Hiring a top branding agency to refine your brand can often cost $50,000 or multiple times that. This can be out of the budget of many firms, and sometimes unnecessary when companies aren’t seeking a full rebrand.

Branding agencies are experts at not only designing great logos, but also focusing brands on their key values and target customers.

The following exercises are employed by top branding firms and 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 about your company, its vision, and its customers.

And the best part is, these team based exercises are not only fun, but they are very effective at focusing your marketing, helping you communicate with your customers, and maintaining a consistent and powerful brand.

Sticky Qualities

This exercise is interactive and fun.  Get everyone relevant from your company’s management and marketing teams in a room (or just you or a few others if your team is small or just starting out).  Give everyone a large stack of Sticky Notes and colored Sharpies.

One by one, have each person write down and say an adjective that describes your company, 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 more edgy?  What makes you special?

Place the stickies on the wall and have one person 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, and try and come to an agreement about whether its relevant or not.  Be ruthless, and try and widdle down the list to about 15-25 that everyone thinks genuinely applies to describing your company.

After that, try and group those remaining Stickies into groups that relate to one another.  For example, we might group words like “Trusted,” and “Reliable” together.  Hopefully, we are down to 7 or fewer groups.  If not, be more ruthless and cut some more.  Great brands are focused and focus requires making decisions.

Come up with a term that synthesizes each of these groups.  For example, if the three words in the group are “Modern,” “Forward-thinking” and “Youthful” you might label that category “Progressive.”

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 being consistent?  If your decision 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 different industry that is similar to yours, and do the same for a key competitor.  Have each person justify their choice by saying why.  Remember, don’t just pick a company that you like or would choose — pick one that has overlapping qualities as yours in terms of target customer, perceived value, price, brand voice, or anything else you feel is relevant.

Try and 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.

  • Airline
    • We are like (insert airline).  Our key competitor is more like (insert other airline).
  • Restaurant
  • Clothing label
  • Car company
  • Hotel
  • Television show
  • Tech company
  • Alcohol brand

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 picture 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 painted, why would they pick your product and how does it fit into their life.

Write down what the story of their life in 5 bulletpoints and include how your product or service connects to their life.

This exercise is helpful because each person will have a different result and story, and 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 within their busy schedule, or are they picking you because they crave social approval from their friends?

About the Author: Raphael Farasat is the CEO & Creative Director of TRUFFL (TRUFFL.com) a creative agency and incubator for startups and leading brands like Tesla, FX, Heineken, and Spotify.  Raphael is the visionary behind numerous brands, award-winning event campaig, social media campaigns and more.