Wouldn’t it be a dream come true if you were on the same page with every vendor you hired, and they knew the ins and outs of your brand from the get-go? Many companies have a strong idea of what their brand is, or what they’d like it to be, but they don’t have it written down. This was the trouble Ablis CBD was encountering when they first approached Flow to talk about brand guidelines. “A lot of the decisions we were making weren’t backed by a direction, even though we had clear reasoning for doing them,” said Parker, Marketing Director at Ablis. “It was never recorded, and it was never clearly defined.” The popular CBD company from Bend, Oregon, had successfully made a name for themselves locally and in other cities around the nation since their inception in 2014, but they lacked an in-depth set of brand guidelines that they could easily refer to (or send new vendors). According to Parker, Ablis had a great color scheme, created a killer logo, determined a specific photo-style, and selected key fonts to use… but this information wasn’t documented. A couple creatives held the keys to their brand identity, making it challenging to enroll others in their vision.
BrandBeat: Working with Flow to Develop Brand Guidelines
When it comes to brand guidelines, the visual aesthetic is just one piece of the puzzle. These brand “rules” also encompass vision, ethos, audience, creative inspiration, story, message, voice/tone, imagery, and key differentiators. They help you hone in on why you stand out and act as a marketing touchstone for your team and anyone you work with. Ablis and Flow took a deeper look at the company’s brand identity during BrandBeat, Flow’s signature branding process. During this collaborative process, Flow acts more like a “brand coach” than a “brand strategist.” After all, no one knows a brand better than the team behind it. Most often, they just need an experienced facilitator to put the pieces together cohesively.Flow worked with the Ablis team one-on-one over the course of several weeks, and when it was all said and done, not only did Ablis have a set of brand guidelines to share — they also had a greater understanding of their purpose, ideal customers, and long-term goals.
Clarifying Ablis’ Goals and Values
At the start of BrandBeat, Ablis looked into the future and outlined their 10-year goals with Flow before working backward to hone in on their 3-year and 1-year goals. During this phase, they also clarified their core values.This is part of the first step in BrandBeat, because a brand’s core values flow through all aspects of their brand identity. It doesn’t matter if these values are written down or they’re still in your CEO’s mind — they are the foundation for all other aspects of the brand, from marketing to company culture to future goals. These values also help determine how to approach your target market. When a potential customer sees that your brand’s values align with their own, it establishes an element of trust and leads to intense brand loyalty. For Ablis, adventure stood out as a core value. When we discussed their purpose, mission, and niche in this stage of BrandBeat, the vision became 20/20. Having these pieces clearly outlined (and agreed on by the entire team) is pivotal for a brand. It ensures everyone can row in the same direction, which Parker has found extremely helpful when making decisions for Ablis. “I think defining the mission has made a huge impact on us,” Parker said. “Once it’s written down and documented in some way, it makes it that much more ingrained in everything you do. Even though we were already doing these things before, [this has] helped us do more of it.” Related: Why Apothecanna Used Brand Guidelines to Align Their Team
Creating Customer Personas and Ablis’ “Muse”
With this foundation in place, Flow had several meetings with Ablis to define their target audience. BrandBeat’s two-pronged approach to target audiences makes the customer the hero and combines customer personas with a brand’s “muse” — their creative North Star. Although a brand’s customer personas might have attributes that fit in line with their muse, the two are not the same. The muse is a singular, fictional, aspirational character that inspires all of their target audiences. It’s who their customers aspire to be. When creating a muse with the Ablis team, Flow took a deep dive into this fictional person’s background, beliefs, ambitions, goals, and passions. The result was “Sam,” a 34-year old athlete living in Bend, OR. This “talented, fearless, optimistic, creative, and easygoing” person loves the outdoors and is a natural athlete with an unstoppable drive. Sam doesn’t exist, but he gives Ablis the ability to think outside reality and be creative without losing sight of their ideal customer.“We’re able to appeal to that person now,” said Parker. “When we look at our marketing efforts, we can say ‘Does this appeal to our muse or not?’ If the answer is yes, we’ll put it one rung up the ladder of consideration. If the answer is no, it’s easy. Onto the next. Let’s wait for something that’s fitting.”Related: How a Powerful Set of Brand Guidelines Can Save Your Marketing Budget
From BrandBeat to Brand Guidelines
After working one-on-one with Flow during the five-step BrandBeat process, Ablis’ brand guidelines were created. They encompass everything from Ablis’ purpose, to their muse, to their customer journey and social media voice. Their aesthetic no longer lived in the minds of their creative team— it lived on paper, where anyone on the team (or vendor’s teams) could access it. It also took into account all the heavy lifting that happened during BrandBeat and provided a strong set of guidelines so that anyone who touched the brand could understand its foundation, ideal customer, style, and purpose. When Ablis decided to revamp their website, having an easily communicable set of brand guidelines really came in handy.“The new website is going to be spot on because of those brand guidelines,” said Parker. “During every design review we’ve gone to, we haven’t had to say no to anything, because we were able to communicate what our brand was so well.” If you’ve ever tried to design a website, you know the delays start in the design process as both parties try to nail the look and feel. Instead of having the typical back-and-forth, multiple rounds of edits with their web designer, Ablis was able to maximize their time by having easy-to-share, in-depth brand guidelines. Everyone was on the same page from the start. The Ablis team was able to see the proposed web designs, give the green light, and continue on with their main focus: Running Ablis.
Who Can Benefit from BrandBeat?
Even if your brand has already been established, having your brand identity documented can save time on marketing and help you stay focused as you grow. It also helps everyone who takes part in your brand to understand where you’re coming from, where you want to go, which types of customers are along for the ride, and the small details that are going to make you stand out (like photo styles and fonts). Consider this: if you don’t have a set of brand guidelines to share, everyone who touches your brand will want to “be helpful” and test the waters with their creative liberty. You’ll spend a lot of time correcting their suggestions and trying to explain why this idea doesn’t fit. Wouldn’t it be easier to just send them a document with all the details as soon as they start working with you?If you’re thinking about rebranding, need to document your brand, or simply want to save on time, money, and effort in the long run, you may want to consider the BrandBeat process. We won’t stop you from diving into the nitty-gritty on your own, but we will pat ourselves on the back for 0.02 seconds and quote Parker on how it was to work with us during this process:“Everybody at Flow is the teacher’s pet, it seems like. If you have a question, everyone is ready to drop what they’re doing and answer your problem, help you out. When it comes down to it, you have to work with people you can get along with. And [Flow] hires great people.” Even if we’ve never talked before, we’re ready to answer your questions. Let’s chat. Related: How Flow Helped AVL Build a Personal and Business Brand