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Re/Branding: A Step-by-Step Guide

Starting a branding or rebranding project can be overwhelming — there are many details to consider, and often multiple stakeholders to manage. Although we've worked on many of these projects for both early-stage startups and established organizations, we still find each project has unique challenges. This article will share the approach we take, deliverables at each milestone, and the tools we use. We hope this info can be useful for brand owners, marketers, agencies, and freelancers.

Step 1: Brand Strategy & Positioning

Brand Strategy & Positioning

As a first major milestone, defining the strategy and positioning for a brand is critical to laying the foundation necessary for all work to follow.

Start learning as much about your client as possible — be a great listener! This is the time to ask questions, and ideally you should develop a standardized questionnaire that will help you save time and ensure you don't forget anything. You'll need to understand who your client is, why they started their business, who their target customers are, their mission, their competitors, and their overall objectives. This can sometimes be overwhelming for clients, and they may not have all of the answers, but handhold and guide them through this process.

Collecting high quality input at the beginning, and truly understanding who you are working with, sets your project up for success. You need great quality input to provide great quality output. This information can be used later to help support your decisions.

Deliverable: Notion Report

Step 2: Brand Definitions

Brand Definitions

Based on the information collect, you need to organize, rewrite, edit, and refine to create a foundation of information. This info will become your brand definitions, and will consist of an official master copy for fundamentals including the brand story, mission, introduction, core values, value proposition, and messaging pillars. This piece of work is critical to be able to proceed creating a visual identity system that is rooted in meaning.

Deliverable: Notion Report

Step 3: Brand & Product Naming

Branding & Product Naming

Once you have a clear positioning statement and core messaging, you'll need to start with a great name. A great name can do a lot of heavy lifting for a new company, but creating one is extremely challenging these days due to unavailable domain names and protected trademarks. You'll need to get super creative here!

Creation of a relevant, memorable, catchy brand or product name will be extremely helpful for all marketing activities to come. A great brand or product name greatly reduces the effort required to make it sticky in the minds of target consumers. You need a name that will resonate with the target audience defined, and help differentiate the brand from existing competitors in the market.

Deliverable: Notion Report

Step 4: Visual Identity (Styling)

Visual Identity (Styling)

Now we've got to figure out the overall look and feel you want to convey when customers come in contact with the brand. This is the first impression, the most important part! We typically design of stylistic direction choices, guided by the development of stylescapes (curated mood boards that provide a compass for the visual direction). Create a few different options for clients to review and provide input on, with ideally 2-3 revisions on a selected choice. This major milestone represents much of the heavy design lifting, and sets the tone for the brand’s first impression largely based on color, typography, graphic, and photo elements.

Deliverables: Stylescapes Files in PNG

Step 5: Logo Design

Logo Design

Contrary to popular belief, a logo is not the most important aspect of your brand's visual identity. Don't get us wrong, it is a very important element, but it is not ultimately the first thing customers notice about your brand. They notice everything else — the overall ensemble.

You'll need to create a logo design that follow best practice principles for visibility and identification (not explanation). Let me restate: A logo should not explain, it should identify. We typically create 4-5 different logo concepts at this stage to get an idea of what resonates well with the client, and what we feel will be best suitable given the target audience. We would typically narrow to a few concepts and take a deeper look at how to develop the logo to best adapt and adjust it.

Eventually we wind up with a refined choice that will make sense and will have the flexibility to create logo variants necessary to support different kinds of communications across online and offline touchpoints.

Deliverables: Source & Rasterized Files in AI, PDF, & PNG

Step 6: Brand Book

Brand Book

It is important to put all of the brand fundamentals and visual identity system neatly in one place. This should be the master guideline necessary for internal and external teams to reference for how to apply the brand VI to different marketing communications. This guide should evolve over time as necessary, and it should like to usable brand source files and templates to be used as starting points to ensure consistent application across marketing materials.

Deliverable: Branded Book in PDF

Step 7: Brand Asset Kit

Brand Asset Kit

Organize everything in one cloud-based folder that can be shared internally and externally — a single source of truth. All final deliverables, source files and ready-to-go rasterized images should be organized in this asset kit that can be downloaded or used online. This kit includes fundamental building blocks (the DNA) for the brand: the brand book, logo, and visual identity (color, typography, graphics, photography). Getting organized about this will save tons of time in the future!

Deliverable: Source & Rasterized Files in Google Drive

Step 8: Business Collateral

Business Collateral

Use all of the rules and assets you've created so far to make templates the brand will invariably need to conduct business. These should be ready-to-go templates that can be easily edited and have the newly created brand look and feel.

Deliverable: Business Card in AI, PDF
Deliverable: Letterhead in Google Slides/Docs, PDF
Deliverable: Invoice in Google Slides/Docs, PDF
Deliverable: Email Signature in HTML, PNG
Deliverable: Presentation Template in Google Slides

Step 9: Branded Website

Branded Website

Bonus: Arguably the most important marketing communication tool brands have today are their official websites. This is the single location that consumers go to in order to learn more about a company, service, or product. It's where they make decisions, so it needs to be done right, as it is one of your main first impressions online.

Level typically creates branded websites after we finish a brand identity project. These websites include design, development, and deployment with a focus on selling, or collecting leads. We build sites on robust content management systems like Webflow, WordPress, or Shopify, with onsite SEO, backend data connectors, and a fully responsive (mobile-friendly) design.

Deliverables: Fully-Working Website & Backend

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