A No-secret Tell-all Review of Major Tom’s Brand Book Approach
There are a lot of agencies that will promise to take care of your branding. If you’re not a brand strategist, entrusting someone with this work can put you in a vulnerable position. You need to know that what they will eventually create for you will be authentic to your organization and easily executable by your marketing team.
Many brand strategy agencies won’t tell you the steps in their process or publicly post their ‘secret sauce’ for fear of being copied. But, we know that our brand book approach involves strategy paired with top tier execution. Part of the reason why we’re so good at what we do is because of our multidisciplinary team and their big beautiful brains. With us, your branding budget ensures you have strategists, creatives, and brand experts in your corner who know their way around a brand book.
So, here’s an in-depth review of our branding secrets and processes.
A brand strategy agency, here’s Major Tom’s four-phased approach
Every project that comes across our desks benefits from a four-phased approach.
We start by understanding everything in the Explore Phase. You’re the expert of your business, so we work with you to understand who you are, who your clients are, what you do, why you do it, and why people should care. Without this phase, we can make you something interesting or compelling — but it may not be right for you, or for your audience.
Then, we move into the Strategize Phase. Here, we sift through everything we have discovered and create an effective strategy for your brand.
After Strategy, we have the Execute Phase. Once everything is approved by you, our team gets to work building out your deliverables. At the end of this phase, we will hand you your brand book.
The Optimize Phase is a chance to improve upon your final deliverables. Your organization is an ever-evolving business, that your brand should grow alongside.
That, in a nutshell, is our four-phased brand book approach.
A note on the importance of collaboration with a brand strategy agency
Like we said before, you are the expert of your business. You and your team may be our most valuable asset. So, we need to collaborate with you to gain understanding, direction, and feedback. Our process cannot work without you.
That’s what we get out of collaborating. But you may be wondering, “what does collaboration do for me?My time is valuable, why can’t I pay you, the brand strategy agency, and have you do the work for me?”
You can rest assured that, in the long run, your time is better spent working together in the beginning than trying to fix an unaligned strategy in the long run. We’re a brand strategy agency — we can create something beautiful and interesting for you that we think will work, but without your input, it will likely miss the mark. And don’t worry, we’ll be doing all the heavy lifting. All you need to bring to the table are your thoughts, insights, and opinions.
Collaboration also means you benefit from a custom output. There is nothing repeated or cookie-cutter about the way we do things. Your business is unique, so your brand needs to be too.
The Explore Phase of our Brand Strategy (and a brand guidelines checklist)
When starting any branding project, it is vital to gain an understanding of the brand directly from you. Our first step is a custom, collaborative workshop designed to discover your core, your market position and the identity of your organization.
During this phase, we may conduct stakeholder interviews and desktop research into your market or competitor landscape.
You might already have some aspects of your brand covered. We use a branding chart — which acts like a brand guidelines checklist — to see which pieces of your brand’s DNA are missing.
The initial Explore Workshops may involve some or all of the following:
What/How/Why (your Golden Circle)
Competitor landscape analysis (this is often done in-house and presented to you)
Then, depending on your needs, a secondary workshop may take place. This workshop could involve:
During these workshops, there are no bad ideas. Collectively, we’re working towards generating new concepts that may be the seed of something great. You may think something is obvious or ridiculous but we want to hear it. We tell our clients, treat us like sponges. Tell us everything and anything that is on your mind.
Up next (or in between) is desktop research and client or stakeholder interviews.
Once your initial workshop is completed, the Major Tom team will begin desktop research and stakeholder or client interviews, when included in your Scope of Work (SOW). Research shows us what your competition is doing and the places in the market landscape that they occupy. This is invaluable when discovering your differentiator and brand position.
Stakeholder and client interviews will show us what people say about you when you’re not in the room — the good, the bad, and the ugly. We need a full and honest perspective of your brand and as an unbiased party, your stakeholders and clients will be able to tell us, anonymously, what they think.
The Explore Phase ends once we have compiled our findings. There is no deliverable for this phase.
The Strategize Phase
During the Strategize and Execute Phases, we do the heavy lifting. During this phase, we work internally to decipher your brand, strategizing the way it should look, feel, and sound by crafting clear and compelling narratives. Your role is to guide us in the right direction by telling us:
what is right,
what is wrong,
or what is missing.
You will have ample opportunities to do so during:
the brand definition presentation,
the Brand Gut Check,
and the concept pitches we present to you and your team.
Brand definition document
Your brand definition document presents elements we have distilled from the Exploration Phase, which includes:
what you have told us,
what your competitors are doing,
your market landscape,
your clients and stakeholders,
and, of course, our own expertise.
From this information, we craft your brand narrative along with a selection of your deliverables and present them to you to gain alignment.
The Brand Gut Check
This is a tailored exercise intended for us to align with your team on what feels right or wrong visually. During this exercise, we quickly run through a curated assortment of images (ie. colors, fonts, logos, layout, photography, icons, etc) to find out what does and doesn’t resonate with you in regards to the future state of your brand. And then, we discuss those likes and dislikes. The concepts that we pitch to your team come from the Brand Gut Check and information from the Explore Phase.
Once a direction is agreed upon, we move to the Execute Phase.
The Execute Phase
With confirmed brand concepts and the green light on your visual aspect, we move into the Execute Phase. Here, we take everything from the past two phases into consideration and begin crafting your brand book. Your brand book contains both your brand foundations and your brand guide.
Your Brand Foundation contains all the elements that make up your Brand Strategy. This is your brand substance and position.
Your Brand Guide contains all the elements that make up your brand expression. This is who you are, what you look like, and how you sound.
Your brand book serves as the guidepost for all subsequent branding work. All of the deliverables from your SOW are presented and packaged up for you in this phase. You can read a bit more onhow to implement your brand book here.
The Optimize Phase
Your brand book should be seen as an evolving document. Brand Guidelines are meant to be interpreted by designers and copywriters, optimizing as they go and adjusting to new situations and opportunities — acting as more of a brand guidelines checklist than rules. As your organization grows, so should your brand. It is not intended to be set in stone, however, your decision to optimize your existing brand or assets will come from within. You can always update your brand guidelines checklist.
Major Tom’s Brand Book Approach can Work for You Too
With our 4-phased approach to brand strategy, we can create a brand book that is easy to understand and execute, and authentic to who your brand is. We’ve worked with clients across many different industries, and are confident that we can help you get to where you need to be. If you would like any more information on our services, or want to start exploring what we can do for you, contact us today.
Colleen Christison, Brand Communication Strategist
The more I learn, the less I know, and the more I want to learn.