Brand Strategy Pillar #1

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Strategically positioning your professional services agency will attract your target audience on your terms, resulting in fulfilling work and increased profitability. Positioning, at its core, will serve as your method to focus and refine the market landscape.

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The mistake most agencies make when introducing themselves is leading with their services. The typical answer is straightforward: We are graphic designers… or I am an accountant/ architect/engineer/attorney, etc. The problem with this information is that it’s the least distinctive and engaging aspect of your business—positioning is not your service.

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Your positioning starts with your expertise. For example, “modern8 solves brand challenges for companies that struggle to stand out and connect with their audiences.” This introduction opens the door for follow up, like “How do you do that?” or “What kinds of companies do you help?” components. While each element alone may not distinguish you, together they can create distinction and uniqueness.

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Expertise-driven positioning allows your agency to build a narrative around what you do that can save your potential client from failure—it’s classic storytelling.

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The second component of positioning is identifying the industries and clients you serve. By focusing on a specific industry or niche, your expertise will deepen and become more valuable, allowing you to grow your client base organically. 

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After identifying who you serve, the next component to articulate is the benefits your service will provide to your audience, like what is in it for them or what is the ultimate value that you will provide if they choose you. Don’t be vague. Make it easy for them to understand and see how what you do will help.

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Your process is the final component of your brand positioning. It’s your unique way of solving your client’s pain points. A proprietary process provides a framework for delivering consistent results and building trust, credibility, and reliability, as clients know what to expect when they hire you for your service.

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A well positioned brand leaves a lasting impression.

Brand Pillars of Professional Services

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Covered in our last newsletter was a general overview of how brand strategies differ depending on whether you have a product or service-based company.

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The first step in understanding your three brand pillars is to be clear about your strategic goals as a professional service. These typically stem from current market perception issues or changes in business objectives.

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Professional service brands have the potential to stand out in the market through strategy-based decisions. An effectively developed brand strategy requires three key components. While each element alone may not distinguish you, together they can create distinction and uniqueness.

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Pillar One, Positioning: Your What. Your positioning clarifies and clearly states your services and clientele. It communicates your expertise, the unique benefits you offer, the specific problems you solve for your target audience and industry, and the process you use to address them.

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Pillar Two, Perspective: Your Why. Your perspective reflects your worldview, how you see opportunities and challenges in your industry, and your purpose, which are the values that drive your business beyond profit.

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Pillar Three, Personality: Your How. Your personality reflects your heart, your culture, and how you communicate. It includes your desires, values, tone, and voice to help you express the brand internally and externally.

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These three brand pillars should answer the following questions: Who do we work with? What do we provide? What value do we create? Why does it matter? What are we known for? How do we operate? And how would people describe us?

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Your brand should be pieced together by 3 key pillars.

3 Brand Pillars Chart

Service or Product

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The Tangible v. The Intangible: Product companies offer tangible goods that customers can see, touch, and use, whereas service companies provide intangible offerings, such as expertise, advice, or solutions

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Brand Strategy: As a result, product-based brand pillars should emphasize physical attributes, features, and benefits, while service-based brand pillars should focus on conveying value through expertise, trust, and reliability.

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Differentiation: Product companies prioritize product design, functionality, and user experience to differentiate themselves in the market and create memorable customer experiences. Service companies rely heavily on customer interactions, personalized experiences, and consistent relationship-building efforts.

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Messaging: Product companies should focus on understanding their customers’ motivations while highlighting the features and specifications of their products that will meet those needs. In contrast, service companies should emphasize how the benefits and outcomes of their services will solve a client’s problems while highlighting their expertise, process, and unique value propositions.

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Visual Identity: Both product and service companies benefit from a strong visual identity, but product companies should emphasize packaging design, social media presence, and visual aesthetics to create emotional attraction that draws in their customers. Essential for service-based companies are branding elements, such as logos, colors, photography, and imagery, which emphasize and convey professionalism, trustworthiness, and expertise.

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Brand Personality: Service-based companies’ personalities should center around the people doing the work, how they interact with their clients and teams, and how they problem-solve. Product-based companies’ personalities should be based on their target audience while depicting the brand through an identifiable voice, look and feel, and point of view that resonates and aligns with audience lifestyles.

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Whether you’re a service-based or product-based company, evoking emotion within your target audience is a priority. Once cultivated, your brand can powerfully shape perception, influencing the customer’s behavior and building long-term loyalty.

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Knowing the difference, makes a difference.

Service vs Product Brand Strategy chart

How To Hire For Strategy

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Hiring an agency for brand work shouldn’t be a quick and easy process. It’s a significant investment of time and money for returns that aren’t immediately visible. Since branding is a long game that will matter beyond the budget, how should your company evaluate who to partner with and hire?

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To start, define your objectives and what you hope to achieve with the agency. Whether you’re building and shaping customer perceptions, repositioning due to new market conditions, or aligning your brand with a change in business objectives, a clear understanding of your goals will influence your selection.

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Understand the relationship you are looking for. Do you want a partner or an executor? How much do you want to be involved in the brand process? Do you believe in quickly completed work or time with an agency that can fully grasp who you are and where you want to go? Do you value cultural fit for a successful relationship?


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Research brand agencies. Most creative agencies have beautiful portfolios and a process. Spend time reviewing how they do their work. Does the agency use a one-design-fits-all solution or work individualized to the client and their goals? Does their brand process resonate with you? Do you align with the agency’s method for accomplishing work? Does the design work include a strategy that explains creative decisions?

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Interview your shortlist. In the interview, do provide context but let the agency ask questions. The more curious they are, the more thorough they will be in their research. Through a case study, determine how their process can solve your problem. Does their process adapt for service-based versus product-based clients? Does their creative output match the strategy and the overall goals? Workflow-wise, is there a flow to communication and a commitment to timelines?

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Gather feedback. For validation, reach out to clients that have used the agency. Ask for insights into the process, relationship, performance, responsiveness, and desired outcomes.

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Assess the vibe. If you choose your agency wisely, the partnership will last longer than a few weeks. Your instincts play the ultimate role, so tune into your gut for the final decision. Find an agency you vibe with and get to know the team. Both parties should like one another and have mutual respect.

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Before you start hiring, make sure you check off all the boxes.

Strategy Hiring Checklist

2024 & The State of Your Brand

In the world of branding, there’s a saying that holds more truth than many might realize: “Your brand is not what YOU say it is, it’s what THEY say it is.” It’s a simple yet profound concept that underscores the importance of customer perception in shaping a brand’s identity. At Modern8, we echo this sentiment, guided by the wisdom of branding guru Marty Neumeier, who emphasizes that customer perception is not only crucial but also within our control.

 

A successful brand isn’t just about a logo or tagline; it’s about crafting both a strategy based on research and distillation and a cohesive narrative that resonates with your audience. This is where brand strategy comes into play, it is the foundation on which you build from. Think of it as the pillars that direct all your brand’s actions, behaviors, and communications. A well-defined brand strategy not only distinguishes you from the competition but also cultivates customer loyalty and, ultimately, helps you gain a larger share of the market.

 

So, what exactly does a brand strategy entail? It’s about clearly articulating what your company stands for and what sets it apart. It’s about identifying your unique value proposition and communicating it in a way that resonates with your target audience. In essence, it’s about answering the crucial question: “Why should customers choose us?”

 

Brands, like everything else, evolve. What worked for you yesterday might not work for you tomorrow. That’s where the idea of a rebrand comes into play. Yes, it’s a daunting prospect, with possible risks and uncertainties. But done right, a rebrand can breathe new life into your brand, revitalizing its image and rekindling customer interest.

 

In 2024, the landscape of branding is ever-changing, and if you’re not paying attention to what your customers are saying about you, you’re missing out on valuable insights. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and reassess your brand. Are you conveying the message you want to? Are you resonating with your audience in the way you intended?

 

In our next article, we’ll delve into the nuances of rebranding, refocusing, and refreshing your brand. But for now, take a moment to reflect on what you want your audience to feel and say when they interact with your brand. After all, your brand is more than just a logo—it’s the sum total of the experiences and perceptions that your customers associate with you.

 

Brand perception is in your control. What’s your winning strategy?

Pick Your Brand Perception illustrated graphic

Gifts for Designers

As design-centered people, we know the importance of well-designed gifts. That’s why, year after year, we sift through the noise to bring you an annually curated list of gifts for designers. From sleek tools of the trade to quirky gems that’ll make their creative heart skip a beat, we’ve got it covered. Make this season a bit more design-forward and a whole lot more personal. 🌟

Gifts for designers: Fishwife Tinned Fish Serving Set

FANCY FISH

Elevate happy hour with a carefully curated selection of premium tinned fish and accessories, a masterpiece of design and flavor.

Pink Elephant Roam Roast

BREWING CREATIVITY

Packaging so pretty it just needs a bow. Coffee so delicious it only needs water.

Gifts for designers: Counter Print Books Logo Collection

LOGOMOTIVE

A collection of logos around the world across various themes.

Gifts for designers: Mac folder wallet

TECH CHIC

Digital aesthetics brought to life with real-world functionality.

Gifts for designers: Fisk Designer Palette mousepad

DESIGNER’S PALETTE

This mousepad transforms a desk into a canvas, where every click and scroll becomes a stroke of inspiration.

Le Puzz Field Day puzzle

PEACE BY PIECE

Unwind with unique and playful puzzles. These unconventional puzzle shapes and designs are perfect gifts for designers.

Coming Soon multi purpose martini glasses

DRINK IN STYLE

Multi purpose glassware that can be used from either side. 

Gifts for designers: 2024 Typodarium Calendar

THE GIFT OF TYPE

Daily type inspiration for 365 days.

How to Create a Brand Purpose

Before we delve into the intricacies of defining a brand’s purpose, take a moment to jot down a brief description of your company in 50 words or less. We’ll revisit this later. 

 

For many businesses, determining a purpose beyond financial objectives can be a daunting task. It requires introspection, thoughtful questioning, and a keen understanding of the underlying motivations that drive your daily operations. Start by asking yourself and your team probing questions. What inspires and fuels our work on a day-to-day basis? Is there a deeper significance in what we do? What kind of difference do we want to make? What kind of legacy do we want to create and leave behind? Your purpose and values are part of your identity, and if you have determined your purpose for being, then your identity is authentic—true to the values and purpose that drive the company.

 

Consider the influence of your company’s culture on its purpose. Take a step back and observe the dynamics among your employees. How do they interact with each other? What surrounds them in the office environment—art, quotes, or mission statements? Even the choice of reading materials can provide insights into the collective mindset.

 

Storytelling is a powerful tool in shaping and communicating a brand’s purpose. Examine the stories circulating around the office or those consistently told in presentations. What do these narratives reveal about your company’s priorities? How do they contribute to the overall identity and mission?

 

Reflect on the defining moments in your company’s journey. Explore the reasons behind its inception, and consider the responses to significant victories or setbacks. Your reactions to challenges and choices can solidify your core values and shed light on your purpose.

 

Now, revisit the 50-word description you penned earlier. Pull up your website’s About page and mission statement. Do these elements align with what you’ve uncovered about your core values, culture, and the heart of your organization? This critical self-assessment ensures that your external messaging resonates authentically with your internal ethos.

 

Our client, Pink Elephant Coffee Roasters, is an example of a purpose-driven company. Roasting takes a back seat to their purpose beyond making money. Founders Mitch and Kelley Baker are passionate about Utah’s public lands. The statement on their about page reads “There’s nothing that we love more than sipping a cup of coffee while surrounded by vast public lands, wild places and native wildlife — whether we’re sitting by a campfire, hiking up a mountain, wading in a river, or simply enjoying the view. This is why we give a portion of sales to local nonprofit organizations to ensure our public lands are here to stay. Wander far, roam free”.  Pink Elephant’s brand purpose is a driving force, going beyond their product. It is a commitment to a greater cause, a reason for being that goes beyond the bottom line.

 

To reiterate from our previous article, when your brand forges a connection through a purpose they become steadfast advocates who continue to invest in your brand. Creating a brand purpose involves a deep dive into your organization’s culture, values, stories, and defining moments. As you work together with your team, remember that a purpose-driven brand not only resonates with consumers but also fosters a sense of identity and motivation within your team, driving your business toward sustained success.

Recipe for an Intentional Brand Purpose: dish out a brand purpose layered with intention.

Why Create Purpose-Driven Content

In the world of brand marketing, Simon Sinek’s well-known adage, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” has become a mantra for marketers and business leaders. However, despite its ubiquity, this concept is still relevant and has become increasingly vital in today’s ever-evolving consumer landscape.

 

Traditionally, consumers sought products and services that addressed their immediate needs. They made choices based on convenience, quality, and price. But the landscape has shifted, and modern consumers are no longer content with mere functionality. They now seek something more profound—a sense of purpose and a connection with brands that resonate with their values and ideals.

 

In the realm of brand marketing, a “why” or a sense of purpose should be the heart of your business. If created and used, it infuses your brand with emotion and, in turn, gives it life. Successful businesses are those that have a purpose that extends beyond profit margins and competition. They are driven by a deeper cause that strikes a chord with their audience. Patagonia for example, is widely known for its strong commitment to environmental and social responsibility. Patagonia’s purpose is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

 

What sets Patagonia, and other businesses apart is their ability to effectively communicate and embody their purpose. By doing so, they not only demonstrate an intimate understanding of their audience but also cultivate trust by showcasing their adaptability to changing and evolving needs.

 

A key outcome of this approach is the strengthening of brand loyalty. When your brand forges a connection through a purpose that resonates with your target audience, it can significantly boost customer loyalty. This connection is more than just transactional; it’s emotional and enduring. Customers who genuinely embrace your brand’s purpose are not merely one-time buyers; they become steadfast advocates who continue to invest in your brand.

 

So, what should you think through as you delve into the realm of purpose-driven marketing?

 

Consider this: How does your brand, product, or service make a meaningful difference in the life of the person using it? This question should be at the core of your brand’s “why.” A genuine purpose is one that resonates deeply with your customers, enriching their lives in a way that goes beyond the product or service itself.

 

Peter Drucker a management guru said, “Profit is not the reason for a business to exist; it’s just a test of its validity.”

 

While profitability is essential, it is your purpose that infuses your business with authenticity and meaning.

 

In the ever-evolving world of brand marketing, one thing remains clear: a compelling “why” is not just a trendy catchphrase but a powerful force that can breathe life and longevity into your brand. It’s the essence of your business, the driving factor behind your audience’s loyalty, and the key to your success in the modern consumer landscape.

Brand Purpose: Average vs. Intentional Infographic

How to Create Your Brand Archetype

In brand marketing, understanding the significance of a fully-fledged personality is just the beginning. We touched on the ‘why’ in our previous article, but how do we go about creating one and using it? So why should brands spend the time, money, and resources to create one?

 

Starting at the Core: Your Brand’s DNA

The journey towards a distinctive brand archetype begins with an intimate understanding of your brand’s DNA. What fuels your company? What values drive its existence? What is your mission and vision? This self-awareness should be your launching point.

 

Navigating the Archetypal Universe

Once you’ve got your brand’s essence determined, explore the different characteristics of each archetype within Carl Jung’s framework. Each has positive qualities however some should resonate and feel more authentic than others.

If you find yourself wanting to fit within a specific archetype but it doesn’t feel natural, try listing all of the traits of an archetype on a sheet of paper without their respective archetypal headings. Start by crossing out the traits that don’t feel like you or feel like a stretch. Then on the second round circle and draw comparison lines to figure out if there are any overlaps. From there, narrow down the traits to a final 3 or 4 and see which archetype you naturally fall into. Have several individuals in the company take this same test and your authentic archetype should organically emerge.

 

Integrating your Archetype into Content

Once you’ve determined your archetype, it’s time for a deep dive into its defining traits. Say your brand aligns with the Hero archetype; think through how you can seamlessly weave qualities like courage, resilience, and a quest for excellence into your content creation.


Through the art of storytelling, visuals, messaging, and design, infuse your marketing content with the very essence of your chosen archetype. Authenticity is your guide. Your voice should ring true and consistent, creating a genuine emotional connection with your audience.

 

The world of brand archetypes is about crafting a persona that aligns with your brand’s very essence and resonates with your audience on a deep level. Infuse your marketing with your archetype’s voice, and personality, and ensure your design and visuals match. With consistency, your audience will grow and drive long-term revenue through loyalty.

brand archetype wordle game

Why a Brand Archetype Can Shape Your Personality

In the world of branding and marketing, having a brand personality is a vital brand pillar that guides content creators in their marketing efforts. But how do you develop and employ a brand personality in a way that resonates authentically with your audience?

 

The starting point is a thorough understanding of your company’s culture and purpose. This understanding serves as a fundamental building block. Yet, to truly connect with your audience, your brand personality must come alive.

 

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, introduced the concept of archetypes which are universally recognized symbols, characters, or themes that represent fundamental concepts, stories, or ideas. Jung’s belief was that archetypes shape our thoughts, behaviors, and dreams, offering a window into understanding the intricacies of the human mind.

 

In branding, this concept of archetypes can be an empowering tool. Brand scientists and marketers employ Carl Jung’s archetypes to create a framework for building a brand personality. By aligning with a specific archetype, the process of crafting compelling content becomes not only easier but more effective.

 

Why does this matter? Nike as an example boasts a rich history of infusing its branding and advertising with heroic themes. “Just Do It,” their iconic tagline, isn’t merely a catchy phrase—it’s an invitation for individuals to embark on their own heroic journeys. It encourages them to overcome obstacles, challenge their limits, and aspire to greatness.

 

All of Nike’s characteristics are associated with the Hero archetype. Nike’s brand personality aligns seamlessly with the universal attributes and qualities attributed to this archetype. It’s an appropriate example of how a brand can use archetypes to speak to the innate aspirations and desires of its audience.

 

Here’s a practical exercise to consider: Take a closer look at the stories your brand tells. Do they follow classic narrative structures, like the hero’s journey or the caregiver’s nurturing narrative? These narrative patterns can offer valuable insights into your brand’s archetype. They provide clues that help you understand the essence of your brand personality and how it resonates with your audience.

 

While the concept of a brand personality may appear elusive at times, it needs to be far from nebulous. It should be deeply rooted in the universal symbols and themes that Carl Jung’s archetypes illuminate. By aligning with a specific archetype and crafting content that taps into its universal characteristics, your brand can come alive, creating genuine connections with your audience that shape their perceptions and build long-term loyalty.

 

 

The 12 Brand Archetypes:

12 Brand Archetypes. Creator, Citizen, Caregiver, Sage, Sovereign, Outlaw, Magician, Lover, Jester, Innocent, Hero, Explorer