Creative Processes Explained – The Branding Process

Creative Processes Explained

The Branding Process

Important to understand, often overlooked, commonly underfunded. Given the value a brand adds it is important to know the true power that  it can deliver. . .

In this post I wanted to touch on the role of process within the everyday business strategy. This may sound dull and the opposite of being creative, but it is in fact inherently important to pursue as it allows you to exceed, succeed and most importantly retrieve the aspired value from all of the effort.

Like anything we do in business there needs to be a start, middle and end, but in today’s digital world, the end is now an iteration, a key building block in the concept of continuous improvement and evolution. The middle is a series of milestones and the start is the planning. These fundamentals are building blocks across all processes in order to introduce, maintain, monitor, measure and finally improve.

As you can imagine it takes time to work through the process but by the end of the ‘iteration’ you’ll see it will have paid dividends. Again, important to understand this statement. The branding process is an investment in the future NOT a bottom line cost.

These thoughts aren’t anything new but you’d be surprised just how many people try to short-cut them, ignore phases or are actually unaware of them in the first place. This isn’t a criticism by any measure but as creative experts it’s as much our job to educate our partners on the process, as it is to deliver on the process.

So, enough with the pre-amble, let’s take a look at our first creative processes – The Branding Process.

The Branding Process

Creating a brand is so much more than just a logo or a signature and this is often misconstrued – there are memorable brands and there are iconic logos, two differing elements but important to each other none the less. The brand is in fact the underlying components that forge together to form the foundations of a business. Identifying and understanding these components internally is imperative for others to then follow, represent, build and grow. The architecture of a brand is what positions these components into logical places and spaces, such as hierarchies of information and channels of importance; what should be said where and when, even how it should be said.

Before you kick off your next marketing drive, be sure you have your brand house in order as business and brand can often become misaligned.

Now, if you’re starting out from scratch and creating something new, then congratulations first and foremost; the branding process can be truncated, but there is still a process to follow. The important thing here is that there is less consideration needed to any existing brand asset value; there is less cut-through and engagement and so less disruption to anyone that will be on the receiving end. Likely also there are no internal teams to advise, support, coordinate and control.

If you’re an existing brand then the process needs further thought. Let’s reflect on your existing teams, departments, clients (new and old); deals in play, past and future innovations, products and services; as the last thing you want is to turn any audience away as well as disrupt any potential revenue. Before getting too deep into the detail however, ask yourself – design or redesign? You don’t always need to start with a blank sheet of paper, sometimes all you need are a few tweaks, an evolution, that can lift and freshen a brand. This not only saves money but it also gives reason to reconnect with audiences.

Let’s look at the high level process:-

01 Vision

We kick off the branding process with an audit and review; here we get to know you and your business, the whos, whats, wheres, whys? We find out your vision, your target audiences as well as your current challenges, objectives and goals. It’s important that we align our thinking to yours; after all no one knows your business as well as you do…

We don’t just look internally but also externally; who are your competitors, what are they saying and who to, what makes them successful and how do they differ? This level of thinking and analysis helps to set the scene, as well as build a picture of where you want to be.

Next up, we ask what do we need to do in order to get there? From this we can build the strategic approach and roadmap that is tailored to your business as well as set of circumstances.

02 Strategy

The strategy is launched off the back of the research. A time to consolidate views, messages, goals and visions for the future. This brings clarity to values as well as direction. The strategic positioning can form the very platform that everything else extends from.

03 Design

This iterative stage is where the vision and strategy begins to translate into practical, tangible, creative visual solutions. Not only does it start with a meaningful identity, it grows far beyond this, across every facet of business, every asset even; and don’t think that it stops just there.

If you’re branding or rebranding, you may well be looking to enter a new market or reposition and realign your brand; it’s not uncommon, and so if this is the case then the chances are you may also find it valuable to review your business processes, service offerings, products as well as revenue channels as these are all impacted by branding, positioning, engagement and innovations.

04 Application

Here is where you plan and execute roll-out. Naturally this phase is different for all as it can be as quick as a switch or be phased over time, geographies and markets. No matter your position you need to think both internally and externally and ensure you have all of the relevant material, collateral, guides and assets ready to support your business’s transformation and transition into a new way of thinking and, quite possibly, new ways of working.

So, why is this branding process so important?

The process is what drives internal stakeholder buy-in as well as external means to go to market. The objective of the process is to strive toward a memorable, identifiable, trusted brand that is over and above consistent and authentic. Consistency is critical in order to build trust, fostering long-term customer engagement as well as lifelong customers. So it is our belief that the process is a kick-start that optimises businesses, galvanizing the team today but preparing it for tomorrow.

At Digital Creative, we understand the challenges that change can bring to an organisation, but also the many benefits.

We’re here to help you navigate through the process ensuring focus is maintained on the end prize.

If you need Branding expertise or need to transform your User Experiences, then we want to hear from you! 

Get in touch or call +44 1491 913 873. Let’s get this conversation started!

Outsourced or In-House?

Outsourced or In-House?

Which Strategy is the right Strategy?

A common debate yet natural one for businesses of all sizes - here we discuss the what's, where's and why's . . .

This subject as it is a common question that passes the mind of most marketers, brand teams, business owners and likewise other agencies themselves – it’s a relevant topic of conversation, right now, in today’s volatile market where recruitment market is a challenging and time consuming task. There is scope to use this thinking across almost all areas of the business – whether its marketing, design, brand teams, HR, finance, sales or other areas of the business operation. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on brand and design teams.

Over the last couple of years, the Covid-effect has really fast-tracked changes across the market far and wide. A few years back if you were recruiting for your team you’d look locally, certainly within an area of your office so they can be present at a desk. During Covid this was tipped on its head; you could now look anywhere as everyone was at home – the talent pool opened up nationwide. The impact of this however was that there was a re-balancing of salaries as recruiters levelled the playing field. Recruiters would even pitch the concept of recruiting in Europe. During Covid times this worked, but as society got back to some normality, hybrid working emerged as the balanced middle ground. With rising travel costs, fuel costs as well as every other cost, people need to be given options – businesses need to make in-house teams attractive propositions to join, and now even higher salaries for them to stay. Is this a sustainable proposition? For many, no. Only those with deep pockets can ride this out.

An in-house team can be tricky to start, grow and maintain. Outsourcing takes away the headache. In fact you leave all of those head-aches to the outsourced team to worry about. You can focus on your business. No politics, infrastructure costs, ongoing training and continuous management, saving on your bottom line monthly costs – sounds good, right?

It may sound as though I’m being biased, owning an agency myself, but I’ve just exited a business where we outsourced to a team in Europe, and then transitioned to in-house; all part of the evolution of the business and its needs. So my views extend from that of experience. I actually began my career in-house, before starting my first agency, and then growing a SaaS business, a much larger organisation than even my own agency.

There are times in the business lifecycle where there is merit for either as well as both!

So when is the right time and what are the benefits? Conversely what are the downfalls?

If you’re starting out, then you want to manage costs tightly. Outsourcing is perfect at this phase, as long as you pick the right Agency (link to other blog), then you can keep everything transparent, making sure you keep project briefs tight and direct. Finding a partner that can solve both short- and long-term situations is the ideal – similar to our own working collaboration with Bremont.

When is the right time to build in-house?

Unfortunately, there is no single right answer here, but as a business owner or team manager, intuition will tell you when it is right. A lot depends on the skillsets that are already baked into the business, therefore determining what other skills are required. Volume of work is another contributing factor as to when you should bring a team in-house.

We typically see the business lifecycle engagement trend looking like this –

‘X’ marks the spot?

Above we see a couple of different business evolution models. X denoting outsourcing and Y in-Housing

The blue shows a traditional activity line. The initial start requires huge efforts to bring the brand together, but we see at the first Y, that this is a potential opportunity to hand over to an in-house team. The day to day expansion and rollout phase can be managed but eventually leads to a stall. At this point brand typically need re-invigorating, re-aliging and even re-positioning, ready to go again.

The purple line is typical when a product is involved. There will be huge efforts into the development of the product, manufacturing, development, testing and so focus can be on the experience before the brand.

The orange line represents a business with continued sustained growth. Here the in-house with the right skill set bridges the trough, facilitating the consolidation of the brand, building value, before reaching the secondary growth phase.

Let’s look at the trend. Outsourcing can play an important role in many stages of a business’s journey. From initial start-up to first growth you can tap into resource as and when you need it. When you do start to grow, the day-to-day volume starts to grow; whether it be proposals, pitches, presentations or general marketing support, there will be a need for some form of creative design resource – this is when it can work. If you’re a SaaS business and have a product team, then your roadmap may be too stacked to take on other design functions as well.

Similarly, if you have an in-house design team, then they may not have the right skillset to take the job on.

In-house resource comes into its own if you have long term programmes to run or if the creative framework has been delivered, which can now move onto rollout and consolidation. It is often more cost-effective at this stage to bring the brand in-house for roll-out – the strategic phases close and the executional stages take over.

So to conclude this debate on outsourced vs. in-house: both work, both can be effective, both can deliver results that the business needs; it does however boil down to where you are in your business lifecycle, what skills you have already embedded into your team and what skills, disciplines, strengths you identify you need to bring in, in order to solve your design challenge.

At Digital Creative, we understand the lifecycle and have experienced the different stages first hand.

We can help you identify the skillset you need to plug and we can be an agile partner to expand and contract as you move through your own business evolution.

If you need Branding expertise or need to transform your User Experiences, then we want to hear from you! 

Get in touch or call +44 1491 913 873. Let’s get this conversation started!

Which Agency is right for you?

Which Agency is right for you?

Agency 'A' or Agency 'B'?

There are nuances between agencies, each offering slightly different skill sets, solving different kinds of customer challenges.

In recent discussions with clients, prospects and also at events it has been interesting to articulate where Digital Creative sits, what we do and what our core strengths are.

In this post I thought it would be prudent to articulate the answers as you can get confused with the different agency types around… To help you find the right partner and to help you assess if Digital Creative is the right partner for you I’m going to dissect the Design landscape and look at the types of agencies, the services they offer and the types of clients they typically partner with.

Advertising Agency

Advertising Agencies focus on promotion, therefore supporting the concept, creation and management of campaigns; whether it be for TV, Radio, print, online.

Service offering:

  • Content Creation – photography, content, design
  • Media Planning – across all targeted mediums
  • Impact Analysis – results and optimisations

Advertising Agencies can work with a multitude of business types, large and small.

Branding Agency

Branding Agencies focus in on the origination, creation and launching (as well as re-launching) of brands, whether it be a product or a service. Their primary goal is to convey an organisation’s DNA in order to help them connect with their target audiences, maintaining consistency and impact in order to build trust – driving positive cognitive responses.

Service offering:

  • Market research – competitor analysis, core proposition base, DNA
  • Brand planning – Architecture and Identity
  • Design – brand assets across all mediums
  • Advertising – cut-through campaigns that spread the word

Branding Agencies work with businesses of all sizes but their engagement typically occurs in three stages of an organisations roadmap.

  1. Start-Ups – starting from scratch and need substance and stand out to go to market
  2. Mis-alignment – the organisation has evolved, but the brand is years behind
  3. Plateaued – the business has stalled and needs and injection of some new to get it restarted

SEO/Copywriting Agency

Copywriting Agencies focus purely on content creation. Their core goal is to drive engagement through posts, case studies, thought leadership pieces, whitepapers, digital downloads and more. The content is tailored and structure in a way that it drives conversion.

Service offering:

  • Content Creation – copy, images, ebooks, newsletters
  • SEO

Copywriting Agencies can work direct or through other agencies but can be valuable to businesses of any size.

Creative Design Agency

A Creative Design Agency offers a broader mix of disciplines across marketing, advertising, strategy as well as design.

Service offering:

  • Strategic planning for brand, content, marketing, socials and advertising
  • Content Creation for blogs, case studies, copy, photography, video, presentations, brand, websites
  • Ongoing Communications – PR and Marketing

Creative Design Agencies usually partner with large organisations that have the budgets to invest in more complex and longer term design programmes.

Digital Agency

Digital Agencies partner with you typically to increase traffic, generate new inbound leads and engage new prospects via your website, email or social media. They assess your business plan and objectives and implement strategies accordingly.

Service offering:

  • Content Creation – images, videos, posts across multi-channel distribution
  • SEO – links and content optimisation
  • Email Marketing – targeted campaigns and promotions
  • Social Media – building audience trust
  • Website Design – building simple journeys that convert more leads

Digital Agencies typically work with SMEs. Businesses that are too small to recruit in-house, but need a proactive focus on lead generation.

Digital Marketing Agency

Digital Marketing Agencies focus on the end-to-end funnel experience therefore linking a variety of disciplines together from brand roots and origination, through to ongoing promotional campaigns.

Service offering:

  • Market research
  • SEO
  • Content Creation – video, image, graphics, copy
  • Campaign Management
  • Email Marketing
  • Events
  • Media Planning
  • Media Buying
  • PR
  • Website Design
  • Web Development

Digital Marketing Agencies partner across industries and business types but usually engage in the larger enterprise space where the budgets are available.

PR Agency

PR Agencies (Public Relations) typically manage reputations – controlling the message to the public about the brand, its values and its associations.

Service offering:

  • Media relations (traditional print and digital)
  • Social Media management
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Experiential events
  • Exhibition Management
  • Press Launches
  • Promotional events (sampling etc)
  • Campaign Management
  • Crisis Management (e.g. Product recalls, factory closures etc)

PR Agencies tend to work with businesses of all sizes as they have strong relationships with the media and understand how to pitch stories/ideas that gain coverage.

Product Design Agency

A Product Design Agency, in a digital sense, focus on creating software products that solve key business challenges. They manage the entire product design process, from origination through to development and delivery.

Service offering:

  • Product Design – concept evaluation, design, wireframing, prototyping, MVPs, final build
  • UX Research – audit and research

Product Design Agencies work across Industries as well with Start-ups and Enterprise clients.

Software Development Agency

Software Development Agencies typically focus on solving specific business challenges through the development of custom software solutions. They cover a range of areas from desktop and mobile to web-based and cloud. The end solutions can be large or small and can be at the centre of another businesses core proposition, like a SaaS product.

Service offering:

  • Software Development – web apps, hybrid, native, Spa
  • Dev Ops – IT operations management
  • Digital Transformation – process analysis and optimisation
  • Quality Assurance – testing strategy and automation
  • Continuous Deployment & Integration – automation services

Software Development Agencies work with businesses of all sizes and industries. Their skillset in technology is relevant to every business in the modern day world.

Social Media Agency

Social Media Agencies focus on driving revenue for businesses through lead generation, using only Social Media platforms.

Service offering:

  • Content Creation – videos, imagery, copy
  • Media platform management
  • Pay Per Click (PPC) – Facebook, Google Ads, Instagram etc.

Social Media Agencies usually partner with smaller businesses where there is typically no internal resource but realise there is a need for a voice in niche or local markets.

UX/UI Design Agency

UX/UI Design Agencies focus on the development of intuitive and accessible brand experiences. They structure products/services and other complex information into digestible, meaningful journeys that connect with your users.

Service offering:

  • Branding – identity, origination, ideation
  • UX/UI Design – web apps, mobile apps
  • Website Design – websites, landing pages

UX/UI Design Agencies work across Industries as well with Start-ups and Enterprise clients.

Digital Creative

Digital Creative is not your ‘A’ typical Design Agency. We’re a balanced hybrid blend of the critical skills that are needed in the here and now. We design captivating Brand Identities and deliver dynamic Digital Experiences for innovative organisations, entrepreneurs and enterprises alike.

We’re hands on experienced professionals who work directly on your projects and products. We’re the experienced in-house team that simply work remotely in your business. We don’t delegate or hand over, we come with a team that can deliver for you.

Our services:
  • Branding
    • Discovery
    • Strategy
    • Research and Positioning
    • Personality and Tone of Voice
    • Brand Identity
    • Palette and Image
    • Typography
    • Illustration and Graphics
    • Brand Collateral
    • Guidelines and Brand Books
  • User Experiences
    • UX and Market Research
    • Information Architecture
    • Wireframes
    • UX Design
    • UI Prototypes
    • SaaS Product Design
    • Product Redesign
    • Feature Design
    • Add Ons and Extensions

Our partners

We partner with businesses of all sizes, from Start-ups to Enterprises. Typically if you don’t have a specialised internal design team, or you have a blocked roadmap then we can step in and help bridge the gap.

If you need Branding expertise or need to transform your User Experiences, then we want to hear from you! 

Get in touch or call +44 1491 913 873. Let’s get this conversation started!