statement with defined guidelines for my brand elements: logo, color, web presence.

  • What would you want them to say about the way you do your work (qualities, characteristics, way of BEING)? Alessandra methodic approach to brand strategy, her creativity and her knowledge and experience in brand direction made me feel I was in great hands. She’s smart, approachable and loves working with a variety of businesses.

    As a result my brand Statement looks like this:

“ As a brand strategist I specialize in guiding creative entrepreneurs and small business in the development of the foundational elements of their brands in order for them to be able to position themselves strongly in the market and to effectively communicate with their audience. “


Brand Positioning is that which defines you, your business, your brand. It needs to be is specific enough to differentiate you from the rest.

A brand positioning statement says where your brand should be positioned in the marketplace. Simply put, it says what you do, who you serve and how your company (uniquely) does this.

It may include any or many of the following:

  • Specialized background, education, training or experience you have.

  • Proprietary process you have created to work with clients.

  • Talents or skills that set you apart.

  • Business, industry, area or niche on which you have expertise.

  • New way of addressing a problem or something you offer/have that is hard to replicate.

To arrive at this you need to identify your desired attributes : What attributes are most critical for your audience. What do you need to have / offer to be interesting, relevant to your audience? List the most important attributes, rank them in order of importance and make sure that you identify any qualitative or quantitative actions that support these key attributes.

For example:

 
N_5_Attribute table.png
 

I want you to list them all and go back and forth with all that you think is important for your audience. I am only showing three here as an example, but the list was much longer. Try to concentrate on those key attributes where you, or your product or service stands out and that is at the same time relevant for your clients. If you are lacking in a key area, identify how you can overcome those deficiencies. Do you need to restructure your offering? redesign part of your product?

After doing this work, it’s time to articulate your Unique Brand Proposition. You’ll want to arrive to a description of your business that centers on:

  • What is it that you provide that your clients may never have thought or articulated but when they hear it, they immediately react positively.

  • What do you do that is difficult to imitate?

“As a brand strategist, I offer a methodical approach to brand development for creatives and small businesses. Guiding them through the process of defining the strategic elements of their brand and mapping out the activities that will support their brand strategy including: brand visual elements (logotype, typography, colours, online presence, social media), verbal (content development,  and behavioural (interactions with clients. approach, personality, marketing guidelines).”

As you can see, we are tackling these two first elements of your brand strategy: your brand statement and your brand positioning.

Because otherwise this post would be way to long I am splitting it in 3 parts. Keep and eye out on your inbox, next week you will receive the post focusing on how to identify Brand Personality and how to write your Brand Story. The following week we will work on both the Brand Services (what you offer) and your Brand Landscape (what does your business landscape looks like, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)

Give it a try and let me know how you are doing! I’d love to hear from you and your efforts. I guarantee that you will be feel more focused about your brand and your business and that you will be able to prioritize more easily your activities.

Thank you for reading along!

Alessandra

 

#4 / how do you develop a solid brand strategy

On my last newsletter I introduced the idea of Brand Strategy and why it is important to understand your business before intending to do any branding work. 

There is a process and an order that helps us get as close to right as we can. Yes, chaos is good and as creatives, a lot of great work has come from chaos. However when it comes to solid and strong branding, chaos, is not necessarily the best way to go. 

Oftentimes, I am called by a client to help them with their marketing plans, or their social media strategy, their website development, etc. Each and every time I need to help them take a step back:  Do they know what their Mission is? Can they articulate their Brand Promise? Have they figured out what is their Brand Positioning? Can they tell me what kind of key benefits are they offering their target audience? Have they identified who their target or ideal customers are?  I usually get a few puzzled looks, some panic, impatience, you name it. 

The truth is, that once a business owner has done the work to develop the elements of their brand strategy, everything else falls into place. They suddenly understand what benefits are more valued by their customers, how they need to communicate in an effective way. Their voice and tone becomes clear and they know how to project themselves online and offline. 

Here I am going to talk about the main elements when developing your Brand Strategy which you visualize in this slide I use during my brand strategy sessions. 

Phase I - Messaging Framework

This is the groundwork for the definition of a brand. It means thinking, talking and writing down everything that helps us define the brand. My clients and I spend time going through a series of questions and discussing and highlighting elements from the customer side, from our internal capabilities and from the competitive landscape. Ultimately you should be able to clearly articulate the following elements:

  1. Brand Promise / Brand Statement - What is your brand about? A short statement that conveys what you do.

  2. Brand Positioning - It is that which defines you, your business, your brand. It must be specific enough to differentiate you from the rest.

  3. Brand Pillars & Key Benefits - Describe the top selling points of your brand and are accompanied by tangible benefits for your audience. Look at your customers, your internal resources and your competition to define this. These will be the focus points of your communication strategy.

  4. Brand Story - Is there are relatable story behind your brand. How did the idea start?

  5. Target Audience - Who is your ideal customer and how best can you define them

  6. Brand Tone and Personality - Identify those adjectives that define your brand and that will set the tone of your communication.

  7. Mood board - I like to develop a mood board for each project, uploading the visual elements (colors, typography, lines, landscapes) that give a feel for the brand mood and aspirations.


Phase II - Brand Identity and Brand Guidelines

Once we have a clear blueprint of what the brand is about, we move to the design elements. In this phase, the designer will work using the brand messaging framework and the mood board as guidelines for developing any visual elements that will accompany the brand and the business in the different applications. This include:

a) Brand Identity: Logo and tagline, business collaterals, colors, typography, online and offline elements, signage and packaging. 


b) Brand Guidelines: a A document that guides the use and application of the logo, colors, typography and any online and offline material. Because this is so eye candy. Check out this great example from the brand identity website (you can also just jump to their instagram!)

Phase III - Brand Implementation and Communication Recommendations

In this last phase we talk about how the brand strategy should be implemented and we make recommendations as to what kind of marketing activities will work best for your brand. I will dive into this area in my next newsletter so that the take out for today can be about the elements of the brand strategy. 

Always thank you for reading! 

A

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  • Here is a summary of what Marty Neumeier has to say about brands on his book ZAG.

 

 

  • The book I am reading because I believe that brands and businesses should always be responsible for what they do.

#3 / assessing your creative business and defining your brand

Every time I meet with a new client or when I am having a conversation with a prospective client, the first thing we discuss is their business, what they are about, what do they offer that is different than everyone else. We look at their numbers, who is buying their products or services and what sets them apart from the competition. 

"More businesses would fare better if they did this analysis before working on all the visual elements that seem so urgent at the beginning."

I call this part of my consulting process: the business analysis phase. I want that both my client and I are clear on exactly what is that the business is about. Without this business understanding it is effectively impossible to work on the brand definition and it all the elements that belong here: the message, the brand colours, the typography and yes the website. 

For this I work through a set of questions with them. I call this the Business Analysis Consultation Questionnaire, you can access the published online version here anytime. In this analysis I have grouped the different sections I like to analyze to get a better idea of the business I am working with. The sections are 5: Goals, Business & Customer, Industry & Competition, Marketing and Skills & Resources.

For many of my creative clients this process is completely new to them but they soon realize the great benefits it has.

Why do I do this? I do it because Brand Direction is not about a logo design, or a colour  or choosing an typography. It is about a coherent, specific, clear and engaging message. A message that takes many forms: visual (images, logo, colours, fonts), verbal (content, wording, themes), and behavioral (interactions, service, relationships) and that cannot be defined successfully without doing all this prior work. 

And believe me, despite the fact that it sounds tedious (business analysis!) it is actually fascinating to work through it. When I talk to my clients about their business, when they answer these questions and when we brainstorm, I see how their energy lifts up and they are excited about it all over again. New ideas pop up and it becomes clear and easier to define their brand. 

More businesses would fare better if they did this analysis before working on all the visual elements that seem so urgent at the beginning. In fact, in most cases, all the elements of a good brand strategy stem from understanding the business and defining you mission statement or anchor statement as the brand expert Karen Tiber Leland calls it. 

I plan to guide you through this process using a number of steps that I use and that other strategic branding experts use and that include: 

  1. Defining your Mission

  2. Brand Proposition

  3. Brand Elements and Energy

  4. Brand Story

Follow along and send me any questions you have on this topic and feel free to use my questionnaire to analyze your business.

Thanks for reading!

Alessandra

links for thought

Sharing resources with the creative community

  • Can you differentiate between branding and brand strategy? Read on.

 

  • An interview about the process of defining your brand strategy - for creatives.

 

  • The book I am reading.

 

  • Finally, this airline is doing great at customer experience and it shows.

 

 

#2 / the business landscape for creatives

I was just reading Marketing 4.0 by Philip Kotler and thinking about the basic marketing books the same author wrote and that was a staple for any business & marketing students back in the 90’s and early 2000s. It talked about about the 4 P’s (Product, Price, Place and Promotion), the Marketing Mix and the Segmentation, Positioning and Targeting.

I will explain these very useful and still relevant concepts in another post, but for now I was looking at how this book has adapted to the changes in the marketing world where digital technology has been the major factor of change.

Today the whole landscape has changed, with new and diverse ways to produce, sell, market and distribute a variety of products and services that did not even exist 5-10 years ago.

Many creatives had to rely on having a store or a friend with a local store to show and sell their products. In many cases, starting costs were too high. Today, the digital world has allowed them to reduce the many start-up barriers and reach their customer directly.  I love hearing about those stories. The small maker who is now selling internationally and who gets picked up by a big store to show their products. I love what Anthropologie and West Elm are doing to promote local and small creatives. (Although I truly dislike that today it is West-Barn-Sonoma-Nation as all these brands are all owned by the same group … ughh)


I want to share with you today how the landscape for you and every creative entrepreneur has changed and why this is a good time for you to be doing what you are doing:

  • Our digital lives have exploded: Did you know that there are about 1.6 - 2bn people on Facebook every  month? And about 700 million on Instagram? Oh yeah.

  • Youtube is the reference guide for celebrities for kids between 13-18 years old. That is Youtube celebrities. Not Hollywood.

  • Because of the additional digital exposure and the sharing of “finds” by regular people, the market is shifting from high volume mainstream brands to low volume niche ones.

  • Social groups have the power. Customer communities have a voice and are not afraid of sharing their thoughts and opinions about brands. In fact random conversations about brands are now more credible than advertising.

  • The online world has redefined the way people interact, enabling new ways to establish relationships independent of geographic locations or demographic connections. It allows for collaboration, which is key for creatives. How many of you have found a talented friend / collaborator online?

  • Trust is a big factor. Many of these smaller brands have created a circle of friends amongst their clients. Customers know that they can contact the brand if there is a problem with the product or the service and they usually work together to find a solution.

  • When buying, customers are driven today by both individual preference and a desire for social acceptance or conformity. Even if we do not want to admit it, most of us like that other people like what we have chosen to purchase. The sharing aspect of our digital connectivity has strengthen this need.

  • Finally, the connected customer today is young, urban and moves around a lot. They are used to things being instant and time efficient. They search for products on their phones constantly, comparing and researching. And despite their internet savvy, they love to experience things physically  - think Casper mattresses)

  
What does this mean to you? As a creative entrepreneur you'll want to:

1) Understand your market: who is your client? Where do they shop? Who are they influenced by? So you and more effectively and efficiently use your time and resources.

2) Ensure that you build relationships with your existing customers as they are both the source of referrals and repeat purchases. Your clients are your best ambassadors. Ask them, research with them and build your network that way.

 3) Use your social digital and offline platforms according to where your clients are. Not everybody needs to be on Instagram. Maybe your clients are more Facebook users, or like receiving emails or like face to face interactions. Find out and use that channel. 

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Sharing resources with the creative community

  • This article tells you that there is more to Marketing than Social Media.

 

 

  • Some basic but interesting insights on how to define your ideal customer.

 

 

  • Seek out one of your local communities. I am truly enjoying meeting many talented people here.

#1 / the creative entrepreneur

In a world where we often find ourselves surrounded by big corporate brands and chain stores, franchises and products that look the same,  I thank the creatives and small businesses for their presence, their tenacity and their uniqueness. 

The bread maker in your neighborhood, the pottery maker who takes the leap and starts selling her work, the florist who offers unique arrangements. The minimalist jewelry maker, the perfume maker, the graphic designer who launches a line of wallpaper

What all of these people have in common is their desire to create, their conviction and hard work. These creatives focus on an art form that they have cultivated or learned and from where they interact with the world , usually offering us all a different perspective and a different take on things.
 

     “Their goal is not consumerism or to see their product in every store but to bring a sense of satisfaction and joy to those who interact with their creations.”


Most of them are not looking for world or market domination, they are looking to be able to provide a more beautiful, more functional or more interesting product or service to the market and to their community. They usually want to source it responsibly, enjoy the process of creating and make a living.

What I love about true creative entrepreneurs is their desire to always be creating, but not to necessarily create more waste. Their goal is not consumerism or to see their product in every store but to bring a sense of satisfaction and joy to those who interact with their creations. 

These individuals are changing the physical and digital landscape, reclaiming them from big corporations. They have the support of society, because people have started to notice that good products and services come from people who are passionate about their art; think of Eileen Fisher and Yvon Chouinard from Patagonia but also the multi-disciplinary artist, the illustrators making cards and murals, the letterpress artist; all of them work hard to bring their art to us and they do it following their instinct and their passion. 

My line of work today means that I am surrounded by creatives who have ideals and who believe in different ways of doing this. I admire them and want to see them grow and achieve their goals. I also want to be able to contribute to the development and creation of smaller and meaningful enterprises because it makes our life and our world richer and more interesting.  

Are you a creative entrepreneur? Have you decided to go with your art and your passion to create a product or services that satisfy a need in a different way? If you are, or if you are thinking of doing that, thank you for the work you do.  I will be posting here once a month highlighting the work you do and sharing ideas and tips that may help you along the way.  

Alessandra  

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