“My nephew went to school for graphic design. He did it for free. Can you fix it?”

“We took the initials of the shareholder’s kids to make the company name. It seemed like a good idea at the time. How can we make our company more professional?”

“We have outgrown the logo we started with, but it is on everything. We didn’t want to hurt the artist’s feelings. It is hurting our credibility. Can you help us upgrade?”

These are real quotes from real clients who came to me after taking the free and easy route to develop logos and brand identity. Are brand strategies the same for everyone? Why do some marketing approaches work better for some organizations and not others? What can be done to ensure that the brand strategy aligns with your organization’s goals and values?

The first thing is to determine who you are as an organization. The great Vince Lombardi often said to his star players, “This, gentlemen is a football.” His point was that sometimes along the road to greatness, we lose our way, and we need to get back to basics to get back on track. It is critical to find a marketing partner who understands the foundations of your business and the market in which you operate if sound marketing communications are to be successful. Different marketing partners take different approaches. You must know which approach fits your organization best. I have spent my career designing brand strategies and agree that keeping it simple is best– resulting in brand development that will meet your needs and grow with your organization.

The five-star agency approach.

Many high-profile advertising agencies rely on big billings to operate their agency. If you are a fortune five hundred company or have a hundred thousand dollars to spend on a logo design, this may be a good fit. Most agencies work in a team setting, with each team member assigned a task. All hours are billable hours. Most small to mid-size companies, municipalities, and 501(c)3 nonprofits who rely on donations do not have the luxury of an unlimited marketing budget. More and bigger isn’t always better.

Sometimes better is just better, which means finding the best marketing partner.

The pay-for-usage approach.

Some agencies that specialize in brand marketing offer pay-for-usage plans. This means that the agency owns the rights to the logo, and you just pay for it when you use it. It is kind of like renting your home or office furniture. Many small businesses are tempted to go this route if they do not intend to advertise or grow. It seems like a cost-effective plan when you are just getting started but it quickly becomes a burden to the budget as your business and marketing needs change.  Owning the rights to your logo and graphic designs is a smart business move that gives you ultimate control over your marketing materials.

The good enough for now approach.

Many start-up businesses rush to get their brand ‘out there’ and skip critical steps in building a strong brand foundation. Using a name, logo, or domain that seems good enough for now can be a costly and devastating approach to brand marketing. Hasty decision making that is not grounded in strong research and development can lead to expensive do overs and even lawsuits. Working with a marketing professional can help you avoid costly and careless mistakes that can undermine the success of your organization.

The art first approach.

A rookie mistake in the art of brand strategy is to find artwork that looks great and then contort the marketing strategy to fit the art. Using online templates, or art from previous design projects that look good at first glance may not be the best path to take for sound brand strategies. Design should be purposeful and intentional and should never lead the marketing strategy of an organization, but rather goals and objectives must be developed before ever creating designs.  A critical process to fully understand your business goals, within the context of the market in which you operate, will build a strong foundation for functional design. 

The strategic foundational approach.

I take a different approach to strategic marketing and corporate identity than most advertising and marketing agencies. Understanding the goals and strategies of your company is crucial to designing effective strategic programs to help you meet your goals. I bring a long successful track record of brand marketing that can help guide you through this process. Branding is so much more than clever logo designs. It is truly the foundational cornerstone of everything your organization does and becomes the outward facing representative of everything you do.  Branding touches everything within an organization. Not only marketing materials like stationery, brochures, and newsletters, but billboards, vehicles, and signage, but other critical marketing decisions like tagline and PR as well as social media and web presence are all affected by strategic corporate identity decisions. Reviewing history, assessing current situation analysis, and understanding desired immediate and long-term outcomes can help successfully develop a strategic marketing process that will meet needs for years to come.