Framework Branding


The Balance of Branding

The Balance of Branding

Every generation grows up with at least one memorable brand. Those brands become iconic as they are embraced and embedded in the culture, many surviving longer than the business itself. The framework of a brand is essential to its growth and survival.

Brand longevity relies on a connection to its roots and the ability to evolve with time and business growth. Without change, a brand will stagnate and die. With too much change, away from where it began, a brand gets stretched out of shape and falls away from its customer base.

Business growth is the easiest indicator to recognize when it’s time to refresh a brand. When you are ready to go after new markets or grow your product offerings in a new direction, your brand needs to flex with you. Evolution of the brand helps knit new parts of your business together so all aspects benefit from and contribute to the strength of your brand.

If you evolve your brand too far from its roots, it may go spinning out of control. Change is important, but so is change management. You may not realize the value of your brand legacy, but your customers will miss that connection when it’s gone.

Increasing pressure on business owners to expand their reach to new marketing platforms (Tik Tok, X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram), and constantly changing advertising channels with new streaming formats, create an urgency to stay in front of the trends. The key is to maintain a connection to your brand’s history through all the changes.

Is your brand in good shape?
Pizza Hut is an excellent example of a brand twisted out of shape until it was no longer recognizable. If you grew up in the 1980s, you probably remember the sights and smells of the old Pizza Hut restaurant. Families sat in those wooden booths with big red plastic cups of soda waiting for a hot pan pizza to be delivered to the table while children amused themselves in the adjacent arcade. You can probably still smell the combination of simmering sauce and baking pizza coming out of the kitchen and remember those family dinners.

That’s the legacy that Pizza Hut had with its brand and how it connected to consumers. That was the essence, the connection with its audience, and the brand feel that ultimately rolled into other brands, setting a standard for franchise pizza concepts. Ironically, Pizza Hut could still be achieving that, if not for losing sight of who they were, how to translate that for new audiences, and understanding the importance of maintaining a legacy, versus changing everything about themselves in pursuit of a new audience.

Today, Pizza Hut is more of an option than a standout brand, one of many half-time choices among Papa Johns, Domino’s, Marcos, or any neighborhood place delivering a good pie. They are primarily a mobile app, with coupons and quick delivery, usually connected to a Taco Bell or a KFC, with no trace of the four walls or even the concept of a “hut.”

Certainly, today’s mobile audiences look for quick and efficient solutions, but that doesn’t mean the legacy of a brand can’t withstand changes while holding onto its roots – the framework it originally built. You don’t necessarily need those four walls, but you do need the vision to communicate what your brand stood for while translating those brand values for a new audience.

Will you take a balanced approach to brand evolution?
Darden Restaurants, owner of dining chains such as The Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Olive Garden, is taking the long view in its marketing strategy instead of relying heavily on the shorter-term strategy of marketing promotions. They are focusing on the importance of their brand, its further growth with audiences, and most importantly the experience that customers both remember and will remember with each visit.

The concept is simple. Remain true to the core values of what built your brand at the start – your framework. The need to adapt will always be necessary, as promotions, technology, audiences, and communication platforms will undoubtedly continue to change. The essence of who your brand is should only evolve, not change completely.

Remaining true to your brand values should be the key for any brand looking for continued growth, not just sustainability. The relationship between consumers and companies is the core of success with any initiative or campaign; the creation of a bond that emotionally engages audiences is what makes your brand a choice, not just another option.

The bottom line is that if you aren’t connected to those consumers on a deeper level, you become just an option versus their choice. So while we may no longer have the days of freshly-baked pan pies, endless arcade tokens, organ music, or even those big red plastic red soda cups, we can still have the connection and loyalty to a brand that was built upon those pillars.

How will you evolve your brand without losing touch with its original framework? Let’s start with a brand audit to uncover your roots and sketch out a natural evolution for your brand.

Does Your Brand Need a Refresh?

Does Your Brand Need a Refresh?

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day or running your business and neglect your branding. You put a lot of effort into developing your brand identity, but just like your website, it is not a set-it-and-forget-it element of your business. (Do you know any parts of your business that truly work that way?)

It’s kind of like painting your house. The new paint looks fresh and clean. But how long does that freshness last? When do you need to update it with the next new coat of paint? You look at your house every day. Will you notice when the luster wears off?

How do you know when it’s time for a brand refresh? Ask yourself these five questions:

1. Is your brand identity visually inconsistent?
Wherever your brand appears, in print or online, even on t-shirts, it should look the same. It should be rendered in the same way with a consistent color palette. The visual consistency is part of what helps people identify your brand and connect with your business. Over time and without strong guidelines and strict enforcement, your brand starts to lose that visual consistency. The font may vary between mediums or the primary color could be off.  

2. Are your services noticeably different from your competitors?
You may not be the only business in town that builds treehouses, but a strong brand identity requires that your company stand out in some way from the competition. Consumers have several choices in the marketplace. What will make them choose your company over the others? If the answer to that question is not clear, it may be time to refresh your brand.

3. Does your brand align with your values?
It’s easy to get off course as you’re growing your business and focusing on increasing revenue. Maybe you established your brand on a value of long-term relationships, but then you got really good at selling one-off services. The disconnect between your brand that promotes the value of long-term relationships and your marketing efforts that pitch quick deals will eventually slow business growth.

4. Are the multiple divisions of your company tied together with branding
Growing a business with multiple departments or coordinated divisions of services takes dedication and focus. You may wake up one day and realize your branding does not accurately reflect the relationships among various parts of your business. You must first draft an organizational chart that defines the relationship between those various parts. Then, it is time to refresh your branding to reinforce those relationships for your team as well as your customers.

5. Are your customers confused about your offerings?
If you get a lot of calls and emails asking for clarification, your branding needs to be refreshed. Brand visuals need to reinforce your business values and suggest the type of services and products you offer. Your treehouse building business does not have time for too many inquiries about buying shrubs and bushes, for example. Refreshing your branding can help eliminate customer confusion and simplify your marketing efforts.

Branding is as fluid as your business itself. It needs to flex and bend with changes in your offerings, your customer base, and your industry. A solid branding system will allow some flexibility, but beyond a certain point, it’s time for a refresh. Your current brand might be able to absorb a few new product or service launches. Or, it may remain solid for several years, depending on how your company grows during that time. Keeping up-to-date with your branding will make your marketing efforts easier and more effective.

How to Create a Powerful Brand Identity

How to Create a Powerful Brand Identity

If you remember the sneaker wars of the 1990s, you understand how important a brand can be. Nike emerged the winner, and you may not remember the brand they ultimately beat out. Professional athletes took sides and even want-to-be Saturday amateurs pledged their allegiance by sporting their brand of choice.

In the previous decade, Apple kicked-off a brand war in the home computer industry. To this day, most computer users clearly identify themselves as Mac or PC, a phenomenon that advertisers seized on in the early 2000s with the “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” ad campaign.

You’re not selling sneakers or computers, but developing powerful brand identity can help you beat out the competitors in your market. Brand identity can become the framework for your marketing strategy, driving growth in your business. Here are the actions you’ll need to take to develop a powerful brand identity:

Research first.
Good marketing strategies are data-driven, so building a brand identity needs to start with research. Research your market, your competitors, and your customers. Understand how your products and services compare to what customers are looking for and what competitors are offering. Figure out what customer needs are underserved in your market. Brand positioning and marketing strategy will be based on your research results.

Establish business values.
Knowing what product or service you will offer is one important part of developing your brand, but an equally important part is understanding your company’s values. Figure out what is important to you as a business owner because you’ll want your brand identity to convey that to potential customers. Maybe you build pools because you want to bring a little fun to everyone’s backyard. You develop a work environment that incorporates a fun vibe to share this value with your employees, and they bring it to your customers.

Define your ideal customer.
Creating a customer persona will help refine your audience and your message. Take some time to understand who you want to sell your products and services to. What are their demographics? What are their lives like? What problem will your company solve for them? How will you solve it better than any of your competitors? You can sell your services to anyone who is willing to buy, but when you target your marketing efforts on one specific persons, the results will be better.

Strike a tone.
Will your brand be fun, serious, helpful, playful…Determine what style your brand will exhibit. Your tone should be something that resonates with your ideal customer. Think about how serious or professional your communications will be with your customers when you are explaining your products and services. A fun or playful tone might be appropriate for your pool services, but if you provide fire and water restoration services, a more serious voice would work best.

Write your brand story.
Every brand has a story. That’s the part that customers want to connect with. Where did your company come from? How has it evolved? If your business is new, your brand story goes back before its conception to when you first had the idea to create the brand. Consider your motivation and your personal history that led you to launch your brand. Your brand story will connect your business’s values to your product and service offerings. It explains your “why” to potential customers. When that “why” resonates with them or they can identify with your story, you’ve made a long-term customer.

Get visual.
Colors and images can tie your brand directly to your target audience’s emotions. Establish how you want them to feel when they encounter your brand and find a way to represent that visually. Images can be powerful communication tools – think about how smiling faces make you feel or fluffy puppies. Develop a look and feel for your brand that reflects your values and the tone of your brand.

You started out  building a business, but building a brand is a more compelling pursuit. A powerful brand identity will attract your ideal customers and keep them engaged in a long-term relationship with your business.

The Goal of True Advertising

The Goal of True Advertising

Clients come to us looking for marketing or advertising, two terms that have become synonymous in the modern business vernacular. A business owner comes in asking for digital marketing, for example, and our first question is always, “What is your goal?” It’s important to clarify the goal before we move forward with a strategy. You’ll understand why later in this article.

As our culture grows, our target audiences expand, and most importantly, businesses’ needs for connecting with an ever-changing marketplace increase, are we losing the meaning of true advertising? Why does a client want to go viral on social media? Why do they think this is their year to expand to television advertising? What do they expect to gain from a new advertising campaign?

What is true advertising?
The purpose of advertising sometimes gets muddled in the conversation. Let’s examine Apple’s latest “Mother Nature” spot as an example.

We look at it with our collective 50+ years in the marketing business and say, it is amazing. It was, without question, produced creatively according to Apple’s brand standards. However, did it move consumers to buy any Apple products? More likely, it was just an expensive attempt to assure already loyal customers that Apple is doing what is socially expected.

As expected, Apple created another great-looking spot that created a buzz, sparked shares, and added page likes to solidify their own brand. Kudos to Rhys Thomas for an outstanding in-house production. It’s in sync with the brand. It’s cool. It’s edgy. It reminds you who Apple is, similar to the 1984 Macintosh commercials.

But what about the call to action? Did this spot motivate anyone to ease their carbon footprint by running out to buy a new Apple Watch, iPad, or MacBook? Probably not. This spot is a talking point across social networks and tech industry followers. It’s like art for art’s sake. It doesn’t do anything. It simple is something.

Is that advertising?
Producing award-winning collateral for nationally recognized brands is an accomplishment some agencies celebrate and other agencies aspire to. But is that the goal of true advertising? Affecting the relationship between customers and brands, in the traditional sense, requires an inspiration to act toward growing the brand. Simply put, good advertising wins new customers, whether it wins awards or not.

As marketers, we are held to one simple standard: results. We can create all the shiny spots, Facebook posts, and memorable ads we want. They can generate water-cooler conversations and buzz. They can go viral. But at the end of the day if the efforts aren’t driving results and revenue, it’s not true advertising. 

At Framework Branding, we view advertising and marketing much like a painter views a blank canvas: it simply is a starting point. It’s the foundation of what a brand is, can be, what it needs to change, or how it can remain relevant. 

Who sets the standard?
We grew up on watching Darrin Stephens in Bewitched coming home from a day at work sketching ads. We followed Michael and Elliott’s attempts to build an ad agency landing great clients based on their work while shooting a Nerf ball at the wall on Thirtysomething. We revered Don Draper on Mad Men for those passionate presentations he gave to win accounts.

What we never got to see on TV, and had to imagine, was the day-to-day partnership between the starring marketers and their clients. For all the scheming, drawing and pontificating, the real magic happened behind the scenes when Darrin, Michael and Elliott, and Don produced branding collateral and campaigns that increased revenue for their clients.

True advertising is defined by its results for the client. Increasing revenue is the gritty part of advertising, not the glamorous side, but it is the only goal that really counts. If we win an award along the way, that’s just a bonus.