The concept of branding has been around for as long as we’ve been selling things, bringing forth a rich legacy of unforgettable brands. Who can ever look at the Nike Swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches or the Shell scallop and not immediately think of the companies they represent?
Despite being a tried and tested way to attract customers and convey a company’s identity, the “classic branding method” does have a few flaws:
- It tends to focus too much on strategy
- It’s based on the creative genius of the people building it
- It’s usually built for executives and not the end-user
- There is little or no pre-testing with real customers
Our answer to these challenges: data-led branding. This lean methodology leverages the power of customer data and experimentation to fuel brand creation - partnering with customers to take the guesswork out of the equation. After all, who knows more about customer needs, values and preferences than customers?
Using iteration loops similar to The Lean Startup (i.e. build, measure, learn), data-led brands are able to build the traction and interest they need to win the hearts and minds of customers. This “lean” mentality makes the approach a perfect fit for newly minted ventures built using the same principles. In our experience, this methodology is especially effective for:
- Corporate ventures and independent startups looking to create their brand
- SMEs looking for a cheap, fast, and customer-centric way to renovate their brand
- Corporations that want to launch campaigns for specific divisions/departments
- Corporations looking to experiment with a brand before committing to a specific direction
Having used this method to help numerous corporate startups build their brands from scratch, our very own:
- Gilles Waterschoot, Venture Hub Lead and Chapter Lead in Growth
- Leyash Pillay, Head of Content
- Giorgio Orsucci, Venture Designer and Chapter Lead in Design
shared their unique take on the subject.
What makes data-led branding so effective?
The short answer? You guessed it, customer data and lean experimentation. Here’s why:
Traditionally, the branding done by a typical agency covered things like branding strategies, visual branding, tone of voice and brand initiatives. Designers, marketers, copywriters and other industry experts came together to create visually appealing brands designed to dazzle and delight their customers - usually C-suite executives. The problem with this approach is that it leaves out the most vital voice in the branding process: The end-user.
Leaving the customer out of the brand-building process inevitably results in a misalignment of brand vs customer goals, missed opportunities, and unmet growth targets—all factors that can decrease a new venture’s effectiveness.
In essence, a brand is a combination of multiple immaterial factors — e.g. colours, tone of voice, imagery, etc., all coming together to create a feeling and influence customers in unique ways. Instead of trying to guess what the right formula is, data-led branding makes the end-user part of the brand-building process. The result? Brands that truly align with their customers.
This methodology approaches brand building similar to how MVPs are built, using lean experimentation, testing and multiple iterations to create a minimum viable brand (MVB). This makes it possible to keep end-users at the core of each vital decision and partner with them to deliver the best possible customer experiences. As explained by our Head of Growth Gilles Waterschoot:
“While brand agencies create 100% of their brands before testing, we come up with a base of about 60%. The rest is created based on the customer data we gather during validation.”
This approach ensures that the end user’s input is truly baked into every step of the brand-building process.
What are the benefits of data-led branding?
When executed skillfully, it provides plenty of benefits for companies. As explained by our Head of Branding, Giorgio Orsucci:
“Using lean startup principles during brand creation has changed the game entirely, much like it has the MVP building process. It’s faster, more cost-efficient and enables you to make informed, reliable decisions backed by data.”
We’ve outlined a few additional benefits below:
Validating every step in the brand-building process (colours, fonts, tone of voice, imagery, etc.) removes the guesswork and enables companies to move forward based on concrete, validated data.
Building your brand based on customer feedback essentially means that your concepts are pre-approved by your target audience - increasing your chance of success. There are no blind spots or surprises because you’re working with validated concepts from the beginning.
Early testing and lean experimentation enable companies to keep their costs low while maximising the benefits of effective branding (e.g. high conversion rates, retention, etc.).
The lean branding methodology leverages various techniques that expedite the brand-building process (brand sprints, lean experimentation, etc.). This enables companies to gather customer data quickly and make quick decisions about things that would normally take weeks to discuss. As explained by our Head of Content, Leyash Pillay:
“Through the years, enterprises like Coca-Cola, Redbull, Nike and Starbucks have created million-dollar brands using traditional methods, so it’s still valuable. The lean and data-led branding methodology is a useful tool for new ventures that don’t have the time to go the long way around.”
Brands that engage, compel and sell
The lean methodology enables companies to truly get to know their target audience and shape the brand accordingly. The consequence? Increased engagement, conversions and retention.
These benefits are especially important for young startups operating on fixed budgets and working with small teams. It helps take some of the stress out of the process and enables the core team to focus on getting their products to the market faster.
Data-led branding in 5 simple steps: The Bundl method.
At Bundl, we’ve developed a lean five-step roadmap that can be adapted depending on the type of project we’re working on. Let’s take a closer look at what the journey looks like when building a new brand from scratch:
Step 1. Brand strategy
During this phase, we work closely with companies to define their brand goals (e.g. tone of voice, imagery, values, etc.). This is usually done during a two-day workshop, in which we:
Define the target personas
This involves creating three to four personas that define our target audience. In most cases, the personas are already known to the company, so this part goes fast.
Create the persona stories
By creating stories around each persona, we’re better able to conceptualise the type of branding that might appeal to them.
Use brand key modelling
We use brand key models to define the root strengths of the value proposition.
Establish brand archetypes
We use brand archetypes to understand each persona better (e.g. their goals, traits, market niche etc.).
Come up with brand discriminators
We use brand discriminators to define what makes the brand different.
Create mood boards
We then create mood boards for each persona to showcase our findings and results.
Once these factors have been established, it’s time for the next step - running them past our target audience.
Step 2. Brand prototyping
Our goal during this phase is to come up with three to five brand prototypes, usually 1 per persona. To do this, we first sketch out three tangible brand directions, each with its own webpage. This gives us a 360-degree view of each prototype and forces us to think about each aspect in-depth, including photography, colours, tone of voice, fonts, and even events.
For example, who can forget when Elon Musk sent a car into space? The event became as much a part of the Tesla brand as its logo!.
Step 3. Brand validation
This is where the Bundl approach really starts to differentiate itself from the typical brand agency.
Bundl data-led branding approach
Three distinctive, concrete, living brand directions to test against each other - using a unique customer-first approach.
Traditional branding approach
Three brand proposals, usually involving a logo, which is only a partial component of a bigger picture.
Bundl data-led branding approach
We use a combination of lean startup principles, growth hacking tools and experiments to validate each of our proposed minimum viable brands.
Traditional branding approach
Endless discussions over the logic behind the imagery, colours and the subtext they convey. This will always lead to results that reflect the taste of the people in the room - not the end-user.
Some of the most common and valuable lean experiments we use during this phase include:
In-depth or one-on-one interviews enable us to get more detailed feedback from potential customers, enabling us to observe their physical reactions and ask follow-up questions. This is usually the way to go when interviewing industry experts, specialists or rare profiles.
A.k.a. split testing, enables us to test two different variations of a variable (e.g. a webpage, image, message, subject lines, etc.) and determine which of the two performs best. Performance is measured using a variety of metrics, including conversion rates and Click-through rates.
Smoke tests enable us to gather purchase intention data from real customers as if the product was already launched and available (even if this is not yet the case). The experiment involves creating a website for the product or service, complete with images, product specs, and, most importantly, a “buy” button.
We then use tracking tools to observe how customers behave within the website and how many hit the buy button.
Online surveys enable us to send a “one-to-many” questionnaire to a potential target group to get feedback on different aspects of our proposed branding.
The brand validation phase takes around two weeks, during which the experiments we’ve set up gather highly valuable customer data. We follow each experiment closely, evaluating their performance and making adaptations to optimise our results.
Step 4. Brand refinement
During this phase, we analyse the data gathered during brand validation and determine which of our three minimum viable brands scored the highest. Once that’s done, we start the design and creation process, getting the first glimpses of how the brand will eventually look and feel.
Step 5. Brand launch
Brand launches here at Bundl are similar to the ones done by traditional agencies, usually involving:
- Launching the MVB
- Running ad campaigns and videos
However, the details vary from company to company. For example, while some companies want a full brand launch, others may only need a new website or even just a brand book - covering the rest of the branding process internally.
The work done throughout each of the five phases will shape the final brand identity and provide the new startup with a key part of their customer experience.
Pro tips from the Bundl team.
Now that you know more about data-led branding and how customer data and lean experimentation can help power the process, you’re all set to start creating your own brand. Here are a few last tips from the Bundl team to help guide your journey:
- Let data guide your decisions, and be cutthroat about scrapping any concepts that don’t meet your KPI’s. If that means starting over from scratch, so be it.
- Approach all your branding decisions with this eternal customer question in mind: Why should I buy from you?
- A/B ad testing is a great way to get feedback on specific brand items like colours, fonts, tone of voice, and images. The response rates will speak for themselves.
- On the other hand, smoke testing is the way to go if you’re testing two or three different brand concepts.
- Keep a close eye on your experiments during the validation run, and don’t be afraid to make small tweaks and adjustments if you feel it will provide more reliable results.
If you’d like to know more about how to validate your brand, this resource outlines 50+ Lean validation experiments you can use to do just that. It’s the perfect way to kickstart your journey!
Are you a corporation looking to experiment with your brand(s) in a customer-centric, risk-proof, data-based way? We can help you create a fully validated branding strategy that leverages your unique assets and keeps your customers coming back.