How to Develop a Brand: Rapid Fire Failure

In my last previous How to Develop a Brand post I explained why developing a brand for ourselves is important and briefly went over some good and terrible reasons for rebranding (I want to make sure you don’t make a huge mistake like Tropicana did a few years ago). This post is going to go over the first steps of actually developing a brand, which I like to call: Rapid Fire Failure.

Rapid Fire Failure

Now this may seem a counter initiative thing to call the first step of developing a brand, which is the centerpiece to your business or product, but hear me out, failing as much as possible is the fastest way to success. That doesn’t mean our goal is to fail, our goal is ultimately to succeed but we need to accept the fact that success is a byproduct of a massive amount of failure.

Outliers, a book by Malcolm Gladwell, which is about what kind of people succeed and why they get to that point (Read the first third of it, then put it away, the rest is redundant and somewhat depressing). He dissects the lives of all sorts of successful people like canadian hockey champions to the programmer Bill Joy. To give you a brief summary it takes about ten years with several hours a day to become an expert at anything. So we can conclude that it takes a lot of failure to reach the peak of success.

Now we don’t really need to be an expert to develop a great brand, you may need to be an expert for a huge client like Coke to allow you to take a shot at branding them, but how often does that opportunity come along? Don’t worry about sinking ten years into learning how to brand, the way to speed this process and get to your goal in a timely manner is simple: Rapid Fire Failure. The faster we fail the closer we are to our goal of success, so failing more often, still with the goal of success in mind, is ideal.

It’s simple in concept but a little more complexed in execution. Here are a few steps that will help you out:

  1. Regurgitate
  2. Evaluate
  3. Proceed or Eliminate

Regurgitate

Get your ideas out however you can. It is super important that do literally regurgitate, vomit your ideas onto something. You can use a piece of paper, a white board, or sometimes you can use a mind mapping program like MindNode (Mac only) or Mindmister (These are not affiliate links) which are great tools for quickly regurgitating your ideas. It is also very important that you do not evaluate during this step, it’s human nature and quite common to eliminate an idea before it gets out of your brain we have to resist this temptation and get all the ideas out no matter how off they sound. This is particularly hard to do when you are brainstorming with a group, it’s very important everyone in the group understands that all ideas need to at least hit the table. I’ve sat in on countless brainstorming sessions that were a complete waste of time because one or two people were shooting down ideas too soon and everyone eventually shut down out of frustration or out of trying to think of an idea that was “good enough” to not be shot down.

Below you can see the process I went through for rebranding Southpaw, using MindNode and a sketch pad. Honestly there is no correct way to do this part only that you don’t do it in your head, there needs to be a physical action associated with getting the idea out of your head. Sometimes the most ridiculous ideas seem pretty feasible after you’ve written them down.

Southpaw Mind map

Sketch 1

How to develop a brand

Sketch 3

I probably should have done about four times more regurgitation than I did with this rebranding.

Evaluate and Eliminate

Now that you have a plethora of ideas you can move to the next step, evaluate. This is where you need to gauge the worth of each of your idea. You can give your ideas a rating, or circle ideas that you believe to be working well whatever system you can develop for evaluating your ideas works. Try to eliminate 70-90% of your ideas be brutal during this step because ultimately only one idea can win.

Proceed

You now have a handful of good or great ideas to work with. From here you can move on to further develop your ideas. You want to continue to evaluate and eliminate as you move forward, remember you want one really good idea and you don’t want to waste time on ideas that aren’t working.

Below you can see how I moved forward with a couple of ideas for Southpaw I felt were solid. Often times my Illustrator work files are more cluttered and diverse than this one but I didn’t really regurgitate as well as I should have (I will talk about this mistake in an upcoming post).

Southpaw Digital

This is the rapid fire failure process of how to develop a brand. The more small, minor failures you have at the beginning the better your end product will be.

I challenge you to take this approach on your next project, it can work on just about anything you are creating not just branding. Leave a comment below letting me know how it went, I’d love to hear your story!

How to develop a brand

This is the first of a series of posts I will be making which will walk you through the process of branding. Hopefully this will give you some insight into how to develop a brand for yourself. It is possible to do this process 100% by yourself, though I recommend hiring a graphic designer at some point in the process if you don’t have the design skills yourself.

Before I get into how to develop a brand I want to clarify a few things that I hope will explain why it’s so important to develop a brand. First off I want to answer the question:

What is a brand?

A brand can be a few things but I want to simplify it down to one thing:

The personification of a business or product.

People connect with people. That is a fact, everyone in psychology will tell you this. So why do we create brands then? Why even bother when people connect with people better? Why not just slap your face all over everything and call it good? One thing: Scaleability.

There are 6.97 billion people in the world.

Think about that.

6.97…

Billion

How do you expect to stand out amongst 6.97 billion people? The answer is to create a brand. A brand is far more scaleable than personal identification. It can appeal to a wider audience and it’s easier for our minds to keep track of brands than the mass of individuals that we integrate ourselves amongst every day.

Think about big brands, Google, Facebook, Apple, Nike, Coke, General Electric. A lot of these brands have big people behind them, Phil Knight of Nike, or the late Steve Jobs of Apple, but even though these people are very widely known the brands they created have a much stronger influence than they do. Now try to think of individuals who have this kind of influence. The only ones that come to mind are those that are already associated with a much larger brand.

This is the reason we develop a brand, because it’s far more scalable. There is no way an individual can connect with 6.97 billion people, but there is possibility a brand can.

I feel as if you understand how important a brand can be to your success so I’ll move along.

How to develop a brand

One of the main reasons I decided to start this series was because I was in the process of rebranding a company that I work for, Southpaw Sign & Design. This identity hasn’t been around for a long time and the original identity was developed basically overnight. The business has outgrown the usage of the makeshift identity and was desperately in need of some consistency and vision in it’s branding. There is one thing I want to make perfectly clear before I go any further: rebranding is not something you should do on a whim. There are good reasons to rebrand and there terrible reasons to rebrand. Here are a few of both:

 

Good reasons:

- Need more consistency in the brand image

- Need to readjust for a more lucrative target demographic

- Name change and/or merger with another company

 

Terrible reasons:

- The typography is a little bit off.

- The colors aren’t really working.

- You don’t like it. You may be shocked that this is a terrible reason to rebrand but it really is, changing a identity because you just aren’t feeling it anymore will just cause confusion with your current clients or potential clients who were considering your brand when making a purchasing decision. Take a look at how some big names screwed up in this area.

- It’s not very unique. Not all identities have to be super unique, take a look at my book The Recipe for Creating a Great Logo, for more information about this.

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If you rebrand make sure it’s for the right reasons. Don’t let some trigger happy graphic designer convince you that your current logo is trash so you need to shell out the cash for a complete overhaul of your identity. Having a good identity is necessary, having a jaw dropping identity is not.

For Southpaw the identity was borderline awful. The demographic was wrong and there was little consistency with the image. This is not really acceptable when you are trying to sell people on your ability to create great identities for them. So a change was certainly in order.

My next post will be about the brainstorming process involved in creating the new identity for Southpaw.

The reality of design Inspiration

 

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Inspiration

noun /ˌinspəˈrāSHən/

  1. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative
  2. The quality of having been so stimulated, esp. when evident in something
  3. A person or thing that stimulates in this way
  4. A sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea
  5. The divine influence believed to have led to the writing of the Bible

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I’d like to challenge the idea of inspiration as stated above. This is how I would define inspiration:

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Inspiration

1. An edge piece of a puzzle.

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Think about how many puzzles you have started, got 90% of the edge work done, and then never touched again? I honestly could count on one hand how many I actually got past that point and I have a feeling the same is true for most people. Why is this true? We get all the outer pieces together because they are easy to sort out, it takes little time to pull out all the pieces with flat sides. Then we can fit them together because we can distinctly see the edge of the puzzle on the box.

So why do we stop when we get the edge nearly done? Because we know the next step is going to take some commitment and all we have is an outline. All the hard parts start to look like blobs of color or texture and our brains can’t sort it out.

 Missing Pieces

More often than not this is what inspiration does. We see people who create innovative products and we say “What a stroke of brilliance!” or we see a beautiful work and we think “They are so talented!”. Then we think “I wish I could do that”, we start to arrange what we know (the edge pieces) about it. As we piece it together we start to run into problems and unknowns (Ambiguous blobs of color or texture), if we hit enough of these we start to get doubt. Doubt turns into dismay, and eventually we tell ourselves “I’ll never be able to do that”.

Obviously this doesn’t happen every time, so what about the times that we push through and finish the entire puzzle? What is different about those times? In my opinion there are two things missing and these are: Risk and Failures. I’ve come up with a simple formula which I think explains the level of success anyone will have at any given task.

[framed_box style="note"](Inspiration + Risk) x Failures = Level of Success[/framed_box]

So it all starts at inspiration, it is necessary to have inspiration to accomplish anything. With inspiration you must understand and accept the risks, the later is more important than the former. Nothing worth doing is without risks but truly accepting what may happen and doing it anyways is the ultimate goal.

This is when we reach failures, for every failure you make there is a much higher chance you will succeed the next time you do that thing. This is why I love to sketch my ideas to the point of exhaustion. I’ve found that the more times I try and fail in rapid succession the faster I can get to the part where I can succeed! It’s incredible! The faster you fail the faster you succeed!

Make a Change

This silly equation aside the main thing I wanted to address is that Inspiration is nothing without Risk and Failure. So challenge yourself to finish the inside of the puzzle. Think of one thing you’ve always wanted to accomplish and go do it! You will probably fail, but then you should just do it again! Then you should come back here and share what you did with me because I would love to hear your stories.