A group of kids take turns whispering a single message to the person to their right, and by the time the message reaches the end of the line, it has usually has taken on a completely different meaning then when they began.
The telephone game is a perfect metaphor for how communication between agencies and clients can break down during a brand redesign project. Clients might have a clear picture of what they want out of a branding project in their heads, but when it comes to communicating each subtle nuance, many things get left up to interpretation.
A brand redesign project can feel like a high-stakes guessing game for agencies and designers. You present the client with endless drafts and revisions, but there's always something that isn't quite right.
To help agencies navigate the unique challenges of brand redesign projects, we've compiled a list of questions clients should answer before your agency agrees to take on the project. These first set of questions will help you uncover what your client really wants out of the brand redesign project, and the second set will help you deftly navigate the logistics.
16 Questions To Ask Before A Branding Project
Discovering Your Client's Desired Identity for the Brand Redesign
1) What do you like about your current brand identity?
Before you start redesigning a brand, it's important to know what specific qualities the client likes about their current brand. Just because they requested a brand redesign doesn't mean they want to completely scrap what they've already built. It's important to determine which areas of the current brand should be maintained or given just a light update, instead of getting rid of them entirely in the redesign.
2) What don't you like about your current brand identity?
In the same vein, it's also vital to recognize what the client doesn't like about their current brand. Figuring out what your client is particularly unhappy with will set some initial boundaries for your team. It lets you know what areas of the brand should be given the most attention, and also gives you an early idea of your client's tastes.
3) What's the story behind your current brand?
Brands are driven by storytelling, so agencies need to make the effort to learn their client's brand story early on. Think of yourself like a Hollywood director tasked with remaking a classic movie: You need to get familiar with the original before you can put your own spin on it -- otherwise the remake is sure to fall flat.
4) Can you name a few examples of brands you admire?
There's really no way around it: Branding is a fluffy, floaty topic, and it can be challenging for clients to clearly articulate exactly what they want. Asking your client for some examples of other brands they admire (either in their industry or outside it) can help your team start building a more informed vision, and also forces your client to seriously consider what kind of brand they want to be. Make sure you ask them to unpack what specific qualities they admire about the brands.
5) Are there any particular adjectives you people to associate with your brand?
Asking clients to find a few descriptive terms to characterize their desired brand presence can help them ground their thoughts and put words to abstract ideas. This deceptively simple question will help your agency define an aesthetic scope and understand which qualities to prioritize as you begin the project.
6) Where do you see your brand in 10 years?
This question will help your team understand your client's long-term aspirations, and get a feel for the direction they want to head towards with their branding. It also shows the client that you're committed to helping them grow their brand, and not just treating this account as a one-off project.
Getting acquainted with your client's target audience
7) Who exactly is your ideal client?
At the end of the day, the brand you create isn't just for the client, it's for their target audience. To make informed design and storytelling choices, your agency needs to make a concerted effort early on to understand the client's ideal persona. If you find that your client doesn't have an ideal persona, this can be a great chance to offer additional value by helping them figure out who to target in their marketing efforts. You can download our free buyer persona template here.
8) Who are your direct competitors?
Agencies need to understand the context in which their clients' businesses operate. What does the industry look like? How are other companies in the space approaching their marketing and branding? Much of this information can be found through research, but it's still beneficial to ask your client to define the competition in their own words.
9) What are you ideal customers' biggest pain points?
While customer pain points can't all be completely solved by branding alone, it's important for agencies launching into a brand redesign to know what exactly their client's customers struggle with. Having this information can give you agency an idea about how your client needs to position their business through their branding.
10) Why should your target audience choose your product or service above your competitors?
This question is important because it pushes your client to think about what specific factors makes their business unique. Developing a brand that stands out (especially in a competitive industry) is all about differentiation. And nobody knows what makes your client's business unique better than their own team.
11) Are there any audiences you aren't currently reaching that you want to reach with your brand?
Even if your client already has a good grasp on who their business best serves, it's relevant to see if there are any untapped sources of new business they've previously had difficulty reaching. Your agency can consider this desirable audience during the branding project to potentially extend your client's reach.
Understanding the Logistics of the Brand Redesign Project
12) Who is the key decision-maker on your team?
From the outset, your agency should know who on your client's team will have final approval of the branding project. It's great to get buy-in from everyone on the client's team, but if there's a single person or group of people that have the final say, you'll want to focus your efforts on keeping them in the loop as the project moves forward.
13) What does the approval process look like?
The end goal is to get the new brand approved by your client's team, but how exactly does that work? Make sure you have a good understanding of how your client will review and approve the project so you can see where in the process particular elements are getting stuck or rejected.
14) What are the expected deliverables for this project?
Branding means a lot of different things to different people. Some clients won't even have a full idea of what they need out of a branding project at the outset, so it's important to discuss the tangible products early on and agree on what you'll be providing. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a web of miscommunication and scope creep. If you want to learn how to avoid scope creep with clients, check out this free ebook.
15) What is the budget for this project?
Asking about the budget for a branding project up front is a great way to evaluate how important this project is to your client. If they offer an extremely low budget, they probably don't fully understand the value of branding, and may not be a good fit for your agency.
16) What is the expected timeline for this project?
A branding project can be a massive undertaking, so it's vital to set realistic timeline expectations with your clients from the beginning. If they have a tight timeline, you may need to reevaluate the scope of what your agency is able to offer. It's better to know time limitations right away rather than upset the client later on when you can't deliver in the window they expected.
Originally published Oct 18, 2016 5:00:00 AM, updated August 26 2017