Brand Life Stage 2: Baby Brand

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Willoughby Design



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Brand Life Stage 2: Baby Brand

Eight Considerations When Building a New Brand

Similar to living creatures, brands start out as babies. If the baby is clean, cute and happy when it enters the world, everyone wants to hold it. But the minute its diaper starts leaking, they want to give it back.

Second in our Brand Life Series, we celebrate the lovely occasion of a bouncing, bundle of joy: Baby Brand.

Sometimes baby brands are firstborns, created to represent an entirely new start-up business. Often they are born into a family to represent a new offering from a larger parent brand.

Either way, what a brand looks like, sounds like and even feels like should be grounded in a solid Brand Strategy that’s built during the Brand Conception stage. Once that is in place, the baby brand can begin to grow.

If you have been challenged with bringing a new brand to life, you already know that it’s not an easy task. While every brand is different, there are some universal truths we’ve learned over the years that help make the process successful.

1. New things are FUN…

People will be fascinated by what you’re doing and many will have advice to share but brands being raised with two many voices in the room risk getting watered down quickly. There will be a need for the village later. In the formative years, it is important to keep the team consistent and not too large. Go around the aunts and uncles, identify the parents, aka the key decision-makers, and stick with them.

2. Don’t Rush the Delivery

Google “Creative Process” and you’ll be greeted with a litany of 5 step approaches and visualizations. Many people have tried to create order in this space for good reason. The art of “creating” is not a black-and-white science and if you skip key steps (we know, we’ve tried it), you risk blindly wandering through indecision purgatory for eternity. Or even worse, settling for off the rack when you could have owned the runway. Find partners who have experience and know how to bring groups along through the process, involve them in the beginning (not the day before you plan to deliver) and create a realistic timeline for the work to be done. Great ideas aren’t born overnight. They need time to develop.

3. Naming is Hard

If you see a sobbing writer, they’re probably trying to name a baby brand. A study by the Harvard Law Review found that more than 70% of common English words have already been trademarked. Persistence is the name of the game. And knowing that you don’t have to be so literal if you have a baby that is destined to contribute something to the world. Names like Apple, Slack, Uber and Nike seemed weird until they were presented with a convincing story, inspiring imagery, and a LOT of confidence. Google was a fabricated name that is now a real word in the dictionary. It means “to search the internet.”

4. A Brand is More than a Logo

It’s at this stage when a brand’s identity is designed. The logo or mark is an important part, but it must also have meaning. If Nike had just stuck the “swoosh” on a sneaker and never told the world that it stands for speed and motion and then paired it with, “Just Do It,” clients wouldn’t be asking us to create their version. Every brand needs an identity system. Logo, colors, patterns, type, photo style and a solid brand story — all add up to become brand language that works together. The test of a great identity is this: if you cover up the logo, you can still identify the brand based on the look, feel and voice that surrounds it.

5. Fear of the Unfamiliar is Real

No one has all the answers before taking the first step. From focus groups to online qualitative and quantitative studies, there are many methodologies and the right research is valuable. Many brands have failed by going to market too quickly without any sense of how their audience will respond. Others have tested good ideas to death. Any research needs to be well planned with a clear objective because it’s hard for people to react accurately to things they’ve never seen or experienced before. There will be many questions and many answers. Sometimes the best way to learn is to trust your brand strategy, get in front of your audience, lather, rinse, repeat — adapt quickly, evolve and keep going.

6. Rules are a Good Thing

Establishing clear brand standards is important. At some point, the team is going to grow and new caretakers will come on board. If there is a solid brand playbook that quickly explains why the brand exists, who it’s for and how to use the brand assets, no one is left second-guessing and your brand is less likely to develop a personality disorder. The advent of online brand standards, easily accessible to anyone who needs it, makes keeping all brand assets updated and reduces the chances of 2018’s logo showing up in 2023.

7. Babies are Expensive

Often this initial work is done without a specific budget. Cue the “founded in my garage story.” On the other hand, when a baby brand is well-funded by a parent company or an investor, it’s more likely to be ready to run on day one. Most brands are somewhere in between. There is no “one size fits all” but think of the initial spend as an investment for the future. It’s all about planning for the years to come.

8. Parenting is Never “Finished”

In other words, a baby brand will only grow up to be big and strong with consistent care, feeding and nurturing. It must be properly introduced to the world and supported with ongoing marketing. Plan ahead, stay vigilant and, remember, as with humans, if you don’t invest in the baby stage, it can come back to haunt you during the teenage years (up next).

From start-ups to legacies, Willoughby has helped hundreds of brands live their best lives.

Where is your brand in its brand life? Visit our Brand Life page to learn about all of the stages.