You have a branding problem – Now what?

By Jon Tran | January 12, 2017

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Jon Tran

Creative Director

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Jon Tran

Creative Director

Not content with content, copy and creative writing, Jon also leads our brand strategy efforts. He finds answers to our clients’ challenges, including those they don’t know they have, develops positioning recommendations, and tells their stories in fresh and compelling ways. And he’s writing this bio as you read it. He’s just that fast.

Client experience:food, AI, healthcare, pest control, gaming

Specialties:making technical stuff un-boring

Most likely eating:wings, extra-hot wings, Coke Zero

Favorite verbs:appease, excise, launch, slide

Weapons of choice:semantics, Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard


“We have a brand problem.”

Maybe this is something you’ve been thinking lately. Or, if you’re particularly gutsy, something you’ve said out loud to your team. Either way, getting to this point was probably difficult, even contentious.

The dead ends.
The finger pointing.
The squandered budgets.

But realizing you have a problem is still a major breakthrough. And with all of your baggage in the rearview mirror, you can finally focus on making progress.

All you have to do is kick off the itty bitty task of choosing the right agency to rebrand your entire company.

The Pitch

We know — working with an agency is supposed to be the fun part. But if the idea of choosing a creative partner fills you with dread, there’s probably a reason why.

Often, it’s the opaque nature of the vetting process. It’s nearly impossible to get a good sense of what work will be done, what you’ll actually receive at the end of it all, or even how much it will really cost. If things go wrong, an agency could talk you into a glitzy package recycled from the plan they used for FedEx last year.

Odds are, you’re not FedEx*. And even if you have a FedEx-sized budget, your needs are different to theirs.

So you’re looking for an agency that takes this all into consideration, and, as you may have guessed, we’d recommend FVM.

We don’t do smoke and mirrors, and we don’t have pre-templated packages to sell you. So when we send you a proposal, the recommendations and costs are based on everything we know about your company and the project at hand.

And as for everything we don’t know? Well, we consider asking questions and finding answers to be the fun part of the client-agency dynamic.

For some of our best clients, these important early questions about strategy put the brakes on premature rebrand requests.

Lightpath, for instance, spent a few months considering the questions raised in our initial sit-down before coming back to FVM for branding and web development work.

Setting the Stage

Of the many questions we’ll inevitably ask, the first is , “What are your goals?” It’s obvious, but we’ll want to talk business strategy before we get into brand. Even with the lightest branding touch, it’s important that we have a clear understanding of aims, so we’ll sit down with your leadership team to get on the same page.

After that, it’s time to move onto much harder questions. Don’t worry — we do the asking and the answering in this section.

Discovery: Understanding Your Brand

Let’s say the inevitable happens: you like us and we like you. The basic paperwork has been filled out and we’re ready to jump into Discovery.

Discovery is the fast way of saying “asking a lot of probing questions of you, your employees, your partners, your customers, and your potential customers.” This can involve strategy sessions, Q&As, surveys, focus groups, and analytics. The exact tactics will vary from client to client, but it’s all to ensure we get comprehensive, insightful answers.

These early phases of Discovery are often where we get to know our clients on a personal level, and vice versa. People on both sides are baring their personalities, their ideas, and their trade secrets, so it’s no surprise to see professional chemistry form at this stage.

That collaboration helps everyone involved raise some very important questions about your company… and clue us in on where to find answers.

Gaining perspective:

You have your own ideas about how your brand is doing, even if it’s a vague notion like “it’s outdated.” We dig as deep as possible to determine where your brand is succeeding, where potential cracks are forming, what expectations you need to live up to, and what your competitors are doing.

While some themes do recur, reality checks vary from brand to brand.

During the Univar discovery process, we spoke to customers who told us they valued the real human interaction the company’s salespeople offered just as much, if not more, than its services.

Just a few months later, we had to tell another client the opposite: that their brand’s focus on close relationships wasn’t resonating with businesses. They should instead focus on being a technical service provider.

The reality check:

Building a strong brand means building an authentic one. But we frequently find there’s a gap between what a company’s strengths are and what its leadership thinks customers want to hear. In these cases, clients don’t necessarily need a new logo; they just need to find their center. We’ll help you figure out what a rebrand can fix, and what it can’t.

Keep in mind that it’s also hard to come across as authentic when you’re saying the same thing as everyone else. That’s why we plot out where you stand against your competitors (on axes such as exclusive/personal or established/disruptor) to figure out where your messaging is most likely to make an impact.

A path forward:

At the end of our discovery process, we’ll present everything we’ve learned about your company and focus on next steps. Often there will be multiple strategic routes available, depending on how far your current brand is from where you’d like to be. Do you double down on who you are today and communicate it more effectively, or pivot to take advantage of a competitive opportunity? We’ll have recommendations, of course, but this is where you decide what you are able and willing to do.


Perfecting a position

When you choose the strategic direction you want to take, it’s our job to boil that down to a brand position.

The position is a summation of what you offer. What you stand for. What you, as a brand, promise to every person who interacts with it. It’s not something that’s going to be said or written verbatim on your website homepage, but rather something that comes across in everything your brand says and does.

So if it’s not communicated aloud, why is a brand position so important? Because it addresses everything we unearth during Discovery.

It solves the problems your audiences have with your current brand by demonstrating the real value your company creates. It bridges the gap between what you’d like to communicate and what your customers want to hear. It sets the stage for an authentic story, one that holds true through the lifetime of your current business strategy, and potentially far beyond.

Brand position is more than a description. It also guides creative execution at key decision points.

The direction we took Univar, for instance, meant an advertising focus on the people and places the company benefitted. This was in direct contrast to previous ads featuring the pests its customers sought to eliminate.

Depending on how far you are from attaining your brand’s strategic goals, we’ll offer a few different positioning options. They may differ in tone, or prioritize one aspect of your business over another.

Will your company fare better emphasizing product quality, or on outstanding industry insight? Again, the choice is yours – and your selection will lay the foundation for the full execution of your brand from that moment forward.

Building your brand

With your business strategy cemented and a brand position chosen, FVM begins the exciting work of bringing your brand to life. There are a few things we’ll always need to do, like define your brand’s personality to guide our work, but the rest mostly optional.

It’s optional because, as mentioned before, we understand not everyone is FedEx. Maybe you don’t have the budget for renaming every product you sell. Maybe your customers are really attached to the particular shade of yellow you currently use. Maybe everyone in your company just got matching tattoos with your old logo.

You know, common considerations.

We’ll look at what you’d like to say, what will carry the most impact, and how much time you have to roll it all out, and then assemble the brand deliverables that make the most sense for what you need to achieve.

Here are some of the things we’ve previously put together for clients. The items we consider “must have” are denoted with a double asterisk.

Strategy & Copy Deliverables

  • Brand positioning**
  • Brand personality guidelines**
  • Core brand attributes**
  • Brand naming
  • Brand tagline
  • Brand values
  • Company purpose statement
  • Company vision statement
  • Product positioning
  • Product naming

Visual Brand Deliverables

  • Logos and variants **
  • Color palettes **
  • Type systems **
  • Sub-brand logos or marks
  • Visual and structural devices (e.g. shapes, patterns, textures, borders)
  • Icons, symbols, and illustrations
  • Data visualization styles
  • Photography styles
  • Video and animation styles
  • Presentation and corporate communication templates
  • Web/interactive design elements and patterns (e.g. document structure, buttons, menus)
  • Sample print and interactive applications and executions



Everything you need to carry your brand forward will be codified into a living Brand Guidelines document – a resource that you, or anyone executing your brand for you, can use to ensure your position and personality come through in everything your audiences experience.

And to take things one step further, we can also create a proprietary online platform that hosts all files and allows you to steward your brand from a central hub.  Here’s one we created for Archdiocese of Philadelphia Schools.

From there, it’s all about rollout. We’ll work with you to determine the best way to unveil your new brand both to the greater world and to your internal teams. The latter part is especially important, since your employees will most likely be the face of your new brand and, hopefully, its greatest advocates.

Moving right along

A well-executed brand is not something built overnight.

But it doesn’t have to take an eternity, either. With commitment on your end and ours to see the project through, hitting all our initially outlined milestones and deadlines is a simple matter. As an agency we find the branding processing exciting, and our clients’ enthusiasm further energizes us to do great work.

So if you’re sitting on a brand problem and want to see what kind of work we can do for your company, we’re ready to talk.  FVM is prepared to build the perfect brand for your business… whether or not you happen to be FedEx.

* And if you are FedEx, we hope you appreciate the free publicity.