At Mäd, we take an unusual approach to branding that embraces client co-creation to ensure that we can great results - fast.
Why Co-Collaboration Brand Workshops?
The typical agency routine is to take a brief for a project and then dissappear for weeks or months, and then call for a large meeting where the ideas and concepts are then sold to the key stakeholders, who have had little to no involvement in the process.
This can be counterproductive because there can be at times little rationale for the idea presented, and also if none of the ideas are approved, then a lot of time has been wasted and the project will be delivered late due to the requirement of having another round of concepts that might take weeks or months.
To ensure that this doesn't happen with our branding projects, at Mäd we run a one to two day brand workshop at the start of each branding project to ensure that we set ourselves and our clients up for success.
By spending time working together, we create a strong concept base for our design team to work on, safe in the knowledge that there aren't going to be any nasty surprises at the end. However, we're called Mäd for a reason and we don't believe that just playing with safe ideas is the best way to go, and to achieve awesome results you need to think differently, and that's why during our workshops there is no judgement on the quality of the ideas.
All ideas are welcome, and we'll sort the best from the rest later on. This ensures that everyone feels safe to throw out the crazy ideas that normally wouldn't be heard in the board room.
The Voting Mechanism
During any of the brainstorming parts of the brand workshop (and more on those later!), a huge amount of ideas are generated.
However, these need to be sorted and then reduced to a manageable amount to take action on. This is where the voting part of the workshop comes in.
Everyone gets the same number of votes, usually between 4-6 stickers that they can place on any particular idea (usually the idea is in the format of a sticky note on the board) that they like. The key stakeholder in the room, usually the CEO or founder, will receive an extra vote that they can place anywhere.
It's important to note that you can vote for the same idea only twice, which ensures that a diverse range of ideas are considered.
So, we will now take you through the format of the workshop so you can know what to expect!
Creating the Brand Pyramid.
At Mäd, we believe that a brand is far more than the logo or any other design elements. The brand is the framework for everything you do. It's how you inspire your teams to come to work, your customers to keep coming back, it tells you what to do when things go wrong, and what success means to you.
It's the North Star that guides you in the sea of business, regardless of how difficult the way forwards may appear to be.
1. Brand Essence
This part normally starts with a general discussion, and the key stakeholders will speak, often at length, on their vision, to ensure that everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.
If the project is a rebranding, then a big point of discussion is reviewing what is not working with the current brand, and what absolutely must change to ensure success.
After this general discussion, everyone will work in silence for ten minutes, creating a list of brand essences, one per sticky note. The key idea here is not to be "right", but to get the ideas out based on the previous discussions.
Once the time is up, each person puts their sticky notes on the board and gives a brief description of their idea. Questions can be asked.
Once this is over, everyone has several minutes to vote on the ideas. The top three ideas are then kept, the rest are moved to another board.
2. Brand Personality
The next step is to start to personify the brand with human attributes, as all great brands are great communicators and relatable to their audiences.
The same process of silent work creating ideas and then discussion and votes is repeated, the top voted ideas stay on the board.
3. Emotional Benefits
This is asking question: how does brand make people feel?
4. Functional Attributes
The last thing to look at is the actual key benefits or attributes to the end user of the brand. These can be described in terms of features for a product, or key service points for a service business (i.e. fast and consistent service for a restaurant chain).
Essentially, the key functional attributes are the main drivers of the rational benefits that drive usage.
What's in a name?
If we are also picking a name, then the same process of naming ideas and then voting will be followed, but prior to this, we will choose two out of a possible six naming categories:
Eponymous - A person, place, or thing after whom or after which something is named, or believed to be named. Think of Addidas named after its founder Adolf "Adi" Dassler.
Acronym - A word or name formed as an abbreviation from the initial components in a phrase or a word, usually individual letters and sometimes syllables. Think of companies such as IBM or UPS.
Non-English - Using a non-english word or letter to create a unique name. Think of us, Mäd.
Descriptive - A word or name that describes the company or brand itself, it conveys the sector and focus of the company. Think of names like General Motors, or TripAdvisor.
Suggestive - A name or word that conveys to the consumers exactly what it is that is being sold. Think of companies like HOTELS.COM or SportsCenter.
Coined - A name or word created to convey a specific feeling or association rather than a direct, literal meaning. This type of name can be created by combining words, parts of words, or foreign expressions, or by altering spelling. Think of companies such as Kodak or Kleenex.
Lighting demos are a chance to get inspiration from the rest of the world. Everyone will spend 20-25 minutes finding inspiration online (i.e. via Pinterest) and noting down anything that they feel is appropriate based on the brand pyramid and what they really like.
At the end of the research phase, each person stands up in front of the group and presents to everyone what they found, and why it inspired them.
The facilitator will summarize key points and attributes from everyone's inspiration and make a list on the board.
This gives material for everyone to use in the next phase.
The solution sketching is where the brand starts to develop a visual aestethic. What's important to note here is that we're not designing the logo in the workshop, but we are visually ideating based on all the previous discussions and voting.
Everyone will have 25 minutes to work on multiple logo or visual elements that they feel might work for the brand. At this point, we're aiming for quantity, and we normally receive 30-40 post it notes per person, which for a group of 8-10 people can mean up to 400 ideas in 25 minutes.
Each person briefly presents their ideas for 5-10 seconds as they stick them on the board, and then several rounds of voting occur, reducing the up to 400 ideas to a final list of 10 ideas.
The key outcome here is to narrow down the potential design ideas for our design team to explore, so that we can come back in two weeks with concept brands instead of two months, and there are no surprises on the client side because the client has been thoroughly involved in the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a brand workshop take?
Depending on the complexity of the project, we normally recommend either one full day, which can be split into two half-day sessions, or two full days for larger projects where there is more to consider.
What's the role of the facilitator?
To drive the meeting forwards, limit chaos (!), keep track of time, and encourage everyone to share all ideas.
Who should I bring to the brand workshop?
Anyone who works with or is intimately involved with the brand. Usually it's good to get a mixed crowd to receive different perspectives. Normally, it's a mix of:
- The CEO or Founder
- A shareholder representative
- Head of Marketing or Communications
- Someone involved in Operations.
- Client Service Director
Do I need to bring anything to the workshop?
Just your brain, an open attitude and a laptop/tablet. We will provide lots of coffee and pizza.
Generally speaking, phones are not allowed to be used during the workshop unless it's for an emergecy. This keeps everyone focussed on the task at hand.
How many people should be in the brand workshop?
For the client side, we recommend up to five people, max. On the Mäd side we normally will have three to four people, and on occasion up to five people.
What if I can't physically attend the workshop? Can it be run remotely?
Yes! We've run workshops with clients on other continents and had very successful outcomes. We use specialized software that acts as a virtual whiteboard where we can stick ideas and vote on them. While it is always preferable to work in the same room, in reality schedules and budgets sometimes prevent this, and a virtual brand workshop can still be just as effective.