Brand Strategy Pillar #2

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As covered in our previous newsletter, your positioning defines where you fall within your market: the organizations you serve, the expertise you offer, the pain points you address, and the process you use to solve them.

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Brand perspective is the second pillar of branding for professional services. It is the thread that connects your positioning to your personality.

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People buy the intangible, not the tangible. They buy the way you see the world. Your perspective and point of view encompass how your firm sees opportunities and challenges. For modern8, our perspective is that design is always informed by strategy. We often turn down design work when the potential client doesn’t see value in our brand design process’s first three strategic steps.

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The fundamental principles of your firm’s perspective guide your actions and reflect what you stand for. You enact your values and beliefs while you communicate with your audience. Your perspective presents an inherent idea of who you are and how you are known.

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A perspective can center on your presently unique views on your industry and its trends, your innovative solutions to common problems, your distinct approach to customer relationships, and your purpose beyond profit, or it can be about your positive impact on customers, the community, or the world.

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For several years, a firm can indirectly develop a perspective for doing a certain type of work in a certain way. Add consistent perspective development and delivery of high-quality thought leadership, the same firm can position itself as a leading expert with relevant and insightful perspectives for their type of work within just a few years.

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Answer “What do you do?” through your brand perspective and see where the conversation takes you. Though it’s a nuance, it’s likely a more interesting and differentiating point of view that will feel relevant and unique to you.

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Through what lens does your brand perceive the world? 

Brand Perspective Glasses Chart

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

Branding Marketing

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We define branding as a strategic and emotional foundation that builds customer loyalty over time.

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Marketing is typically defined as the action of promoting and selling goods and services.

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We’ve often been asked if we also offer marketing, and, up until now, we’ve politely declined by stating that we are primarily specialized in brand design, then referring our clients to a marketing agency.

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However, we’ve noticed a gap between marketing and branding—they don’t always work synergistically together, and our clients are missing the opportunity to build brand customer loyalty in the short term and over time.

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So what did we do? We launched a brand-based, full-service marketing, sister organization to modern8—a8ency.

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a8ency is about creating compelling and innovative campaigns that bridge the gap between marketing and design, in order to reach your target audience.

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We are also excited to introduce our modern8 audience to a8ency’s Managing Director, Eric Dahl, who comes with years of marketing experience and will be leading the a8 charge. Eric will share his brand marketing perspectives and experiences, which will provide you with insights on bolstering the value of your brand.

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Your Brand Om

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As consumers, we’re pretty familiar with taglines and the general purpose that they serve.

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Some brand taglines have become so successful that they are well-integrated into our language and pop culture as normal euphemisms, such as “maybe it’s Maybelline or maybe it’s…”.

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But what goes into this deceptively simple element of your brand?

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Taglines are the memorable, compelling, and concise way to tell what your brand stands for and promises.

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They can adapt and transcend as time moves on, while carrying your brand’s essence, personality, and more.

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Taglines are built from a thorough understanding of your brand, and, once you develop a tagline, they should be used frequently and consistently to build cachet.

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“Brand mantras are poetry. And they are powerful tools, not just for building brands, but for building organizations.” – Chris Grams

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(The remedy for your dynamite brand)

Short and Sweet

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Headlines are a succinct way of creating brand-based communications that are insightful to your brand’s priorities, personality, values, and more.

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As a strategy-first agency, we believe in referencing the strategic columns of your brand in order to build any form of messaging.

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Because headlines are meant to be efficient and effective forms of communication, it’s better to build them strategically and relevantly for wherever and whomever they are placed.

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As prominent copywriter Eugene Schwartz put it, “There is your audience. There is the language. There are the words that they use.”

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Writing intentional headlines with focus also prevents them from feeling generic or, on the opposite side, from being so encumbered that you lose all understanding and meaning.

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A well thought out headline builds additional layers of visible character for your brand. Therefore, develop headlines that deepen your brand perception over ones that only exist to acknowledge and compete with the competition.

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“Good advertising is written from one person to another. When it is aimed at millions it rarely moves anyone.” – Fairfax M. Cone

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(You’re only as solid as what you build on.)

But is it Worth It

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Headlines began with an attention-seeking purpose to beat out and stifle competition amongst newspapers.

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Though headlines are still used for that purpose, they can do so much more.

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We may think of headlines as a common occurrence and a second nature element of our daily world, however, we should think about them with more intention.

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Headlines don’t only grab focus, they can function as a quick guide and summary into the information you carry, for instance on your website, especially for your target audience.

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Well-written headlines are also useful for your brand campaigns, marketing collateral, blogs, and more, as a glimpse of your brand tone and perspective on the world.

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Remember that most of us skim what we read these days to quickly assess for value, so the brevity of headlines will always be a necessary and key tool for any brand.

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“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” – David Ogilvy

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(When you take a trip to Imagination Station…)

Brand Persuasion

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Your potential customers need to know why they should buy from you and your brand.

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You’ve done the research and spoken with your brand’s potential clients, and you’ve also spent time defining and understanding your brand and who you are.

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Now the task is to figure out how do you signal your future buyers and bring them into the fold?

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You need to speak to your audience using the right platforms (i.e., social media platforms, events, podcasts) where they exist, and utilize the right voice, tone, and correct message.

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Formulating the visuals and messaging takes creativity. Getting seen in the right place and gauging if it works is a science.

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“Don’t think that those millions will read your ads to find out if your product interests. They will decide at a glance — by your headline or your pictures. Address the people you seek, and them only.” – Claude Hopkins

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Assignment: Write about the last 5 headlines/ads that were served to you, and what you remember about where they were and what they said. What worked to capture your attention? Was it the words? the design? the placement?

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(Make sure they’re the right buyer…)