In part two of our “how to write a brief” series, we’re looking at how to write a branding brief.
In part one we talked about writing a design brief, no matter the service. And in part three, we’ll be talking about writing a web design brief.
But today, we’re talking about branding projects, and the design brief you need to write for that.
Again, we’ve included a free branding brief template.
Let’s take a look at some of the branding projects you could have in mind:
- You’re a startup with no brand at all, and need “the works”
- You created your own brand identity, and now it’s time to step it up
- You run an existing company and you’re looking to rebrand
There are lots of different branding projects out there. And a solid branding brief underpins them all.
So, let’s dive in!
What Makes a Branding Brief Different to a Plain Old Design Brief?
If you recall us saying last time, a design brief is a vital communication tool between yourself, and in this case, your chosen branding agency.
Obtaining branding services can be quite easy if you know where to look.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a great branding brief to back up your communication.
But what’s the difference between this, a branding brief, and a regular design brief?
You’ve identified the need for a branding or rebranding project, so it’s time to get down to the specifics in your written branding brief.
Where before, we had to be quite top level and general, this time we can get more granular, get down to the details, and explain the problems you’re facing with your brand in more depth.
To avoid writing the same post over and over again, we’re going to whizz over some of the other details here.
If you’re looking for more details about these questions, jump back to post one, How to Write a Design Brief.
Once we’ve covered these off, we’re going to get down to the nitty gritty of writing a branding brief.
Why Write a Branding Brief?
You’d want to write a branding brief in two unique circumstances:
You’re a new business looking to get their branding sorted out
You’re an existing business looking to rebrand
The idea behind a written branding brief, is to bring as much clarity around your business, strategy, and values as possible.
You want to approach writing a branding brief, as if you were trying to explain your business to an alien.
And this is where a lot of businesses struggle.
You have the idea for your venture, you know what you stand for, but you don’t know how to communicate it. Which is why you’re looking for agency help.
But to get, you have to give.
If you struggle with writing a full brief, just try to get as many things out of your head as possible. Ideas and thoughts are no use up there.
They need to be on paper (or in an email!)
The purpose of a branding brief is to:
- Clarify your own ideas
- Bring your branding agency into your world
- Bring clarity to the branding project at hand
And don’t forget, you’re going to need a written brief (even if it is loose) to help get a cost for branding services.
Essentially, a branding brief is a way of communicating with a brand agency, about your design needs and requirements.
Who Should Write a Branding Brief?
At Canny, we’re no strangers to helping people with their branding brief.
They’re not easy to write, and if you’ve never written a design brief before, you’re bound to need help.
But, the majority of the input should could from you. The business owner, or Marketing Executive/Director of the company in question.
You’re the one with the knowledge about your business. You know the problems you’re facing.
You’re the goose with the golden egg!
Even if you have some loose ideas around your brief, a good branding agency will help you tighten it up and get your project on track.
Your agency should be engaged enough to be dissecting your brief and asking you thoughtful questions.
Remember, a branding brief isn’t the finished article.
Good branding work comes from good partnerships. And learning to trust your agency have your best interests at heart, will deliver better long term results.
Now, what should go into your branding brief?
Let’s get into it.
What Should Be Included in Your Branding Brief?
So, now you know when you should write it, and who should write it, what exactly should you include in your branding brief?
Your branding brief is still going to include the top level sections from The Design Brief.
- An Overview of Your Business and Brand
- The Objectives of Your Branding Project
- Your Target Audience and Market
- The Problem You’re Facing
- Project Specific Information
- More About Your Business
- Competitor Information
- Project Timescales
- Project Budget
- Contact Information
- How the Project will Be Awarded
- Required Response
But we’re also going to include several new sections.
- Your Brand Strategy
- Brand Values
- Brand Mission
- Brand Story
- Brand Positioning
- Brand Messaging
- Expected Branding Deliverables
- Sample Branding Campaigns
I’m sure at this stage you’re wondering:
“If I’m including all of this brand related information, and I have all of the answers already, what am I engaging with a branding agency for?”
We’re going to answer that too.
First though, let’s dive into the general information.
A lot of this is very similar to the information we’ve already shared about writing a design brief. If you’ve read that post already, you might want to skip ahead.
An Overview of Your Business and Brand
The first thing you should explain in your branding brief, is about your business, the sector you work in, and the brand you’re looking to build.
If you’re looking to create a new brand, try answering the following:
- What do you do and how do you make your money?
- How do customers currently buy from your business?
- What makes your business unique within the marketplace?
And if it’s a rebranding project, then try answering the above, plus:
- What’s wrong with the current business branding?
- What’s changed since the current branding was launched?
Every branding project relies all parties having a clear understanding of the business they’re working with and the sector they’re working in.
The more you can offer up about your brand in the first instance here, the better.
The Objectives of Your Branding Project
You didn’t just decide you needed to create a new brand or rebrand your business overnight.
There’s always something that drives that decision.
Sure, if you’re a new business, you’ve probably just realised you need to get your branding and brand identity taken care of.
If you’re rebranding though, what drove you to make the decision to take action?
Perhaps your business has moved in a new direction, and you need to change your brand identity to reflect that.
Also, make sure to check out the 7 things your boss wants to know about rebranding. It’ll help if you have to explain your reason for pushing a rebrand through.
Once you’ve taken a decision to create a brand, or rebrand your business, you have to let your agency know why.
From there, you can start getting clear on your branding goals. You can also check them against our branding expectations vs reality post to make sure they’re realistic.
As we’ve said in our design brief post, a goal for a branding project could be relatively simple:
“We need a new brand identity to help us stand out from the noise. The market place we operate in, is crowded. Therefore, differentiation matters. Our space is saturated with boring brands, we want to make a difference with the way we look.”
The goal is differentiation. Simple enough.
A rebranding goal might look slightly different:
The goal here is quite complex. Firstly it’s solidifying the service offering through branding. Secondly, it’s creating one cohesive brand identity born from two companies merging.
That’s a very different set of challengings your branding agency faces.
Having your goals outlined like this, keeps everyone clear on the project, and gives you and your agency something to measure against.
Another thing to consider here is, what will make your branding project a success?
How are you deciding whether you’ve spent your budget well, and created a successful brand?
If you’re going to judge the success or failure of a project, it’s only fair to let the agency you work with know what the criteria are.
If you’re hoping that by rebranding, you’ll 10x your sales, you need to include this in the design brief.
Because it’ll change how the agency approaches your project from the outset.
Rather than spending time on creating pixel perfect website designs, they’ll be running tests with customers, and designing around the results.
Having a set of “branding success factors” can really help all parties.
It ensures everyone knows what their responsibilities are, and will help to create the branding project plan.
Your Target Audience and Market
One of the most important things to include when you write your branding brief, is a section about your target audience.
Here’s the deal:
Branding and design used to solve problems for your customers, as well as your business.
The job of a branding agency isn’t just to make things look pretty. Sure, that might help at times, but design is a problem solving tool.
Think about this:
You have no recognition in the market. Sure, that’s a problem for you but, but realistically, it’s because your messaging and identity isn’t hitting home for your customers.
When it comes to branding or rebranding, a design agency is responsible for designing for your customers. Not for you.
Therefore, it’s important that they know what your target audience looks like.
If possible, it’s even better if you can run a focus session with your customers involved. This will help everyone understand how your brand is perceived, and give you ideas for moving it forward.
We’ve got a great post here about creating customer personas.
Essentially, you want to outline their demographic traits and psychographic characteristics.
You can do this by asking insightful questions about your existing customers.
Take your ideal customer, and build your persona around them.
On top of thinking about demographics and psychographics, I love asking the following questions:
- What does their family structure look like?
- What type of car they drive?
- Are they a pet owner?
- What newspaper/magazines do they read?
- Which websites do they visit? And for what purpose?
I often find simple questions like this help a lot more when creating a brand, than the demographic information and psychographic traits.
Knowing what websites customers visit and brands they buy into, can help inform you about the design styles that appeal to them, what type of content they like.
Customer personas should take up quite a chunk of your design brief. Make sure you include 2 or 3 examples!
The Problem You’re Facing
The objectives of your branding project are one thing, but the actual problems you’re facing as a business is something else entirely.
Goals and objectives focus on where you want to be.
The problem you’re facing with your brand, focuses on the here and now.
And it’s a strange situation with creating a new brand.
Because essentially, the problem is:
“We don’t have a brand.”
And you’d imagine, that’s an easy fix, let’s create one. End of branding brief.
Not so fast! You’re still going to want to include all of the information we’re outlining here.
It’s usually easier to outline the problem with a rebranding project:
“Our brand identity is old and dated. We’ve merged with another company. We’re switching up our focus.”
These are problems that need unpicked, but they’re usually easier to outline at the offset.
Although it can seem a little self-deprecating, deep diving into the real world problems you face as a business is the only way to solve them.
You’ve done the hard part, which is realising the problem you’re facing.
Now, steer into it, and with a professional branding agency by your side, you can overcome it!
Project Specific Information
Branding specific project information can be tricky to outline in a branding brief.
This happens because more often than not, it’s beneficial to have your branding agency make recommendations, rather than adding restrictions from the outset.
On top of that, you might not actually know what it is that you need for your brand or business.
However, there are always some things to consider.
Let’s take a look at creating a new brand as an example:
- Is your business bricks and mortar, or mostly online?
- Are you in the market for awareness, customers, or something else?
- What sort of deliverables are you looking for? (More on that later)
Your project specification doesn’t need to super technical.
But if you have specific requirements, it’s best to get them listed out now.
Other things to consider alongside your branding project are:
- What does your marketing strategy look like?
- Do you need a new website? (If so, check out our post about writing web design briefs)
- Do you have a digital marketing strategy in place?
You’re going to your branding agency for their talent and recommendations. So don’t be completely closed off to changing things!
The more information you can share about your project here, the better.
More About Your Business
At the start of your branding brief, you’ve given an overview into your business, the sector you work in, and the brand you’re looking to build.
But now, you have a chance to share even more about your business.
- Why do you want to build a brand in this space?
- What have you done to arrive at this point?
- Who makes up the business?
- What are you most proud of?
- Why did you get started?
- What is your brand strategy? (More on that later)
Give us the longer version of the elevator pitch.
The more your branding agency knows, the better they can help!
It’s funny, the level of influence that competitor’s can have on your business, and branding brief.
You need to decide here, are you trying to stand out, or fit in?
There’s not a right or wrong answer here. This should be assessed on a case by case basis.
If you’re working on a branding project, knowing about your competitors can help us to get an understanding of what they’re all about.
It also allows us to take a look at their brand identity, and discuss with you how you fit into that competitive landscape.
Knowing your competitors is great.
Helping your branding agency to know your competitors not only eases their workload, but allows discussions about them to take place at an earlier stage in the branding process.
It also means they don’t stray too close to what your competitors are doing when creating your new brand identity.
This question often helps agencies decide whether they can be involved with your project or not.
If you’re looking for a rapid turnaround time, and the agencies you reach out to have a lot of work on, they might decline the offer to work together.
“ASAP” is not an acceptable answer when talking about timescales either. There needs to be a reasonable level of understanding here, things don’t just happen overnight.
As a rough guide, here’s what we tell people at Canny about our branding timescales:
Branding Project Timescales
Branding projects can take anywhere between 6 and 12 weeks. It really depends on their complexity.
If you’re looking at a brand identity project, with limited visual assets to be created, you’ll be down nearer the 6 week mark.
However, if you’re looking to completely rebrand your business, create new visual assets, brand guidelines, and roll it out into a large organisation, you’ll be looking towards the top end of that timescale.
Timescales should really be put in place by you design agency when you decide to move forward.
One thing I always ask our new clients is:
“Is there an event/product launch/something else we can work towards with the project?”
And that always immediately helps get some initial plans in place.
Try to avoid reaching out to branding agencies at the last minute. The earlier you can bring them in on your plans the better!
Ah, project budgets. Everyone loves to talk about money, but nobody ever wants to show their hand first.
Thankfully, we have an article about project budgets, and why it’s important to share your budget with your design agency.
Think about this:
Branding agencies get approached for work on a regular basis.
Amongst the requests for work, there’s often a lot of rubbish, some half-decent leads, and sometimes, a real diamond in the rough.
You want to be that diamond!
Now, telling a branding agency your project budget isn’t the only way to do this. But yet again, it’s another thing that goes towards building trust and transparency from the outset.
Nobody wants their time wasted.
You have a 30 minute to 1 hour call with a design agency. And then you send the brief. With no budget information.
Your branding agency reads through it, and comes back with a branding proposal.
It’s 5 times over what you thought you’d be paying. You’ve lost an hour of your time, the agency has also lost a significant chunk of time by writing out the proposal.
By being clear with your budget early on, you can make sure everyone is on the same page right from the get go.
Now, you don’t need to list the budget to the penny. But just giving some indication of what you’re working with goes a long way!
If you’re really unsure on how much certain things cost, we have some great posts about pricing out design and branding services that are listed out below:
I hope that helps!
There’s nothing more frustrating than “design by committee.” However, it does happen, and it can be managed.
But there always needs to be a lead point of contact in any branding project.
You need one voice of reason that can be used to add balance to the discussions, and go between both the agency and the company.
Clearly listing out the contact details of the project contact, as well as the best time and way to get hold of them will make things run a lot smoother.
The branding agency should also do their part here and once the project kicks off, they’ll assign a member of staff (usually an Account Manager) to handle their side of the communication.
How the Project will Be Awarded
If you’re considering working with a number of branding agencies, or firing out your branding brief to several choices, then you need to make sure they know how the project will be awarded.
For the record:
We don’t believe in distributing your brief to a huge number of agencies. It’s not respectful of their time.
That said, we appreciate you’ll want to collect several proposals and opinions. 3 to 5 agencies is a fair number to approach.
Not sure how to choose a branding agency to work with?
- Check out this post about choosing a graphic design agency
Now, how will your project be awarded?
Typically, there are several elements at play:
- Cost/Value for Money
- Quality of Work
- Previous Experience
- Alignment to the Design Brief
- Suitability of the Agency
There are any number of factors you could use to judge the responses.
It’s normal to write into your design brief, the percentage and weighting of each of the awarding criteria.
This helps to show your design agency what’s most important in your decision making process.
The required response section of a design brief is pretty straightforward to write.
You need to know your agency what you’re expecting back, by when, and how to submit it.
It’s simply a case of listing out what you expect to receive back.
Perhaps this is as simple as:
- A written response to the brief
- Examples of relevant work
- Testimonials from happy clients
Tell them how to submit their proposal, what to include, by when, and you’re off to the races.
What about those additional sections that should be included in a branding brief?
Let’s take a look at those now:
Your Brand Strategy
If you have a fair idea of your brand strategy, then it’s a good idea to include it in your branding brief.
Your brand strategy is made up of:
- Brand Values
- Brand Mission
- Brand Story
- Brand Positioning
- Brand Messaging
Usually we find our clients have a good idea of their values, mission, and story. But need help with positioning and messaging.
Even if you have some ideas around this, get it noted down.
Remember, your branding brief is a work in progress, not the finished article.
Expected Branding Deliverables
One of the biggest influences of the cost of a branding project, is the level or amount of expected branding deliverables.
If you’re expecting a 40 page brochure to be included, then you need to get that listed out.
That’s a hefty chunk of design work that shouldn’t be overlooked.
At a minimum, we find most of our clients typically need:
- Brand identity creation
- Brand guidelines
- Business cards
- One or two promotional items (flyers etc)
We have a post that outlines typical branding services and deliverables – so if you’re looking for inspiration, start there.
Sample Branding Campaigns
As we’ve started to work on larger rebranding projects, we’ve also been asking to take a look over the branding campaigns our clients usually run.
If you’re rebranding, and have run brand awareness or advertising campaigns in the past, include some links to the assets in your brief.
This gives your agency an idea of how your brand will be used going forward.
It also helps build out the list of deliverables we talked about above.
“What Exactly Am I Paying a Branding Agency For?”
When writing a hefty branding brief like this, it’s not uncommon to think:
“I already have all of the answers, so what am I paying for?”
Well, think about how you ended up in this situation in the first place. Go back to your problems, goals, and objectives.
You’re paying for a professional branding agency to help you overcome them.
You’re paying for expertise.
You’re paying to come out of your branding project with a brand strategy and identity that you can firmly stand behind as a business.
It’s Time to Reach Out
Now that you’ve learned how to write a branding brief, it’s time to start reaching out to branding agencies.
If you’re still not sure on how to find a branding agency, you could contact us to discuss your project.
So, it’s time to get the process started!
Conclusion: How to Write a Branding Brief
A branding brief is a useful tool that should be used when trying to source a branding agency for your project.
Remember though, it’s not rigid. It should be added to and modified as your chosen agency sink their teeth into your world!
It’s not unusual for goals and objectives to change, especially when outside interference comes into play, and throws the cat among the pigeons.
And that’s fine, just be prepared to go back and forward and hammer out the details.
Just like a design brief, a branding brief should be used to reach out to agencies, and referred back to at key milestones within the project. But it isn’t written in stone. More, wet sand.
It’s a great initial document to have, but it should grow with your project.
What do you think? How did you write your branding brief? Let us know in the comments below.
reading time: 21 minutes