You're probably aware that your business needs 'good branding' in order to be successful. You'll almost certainly have brands which you particularly like or relate to yourself.
Knowing how to actually establish a brand, beyond picking a name and some colours, can be difficult.
Bringing in a brand strategist means that rather than worrying about what your brand should look like, you can unload your vision for the business, and they will give you the building blocks make that vision reality.
What is a brand strategist?
A brand strategist is a person who - as the title suggests - helps develop a creative brand strategy.
A brand strategy is the blueprint you follow in order to make sure that everything within your business is cohesive in message and tone.
Often branding is what takes place early in the business development process. It can feel like you're focussing on the nitty gritty - picking colours and type fonts.
But all of the brand development work is what eventually subliminally encourages customers to choose you over a competitor.
What will my brand strategist actually do?
They will have strong copywriting skills, and be able to generate the majority of the content for your website.
They will probably undertake a brand audit at the beginning of the project to get a strong understanding of your mission.
These brand audits help you to take an outside perspective on your business and see what a client sees when confronted by your brand.
This will usually speaking to as many of your employees as possible and collating a kind of mood board.
What sort of things does the brand strategy influence?
The short answer is: everything. The longer answer is that it will start with something called the brand architecture.
That's the most important part of the brand message, the core elements of the brand that you absolutely have to include. All of your communications must be consistent with your brand.
They will then weigh in on absolutely everything.
If you're a new brand they will be able to help with everything from the type font you chose to the graphic design you use, the art direction, the logo design, the writing that you publish, the website and your social media marketing.
In short, all creative output for your company will be cohesive if you follow the brand strategy.
Why does branding matter?
Branding is what helps a business to stand out from the competition. In a crowded market it's what makes you seem different.
If you're a new business, branding can help you seem more credible and established.
Great brand strategists make you seem more polished, slicker and more reliable. It helps to present a considered output to the world.
We know from market research on consumer behaviour that much of what makes a customer choose one company over another is the strength of their branding.
Why do I need a brand strategist?
The main reason you might benefit from working with a brand strategist is because they will help to tell your brand's story.
When you start a new business it can be overwhelming to know where to start, and some businesses find that they confuse their messaging by trying to tell too many stories.
A brand strategist will asses all your brand elements and bring them together in a cohesive narrative.
In developing your brand you may well find that you identify who you are and what your mission statement is.
Why is a freelance brand strategist better?
It's not a case of better or worse, but using a freelance brand strategist gives you more freedom and flexibility.
The bulk of the branding work for a new business will be done at the start. They can help with everything from brand naming to the marketing plan.
But once the brand architecture is complete, it can be managed on a day to day basis by the the rest of your marketing or creative team.
Using a freelance branding strategist is a perfect solution if you want expert wisdom on branding, but you don't want to commit to having a full time brand strategist.
You can also bring your freelancer back in intermittently to update the brand, refresh the brand, update your company on what competitors are doing and help with strategic thinking and development, again without having to hire a full time member of your company.
How do I identify the perfect brand strategist for my business?
The most important thing about hiring a brand strategist is making sure that they have a solid understanding of you and what it is you want to create.
You should provide a super clear job description for the entire span of the work you want done.
The job description should be extremely clear about your deliverables and expectations so that no-one is disappointed.
If you work with an agency such as Passionfruit, our experts can help set ambitious but reasonable expectations for your working relationship.
What questions should I ask a brand strategist before I hire them?
It's important to understand what experience they have as a brand manager.
How many brands have they seen to market?
Are they of similar industry background?
And more importantly, do you connect with their previous work in terms of the brand identity they created?
You should also ask them about their understanding of the industry in general and their view on current market trends.
While no brand strategist is going to want to give away a whole ideation session for free during an interview.
They should have at least a few top line ideas for how they would brand you and why their specific skills are right for this project.
It's also worth asking them what branding success looks like to their mind, to make sure that you have the same idea of good branding.
Will a brand strategist be able to create my brand single handedly?
In a word, no. Great branding doesn't happen in a vacuum. Most importantly they will need to spend time with you to understand your brand vision.
They will also need insight into any market research you have, or consumer behaviour insights.
Some brand strategists have artistic skills, but they probably won't be an art director or graphic designer, so will need to work with someone who can art direct the project.
The branding ideas will be generated by everyone in the company, but your brand strategist will be able to colate those ideas in the most appropriate way and turn them into a cohesive narrative.
How much input can I have on the brand?
As much or as little as you like - though this is something to discuss when you're picking the right brand strategist to work with.
Ultimately no-one knows your business as well as you do, so one of the challenges is making sure that you can articulate what is special about your business, about why clients will eventually pick you over competitors.
Your brand strategist will have their own idea, but you will have the final say on all things brand related.
After all - it's your business and your baby.
Are brand strategists only suitable for new companies?
Not at all. Brand strategist work as commonly on rebrands as they do initial branding projects.
Whether your company is six months old or sixty years old, it can be equally helpful to bring in an expert to help define who you are and how you communicate that to the world.
If you're an established company bringing in brand strategists for the first time you should think about what existing branding - if any - you wish to keep, and what you're ready to lose.
You should also set some clear goals for how your rebrand will work and what you want to achieve from it.
It may be worth doing some market research analysis before you rebrand to understand what people do and don't like about your branding.
What makes a great brand strategist?
A great brand strategist will have an insight into consumer behavior, and will be able to act as a translator between the brand and the customer.
Ideally your brand strategist will be able to create branding where every tiny detail, from your content marketing to your choice of website colour is telling your future client something about the business.
A really strong brand strategist will listen to everyone, asses and compile a wide variety of thoughts, and then offer many different ways of approaching your brand.
You should expect your brand strategist to be creative, agile, thoughtful, insightful and considered.
They will be open to feedback and will be delighted to explore creative problem solving.
How much does working with a brand strategist cost?
The specific price will depend on who you hire and how much work you want from them.
It's entirely possible to hire someone for one day of consultancy, to focus on what you've already got and make some overarching suggestions.
It's also possible to hire someone full-time for six months to oversee every single aspect of the brand's story.
If you feel that using a freelance brand strategist is the best choice for your business, drop Passionfruit a line. They'll talk to you about all of your specific needs, and help you establish a scope of work.
Passionfruit will then connect you with a selection of brilliant experts, and you'll be able to choose who you feel is the best fit for your project.