If the purpose of branding is to facilitate relationships that create emotional-value, then the way you go about developing your brand matters.
No matter what you’ve been told, what you’ve read or even what you’ve seen; there is no magic methodology, no silver-bullet or thaumaturgic process that will produce your brand. A brand is an imperfect, living, breathing organism, and each one takes a commensurate imperfect living, breathing, approach to it’s development.
A branding process is a systematic series of actions directed to an end of creating a “brand.” Typically this process is guided by some set of principles, tools and practices to meet a particular batch of deliverables. Processes are great at producing manufactured, impersonal and relatively predictive outcomes. Branding processes demonstrate a well thought out, defined, repeatable approach to solving a particular problem.
In fact, that’s the whole point of a process. To create a product that is consistent in shape, size, composition and aesthetic. Processed foods. Processing plants. Processing software. All are designed to take something imperfect and raw and magically turn it into something polished and uniform.
A framework, on the other hand, is a loose and flexible structure which leaves room for other practices, ideas and tools to be included. A framework is a real or conceptual structure intended to serve as a support or guide for the building of something that expands the structure into something useful.
A branding framework is a collection of interrelated and overlapping concepts. It guides your research, hypotheses, experiments and rationales in your brand development, determining what things you will measure and what types of validation you will look for. The framework tends to guide what you notice and what you don’t notice in your brand development. In reality, a framework defines the sandbox you’ll play in.
Branding Process vs Framework
Branding agencies tout their proprietary processes. Numerous “Our Process” portions of branding agencies’ websites usually herald their ability to make branding as simple as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They boast about their skill in manufacturing you a perfect brand.
Even the concept of what a brand is gets boiled down to a set of deliverables: brand positioning, brand story, millennial strategy, brand architecture, brand identity system, brand promise, etc. A living, breathing, organic feeling (a brand) is reduced to a checklist in the hands of a process.
Yet branding isn’t about a process…and isn’t supposed to be easy. These empty check boxes only produce carbon-copy, manufactured, and over-processed – frankly – brandshit.
The truth is brand development is capital “D” Dirty. It’s about putting yourself and your team in a mindset of exploration, translation, cultivation and evolution. To build an extraordinary brand, it takes extraordinary amounts of hard work, intentionality and a lot of digging in the dirt.
That’s why a framework is so much more compelling than a process when it comes to brand development. Branding frameworks are powerful because they provide guidance while being flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions, new discoveries and breakthrough insights while utilizing vetted approaches.
Whereas processes create uniformity, frameworks create uniqueness.
If you want to create real relationships and real emotional-value, you have to break from uniformity and embrace uniqueness. Accept the fact that crafting your brand isn’t something that will come from a magic process, but instead something that will grow from the soil of a solid branding framework.
Work to develop your framework. Tinker and test. Play and putter. Dabble and doodle. Plant and prune. Allow yourself to live in a mode of regular discovery and exploration. This is what brand development is all about. Developing your brand is something that will be ongoing, imperfect and ever-evolving…and that’s just the way it should be.