Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know About a Strategic Branding Workshop
Last update: 13 April 2023 at 01:46 pm
Warning – this branding workshop article may provoke ideas and leave you wanting more. You know where to find us.
If you’re reading this, you either work for one or you own one… So let’s get started with a simple question, what exactly is a brand?
People tend to speak of “business” and “brand” as if they are interchangeable, but is this really true? Let’s run a quick thought experiment…
What comes to mind when you hear Patagonia, Red Bull, or Dove? Is it just clothing, drinks, and cosmetics? Or are there other things too? Emotions, feelings, places, people, or events?
When we look a bit deeper, companies aren’t just the products they sell, but the associations that consumers have with them. A “Brand”, therefore, exists in the hearts and minds of consumers, not on a spreadsheet – it’s what you’d say to your friends over tea and biscuits.
Patagonia doesn’t just sell outdoor clothing, they sell you the idea that shopping with them is the best way to reduce your impact on the planet.
Red Bull doesn’t just sell you an energy drink, they sell you excitement and adventure.
And Dove doesn’t just sell you cosmetics, they sell the idea that everyone should see the beauty in themselves.
But these associations didn’t just materialise overnight. Whether it’s Patagonia’s brand vision, Dove’s brand values, or Red Bull’s brand personality, a workshop was likely the first step of the journey.
So what is a brand strategy workshop?
A brand strategy workshop is an online or in-person creative space in which your team looks to build an identity and strategy to guide positive customer associations.
Through a series of collaborative exercises, you’ll uncover the different facets of your brand, using your values, proposition, and knowledge of your customer to differentiate yourself in the market.
The goal is to find your perfect product-market fit and then own that position in the market through a powerful emotional hook to your customer and a strategy that ensures favourability and growth.
Why invest in brand strategy?
Apart from being a welcome opportunity to take a pause and step back to find more purpose and fulfillment in your 9-5, it will benefit your business in a myriad of ways, and you’ll soon see a return on investment from;
- Growing your brand equity.
- Solidifying your authority in the market.
- Crafting a brand promise and story.
- Building a loyal customer base.
- Attracting new customers.
- Developing your brand voice.
- Creating radical differentiation.
- Attracting and retaining top talent.
- Owning a premium price point.
In essence, the R.O.I of brand strategy is that a strong brand attracts more customers, at a lower cost per acquisition, who are happy to pay a little more and a little more often. And who wouldn’t want that?!
How much does a brand workshop cost?
We don’t want to be all doom and gloom, but the right question to ask is what is the cost of not investing in your brand’s future strategy? Not winning in the market? Becoming obsolete? Not finding the right audience? Not reaching your true potential?
Well with us, we have made it simple. Our full-impact strategy process costs £8,000. That includes all of our 4 core workshops, a 20-30 page brand guidebook, a brand roadmap, and ongoing support for 3 years.
Or if you are brave enough and have the right internal team and expertise we have made some of our strategy processes “open source”.
One of our core missions at Overpass is to bring design thinking and brand strategy once reserved for billion-dollar businesses to all who are keen to listen. So many of the core exercises from our workshops are available for free in our brand blueprint at the bottom of this article.
How is a branding workshop different from a meeting?
Workshops don’t have defined outputs, they start with questions – which might seem strange in a world of structured meetings and bulletproof agendas. Yet, instead of a focus on productivity, they place their bets on enabling creativity.
Whilst it’s commonplace (and wise) to set goals and objectives for a workshop, a structure that’s too rigorous will prevent the creative freedom the brand-building process needs.
Questions and exercises are purposefully open-ended, with undefined targets that give workshop participants the freedom to express themselves authentically and without judgment.
The brand strategy process is less “get things done” and more “think outside the box”.
You might not see the results today or even next week, but a year down the line, you’ll be grateful for the strong foundations these brand positioning discussions have given you.
Who are they for?
You can view your brand like a living and breathing organism, changing as it interacts with the consumer world. As your business grows, it adapts, shapes, and develops in the minds of the consumer and in line with your strategy.
Whether you’re Alphabet Inc, a billion-dollar unicorn, an SME, or a self-funded startup, brand strategy workshops give that development direction and focus.
As a start-up, it will help you find your audience, communicate your message and ensure a product-market fit that will keep yourbusiness trading.
Further down the line, it can be the difference between a business that survives and one which thrives. A solid strategy helps harness emotional connections that build a community around your work and brand guidelines ensure consistency across all customer touchpoints.
For global corporations, a strong visual and linguistic identity not only enables you to stand out above the competition but allows you to scale and launch sub-brands that make sense to the consumer – Audible is an excellent example of this from Amazon.
Fun fact – Amazon actually started as an online bookstore.
It’s also your chance to go above and beyond profit, influencing the world in a tangible way.
For good, or for bad, how brands act shapes our cultural landscape. Anybody driven by anything other than making a profit should look to workshops for direction and growth. And guess what, if you are just driven by profit, it’ll help you too.
How do you know you need one?
If you answer yes to any of the following questions you might just benefit from starting your brand strategy journey.
- Does your name reflect your vision?
- Does your identity communicate your brand values to the world?
- Is it difficult to retain customers?
- Is it challenging to attract and retain top talent?
- Finding it hard to increase prices and increase profit margin?
- Has your business model changed in the last year?
- Have you moved into a new product or geographical area?
- Do you struggle to let people know what you do with clarity and ease?
- Is it hard to separate yourself from the competition around you?
Who offers them?
Brand strategy is best done collaboratively, with team members and opinions from every aspect of your organisation.
If you’re tight on budget, many common exercises and workflows can be found online, or even with one-man-band strategists, or in our brand blueprint.
However, if it’s within scope, working alongside a design or marketing agency is always preferable. Their teams work every day to unlock brand insights and create platforms and products with impact.
Not only will they be able to guide you through the process and ensure that logistics aren’t a boundary to creativity, but they’ll have teams who specialise in each aspect of the process.
That means strategists to help you target key growth areas, copywriters to craft your messaging, and designers and developers to bring your ideas to life.
Discover the most relevant agencies for your project based on your own specific requirements.Find an agency!
What will you explore in a brand workshop?
Whilst “brand strategy” takes many forms, we’ve found it’s easiest to explain when distilled into four main areas of focus. It’s an inward, outward, and future look at your brand and business.
Your products & customer
Here the goal is simple, you’re looking to achieve the best product-market fit. That means a deep dive into the products and services you offer and the emotional or functional benefits they bring to the customer.
This knowledge of your offerings combines with a detailed analysis of your target audience to determine your value proposition – a simple statement that showcases why a customer would choose your product or service over your competitors.
Your values & vision
But brands aren’t built on products, they’re built on stories. So what’s yours?
In this section of a branding workshop, you’ll look at the very core of your company. What do you and your team value? What’s your brand purpose? What drives you to wake up every morning and work overtime? And how can we turn your brand’s values into principles your team will live by?
If your brand exists in the minds of the customer, how can you begin to shape the way an audience sees you? As you consider your brand associations, you’ll work on developing an emotional hook to your audience and building community around your work.
Now that you’ve uncovered your “why” and the core values that underpin your brand, you can begin to look to the future.
No strategy is complete without a “Purpose, Mission, and Vision”. Both internal and external facing, these statements work to bring your team towards a shared goal and create a human connection with an audience.
Think Patagonia “We’re in business to save our home planet”.
Your competitors & position
Unless you’re the first to market with a new type of product, or you’re creating a new industry, chances are you’ll have to find more subtle ways to stand out amongst the crowd.
A key part of any strategy then comes from understanding your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses and using this knowledge to find gaps in the marketplace.
What are other businesses offering? How do they speak to their audience? Is there anyone with a particularly strong brand identity? Are there any commonalities between them?
You’ll use this data to plot the competitive landscape and explore new opportunities for growth and differentiation.
Your strategy & roadmap
Now it’s time to turn all of your thinking into actionable steps and strategy.
This involves taking insights of your product, customer, values, and vision to create goals, tactics, and business targets designed to keep you on track and moving toward your vision.
We find the traditional 10-year business plan too ambiguous, preferring to stick to a 3-year plan, with a particular focus on year 1. Perhaps your business needs to hire a new head of HR? Maybe the customer journey on your website needs redesigning. Or have you discovered a new product opportunity that could help you stand above the competition?
Concrete steps, with bi-annual brand strategy check-ins, will ensure that you make the most of the hard yards you’ve put in and your team is on the same page.
What does a branding workshop look like?
In some ways, a branding workshop is intentionally messy. It’s designed not to look slick, or intimidating. You want people to feel like they can put sticky notes wherever they please and whenever they feel compelled to do so. It’s one big brainstorm.
Take this competitor analysis for example. At its core, it’s a “what do you think about these guys” simple exercise. But as you can see there are hundreds of comments and notes, all of which point a brand strategist in the right direction and inform a clear design approach.
What does a branding workshop feel like?
It’s an odd question with a surprising answer, but a branding workshop can feel a little like a group therapy session.
We spend time getting introspective and sharing our beliefs, thoughts, and feelings in an open and non-judgmental way. As a studio we believe in order to uncover what your brand’s true purpose is, you need to start with your own.
Can brand strategy workshops be remote?
Yes, we have found it to actually be more efficient and cost-effective for our clients to run these remotely. Gone are the days of travel expenses and unnecessary air miles, hello digital whiteboards, and remote working platforms.
Will strategy influence my brand identity?
For larger companies with customer touchpoints across a number of mediums, it’s no small task to alter a brand identity. Perhaps the logo is on the side of thousands of cars? Or maybe the identity is plastered on billboards and social channels around the world?
Even where it’s not possible to develop a new identity the brand strategy process uses holistic insights from each aspect of the business to inform goals and tactics that promote differentiation and favourability in the market.
How long do they take?
Brand strategy is an ongoing process, our full strategy workshop series takes 6–8 weeks and our ongoing support can last a lifetime!
We keep our workshops to a few hours each, giving clients the creative time and freedom to find their brand’s personality whilst ensuring no one burns out. How deeply you want to dive into developing your brand and finding your place in the market is up to you.
But like we always say to our clients, creativity is an investment, not an expense.
What does this actually look like?
Pepper HQ was struggling to communicate its wide array of products and services to its audience in hospitality. They felt their value and offerings weren’t clear from the website and the tone of voice didn’t represent their brand.
Through a series of workshops, we moved towards a proposition focused on value, and user benefits, placing the user as the hero, not the brand.
With a fresh brand language framework and website re-design, we were able to achieve the following, just three months after launch.
- Organic search increase increased by 66%
- Average engagement time per session increased by 27%
- Conversions total – 82% increase
- Conversion rate – increased by 332.84%
- Views up 22.4%
What are your first steps?
Whatever route you choose, you should know this. You’ve made the first step towards a business with meaning, a business that can shape the culture around you. So congratulations, we wish you all the success in the world.