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Doctor in the Haus: Brand-Aid

PRESCRIPTION NOTEPAD 2Dear Doctor,

Recently, our partners told me that they want to refresh our brand. We’re a 53-year-old architecture firm. I’ve heard a lot about branding, but I’m not sure what that means. Do we have to design a new logo, create a new website, change our name? It sounds like a lot of work, and I don’t even know where to start. Please help!

Need Some Brand-Aid

 

Well, look Brand-Aid, it’s the holidays, so you have a little time to relax and think about your big moves for 2015. The Doctor is not such a Scrooge that she doesn’t think that you need a few days off to recharge, just like your smartphone.

But! It will be a new year very soon, and that’s the perfect time to refresh your brand. Ok, so let’s get down to some specifics, because different people define branding in different ways. For example, some consider your logo and graphics to be your brand – the things that we simply used to call your “corporate identity.” And that’s part of it. We’ve all seen outdated logos and graphics, and it’s not a pretty sight. Think about it: you wouldn’t wear a Santa suit on July 4th, so you don’t want to start 2015 with a logo that’s stuck in the 1980s! But there’s more to branding than just your visual identity.

Here at Hausman, we define “brand” as the core values that distinguish your firm. Let’s be clear about this: you’re a professional services firm, not Heinz ketchup! So while you want to promise and deliver great architecture, it’s not just the quality of your product (i.e. buildings) that help you build your brand, it’s also the quality of your services and the level of knowledge that you bring to clients. You need to know what your clients want and need, and then figure out a good way to give them what you want. Hotels here are a good analogy – are you the kind of firm that provides room service and has a spa, or do you have a breakfast buffet and Internet service? Your firm has to figure out what it wants to be. After that, you need to reinforce that brand in every way possible. This includes your “look” or corporate identity (including your website), how you describe yourself, and any proactive communications, such as articles and press releases.

It’s critical to have unified messages about your firm when you talk about how your design process operates and how you pitch the firm to targeted client groups. Just as you are all using the same logo and the same font, make sure you are all making the same promise to clients – and meeting that promise. Most important, branding is about building a strong, solid reputation, and there’s no better selling point than that.

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