Refine (or Define) Your Brand With These Exercises



Hiring a top branding agency to refine your brand can often cost thousands or even millions of dollars. This can be out of the budget of many companies and potentially unnecessary if you’re not seeking a full rebrand. Branding agencies are experts at not only designing great logos but also focusing brands on their core values and target customers.

In this blog, I’ll explain branding exercises employed by top branding firms that can be done by anyone at any stage of their business. They can help your team get on the same page and create a shared understanding of your company, its vision, and customers. And the best part is, these team-based exercises are not just fun. They are very efficient to focus your marketing, help you communicate with your customers, and maintain a consistent and compelling brand.

Sticky Qualities

This exercise is interactive and fun. Get everyone relevant from your company’s management and marketing teams in a room. If you’re just starting out or run a lean team, this could just be you and a few others.

  1. Give everyone a pad of sticky notes and colorful markers. One by one, have each person write down and say an adjective that describes your company. Repeat the process until you each have 20-30 stickies. These adjectives shouldn’t be generic. Try to think about what makes your company different from your top competitors. Are you more modern? Are you edgier? What makes you special? Place the stickies on the wall.
  2. Choose one person to lead the discussion. Decide which terms most people don’t think apply and remove them. When there is a disagreement, have people discuss their points of view. Aim to come to an agreement about whether it’s relevant or not. Be ruthless. Try to whittle down the list to about 15-25 that everyone thinks genuinely apply to describing your company.
  3. After that, try and collect remaining stickies into groups that relate to one another. For example, we might group words like “trusted,” and “reliable” together. The goal is to get down to seven or fewer groupings. Be even more ruthless and cut some more. Great brands are focused, and focus requires making decisions.
  4. Come up with a term that synthesizes each group. For example, if the three words in the group are “modern,” “forward-thinking” and “youthful” you might label that category “progressive.”
  5. Now you’re down to a handful of key terms that define your company and its values. Go over them with your team, and refer to them when you’re making key decisions. Are you staying in line with your key qualities and values? Are you consistent? If your choice doesn’t enhance one of these words, that’s an easy way to say no!

By Analogy

Many of us who work day in and day out on our own companies are so close to our brands that it can be challenging to define them. One helpful tool is to brand by analogy.

In this exercise, have each person pick a company in a different industry that has similar qualities to yours, and do the same for a key competitor. Have each person defend why they chose those companies. Remember, don’t just pick a company that you like. Pick one that has qualities that overlap yours in terms of target customers, perceived value, price, brand voice, or any other relevant comparison.

Try to agree on one to two companies in each category. The result should help you focus what makes you stand apart in your industry. Each of your marketing efforts and key decisions should reinforce these qualities as they will help your customers choose you based on what makes you unique.

Here’s an example:

AIRLINE: We are like (insert airline). Our competitor is more like (insert another airline).

Here are some additional ideas for this exercise: restaurants, clothing labels, car companies, hotels, TV shows, tech companies, alcohol brands, cosmetic companies, etc.

Pictures & Personification (Say That Five Times Fast)

In this exercise, have one person visit a stock photography website or search Google for pictures of all different types of people. Search for multiple different types of people based on age, city, activities, socio-economic status, type of industry, gender, or anything else that is relevant to your product. Print these pictures out and spread them out over a table.

Have each person pick one picture that could be a target customer of yours. Then each person should spend some time thinking about the person in their image and what their life is like.

Where do they live? What is their day like? Where do they work? How do they spend their weekdays or nights or weekends? What do they do for fun? Get creative and really try to put yourself in their shoes and paint a picture of what their life is like. Try and connect it to your product—within the context of the story you’ve portrayed, why would they pick your product, and how it fits into their life. Write down what the story of their life in five bullet points. Include how your product or service connects to their life.

This exercise is helpful because each person will have a different result and story. It may even open up new ways of thinking about your company and open up new target customer groups. It also helps people figure out what type of relationship people have with your company. Are they picking you because you’re a convenient and accessible choice in their busy schedule, or are they choosing you because they crave social approval from their friends?

When it comes to “brand-storming,” there’s always work to be done, but it doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Have you done any revamping of your brand recently? Do you have any exercises you’ve recently completed? I’d love to hear about your process in the comments.