What are the 4 stages of the branding process ?

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A good branding design exercise should follow a clear process. This helps both the graphic designer and the client to move logically from start to finish, bringing understanding and clarity to the stages of the branding process.

The branding process I use for my clients is split into four clear stages ; Research, Create, Application and Delivery.

What are the 4 stages in the branding process?

Each stage of the process is carefully designed to make sure that we can work collaboratively to produce the best outcomes. You can see from the diagram above that the branding process is a logical journey : once each stage is complete, we are automatically ready to move onto the next one. This helps to keep the project moving.

In this article, I’ll take you through the stages of the branding process so that you know exactly what to expect when you work with me on a branding and identity project.

the branding process stage 1

Stage One : Research  

Research is a critical part of the branding process. It allows us to understand your market, your competition, the internal focus and the position of your current brand, if there is one. 

I split this stage into four separate areas :

External : Your customers
How do your customers currently view you ? Is your brand strong, or does it need to be more visible ? How well do you understand your target customers and what they are looking for ? How strong do you think your brand is within your wider community ?

Internal :  Your employees, stakeholders and investors
Your branding reflects the culture of your company. This means that the perspectives of your employees, investors and anyone else involved with your business are just as valuable as your customer insights.

Landscape : Your competitors
Identifying your competitors is a necessary step in your branding strategy. Knowing what they do well and not so well can give you opportunities to put your brand in a stronger position. It’s a good commercial exercise to undertake in any case – the more you understand your market and your position within it, the better placed you are to design your strategy and operations.

Branding audit
If you are rebranding, an audit of your current branding and marketing materials should be carried out to find out the strengths and weaknesses of the current design. This may also include speaking to some of the audiences above so that you can get a rounded view of the perceptions people have about your brand.

the branding process stage 2

Stage Two : Create

The research stage is an important influence on the creative process. Without thorough research the design process will lack focus. So once I have collected all the insights about your business, your market, your customers and your approach, we can make evidence-based decisions about the creative direction. 

This usually falls into two connected areas :

How you look
This is where I bring together the visually creative ideas that can represent your business. We will have talked about colours, design approach, likes and dislikes and perhaps some reference branding that you’d like me to consider. 

The output from this stage is usually three or four concepts, which is the optimum number of visuals to present. Some designers offer just one concept, which is far too narrow and doesn’t give you enough choice. On the other hand, some designers may offer 10, 20 or more concepts – this is far too many and makes decision-making an almost impossible task. 

In my experience a small number of carefully-thought-out concepts that translate our research into something tangible is the best way to keep your branding project focused and moving in the right direction. 

How you sound
Your brand voice is as unique as your visual identity. What you say and how you say it builds trust and establishes a uniform experience your customers expect from you. This is also informed by the research stage – understanding what your customers will respond to, how they like to be spoken to and how your competition uses their tone of voice to generate business. 

Your visual identity and tone of voice support one another, by having the same personality, so both these elements are developed during this stage.

This first stage involves conversation, collaboration and feedback. You may want to share the concepts with key members of your team and we usually work together to refine the chosen visual and tone identities so that you can approve it ahead of the next stage.

the branding process stage 3

Stage 3 : Application

Application means taking the approved identity created in stage two, and applying it to your internal and customer-facing materials. This is an important stage because it is where we make sure that your new identity is used consistently across all your assets.

Roll-out
Known as ‘touchpoints’, your current materials may include :

  • Website
  • Social media assets
  • Stationery
  • Brochures
  • Leaflets
  • Signage
  • Product design/packaging design
  • Advertising
  • Vehicles
  • Uniforms

Brand guidelines
For branding to work and have longevity, it must be applied and used in a consistent way. 

Brand guidelines – sometimes known as a style guide – specify how the elements of your branding – logo, colours, fonts and images – are applied to your marketing materials by designers, copywriters, marketers and anyone responsible for producing your company’s branded assets.

Tone of voice guidelines
Tone of voice guidelines can form part of your brand guidelines, or may come as a separate document. They are designed to help anyone writing for or speaking about your business to maintain a consistent tone. This may be writing for your website, your social media, a video script or speaking at a public event.

Tone of voice guidelines help you to see what language style is best for your business and what words are best to use. There may also be some agreed headline messages that help you to keep things simple. 

the branding process stage 4

Stage 4 : Delivery

Once the approved identity has been applied across your materials and assets, I deliver the final files. These include all the detailed information you will need to manage your branding on a day-to-day basis, or that you can hand on to anyone managing your brand. For example, if you are ordering corporate gifts, you’ll need to tell your supplier how to use your logo.

A repository of branding assets usually includes :

  • Logo 
  • Imagery
  • Templates
  • Branding guidelines
  • Tone of voice guidelines

Post-project support

Depending on the type of branding project, my involvement can either end at the delivery stage, or carry on as you add new materials to your business. This might include using the guidelines to design a brochure or to update product packaging for example. This gives you confidence in the consistent use of your updated or new branding, so that you can concentrate on growing your business.

HELLO, I'M DEAN

I'm a graphic designer helping you to reach your goals through branding and design.

If you're a marketer needing design support, a startup looking to shape the direction of your brand or an established business missing some brand clarity — I can help you.

Learn more…

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A good branding design exercise should follow a clear process. This helps both the graphic designer and the client to move logically from start to finish, bringing understanding and clarity to the stages of the …

HELLO, I’M DEAN

I'm a graphic designer helping you to reach your goals through branding and design.

If you're a marketer needing design support, a startup looking to shape the direction of your brand or an established business missing some brand clarity — I can help you.

Your Partner in Design.

Visual Identity Design
Brand Guidelines

Branded Visual Assets
Branding Audits
Design for Print
Design for Web
Social Media Assets
Consultancy

Email
[email protected]

Call
023 92 421 126

STUDIO HOURS
Monday – Friday
09.30 – 17.30

SOUTHSEA UK

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