Branding is a process of idea collaboration at Tracking Wonder.
I’ve found deep branding to be a game-changing approach for a lot of people who want a creative yet structured way to gain clarity on what they are about, what they stand for, and how to unfold the story of their next act, side gig, or existing business.
It turns out to be a germane way to differentiate what you do and to rise to the occasion of engagement marketing with more joy than jealousy, more giving than taking.
If you’re an executive with an itch for a third act, an agile life designer with an itch for a side gig, an entrepreneur who has not invested the time in a brand thinking process, or an accomplished professional or creative who’s worked hard on other people’s ideas but not your own, this might interest you.
If you’ve thought your website is overdue for an overhaul, this also might interest you. On a side note, here at Tracking Wonder we’re preparing to launch a new version of our website and buffed up brand.
And if you’re like the guy who wrote me and who’s left his secure job and is floating in Fertile Confusion or like the woman who wrote me and who’s still pushing her projects forward with too much isolation.
Someone approached me a few weeks ago in a cafe in nearby Kingston. She recognized me from one social media channel or another. She said she wanted her own brand and wondered if I could help her. “Do you or your team design logos?” she said.
We had a good conversation, but that she started with this question reminded me of how we still get confused about what a brand is versus branding versus a brand story versus, say, a logo or a website.
How We Approach Branding at Tracking Wonder
Brand – the total emotional experience & intellectual associations someone has with you, your business, your creations (You cannot control your brand – and you have a brand whether you have a logo or website or not.)
Branding – all of the skillful means you employ to shape that experience and those associations with integrity. (This is where you have creative and intentional agency.)
Brand thinking – our approach that draws upon design thinking, creative problem-solving, psychology, and story architecture to assure a brand emerges coherently, completely, distinctly, and with integrity
Not everyone with an idea needs a website. Or an elaborate website.
Starting with a client assessment.
So when someone comes to us, our team – with queries about branding, we begin with one or two deep needs assessment calls. We want to know your vision. We want to know where you’re currently serving, adding value. Whom you’re engaging or want to engage in the future. We fairly quickly suss out the gaps between where you are now and what your vision of the next year or more is. I say “or more” because clients come to me with rough 10-year and even 25-year visions. Others come with 5-year business plans.
Then we assess if you’re ready to move forward with our full brand design team, headed toward a specific launch date of a new brand-aligned online presence. OR we say, “Let’s slow down.”
Why slow down? Especially in this epoch of impatience and expectation of quick turn-around? We might slow down not because we want to be perfect. We slow down because certain endeavors merit research and discovery.
Research and Discovery
Most companies, agencies, and corporations have an R&D department that stands for Research & Development – comprised of people whose express mission is to research in order to innovate a company’s or client’s products.
Curiously, a lot of website development companies do not have anything of the sort.
In our brand thinking approach, we assure that we start with designing your signature idea or the signature idea behind the brand or behind the endeavor.
Again, not everyone who comes our way needs full Research and Discovery. However, some clients’ endeavors need two months, some three months, some six months or more. We might be starting from scratch. The “kernel” of a book idea. The “shard” of a next-life venture out of an executive position. The “glimmer” of a new venture or of a new platform to stand on ultimately as a thought leader or influencer some day.
I love these kinds of challenges because I relish the research & discovery process.
However, we might be starting from the opposite of scratch – years of accomplished accumulation. A website so out of date that it has not kept up with the evolution of how the business, non-profit organization, or creative has been serving and engaging people. Mounds of notes that don’t amount to a book. Six years’ worth of random blogging that’s not really serving the business model.
Inevitably clients with outdated websites deserve Research and Discovery.
We’ve developed methods and frameworks that help us define how a creative or a business’s founder uniquely operates, engages, creates, and serves – elements that influence how we develop a distinct branding strategy.
We’ve developed methods that help us locate a brand or endeavor within a field and then better position and differentiate them within that field.
And where I get excited is in guiding people to shape their own idea or ideas – the ones they or their brand ultimately can call their own. In an R&D stage, I help them set up experiments to test those ideas in different forms with actual audiences. That way, they get concrete feedback and data on whether or not this idea in this form or this idea at all is worth furthering.
And deliberate experimenting is exactly what I’ve been doing these past few days with these workshops – gathering real-time data and feedback with a follow-up experiment.
Then the idea’s shape emerges. It’s ready to take form in a business model, a brand’s new service or product or event, a signature book, an app, a new model of a coworking space or lab or podcast show. You get the picture.
As Jim Collins notes about what businesses that thrived during the recession do, “Shoot bullets and then fire a cannon.” Test, test, test. Then launch.
Where the Logo Comes In
Holly and Laine, TW’s designers, design logos for our clients sometimes without a full R & D process. But we nonetheless do have even a “mini” R & D process with all logo designs.
No logo design that we create goes directly from designer to client. And no logo design we create “gets it right” the first time out. Designing logos is a creative process that usually emerges out of the client’s brand story elements.
Sometimes we miss the mark the first time out. The final logo for Saundra Goldman’s The Creative Mix came out of our whiteboard jamming by drawing the letters of the brand name on a whiteboard and imagining what appropriate symbols we saw. From that collaboration emerged the “mixing stick” image that holds the logo together.
The first round of logos with IWWG fell flat. We were going for a more medieval “guild” approach that just wasn’t working. With the help of another artist and more brand thinking soul-searching, ultimately the evocative logo emerged that we call “Geia” – a representative of The Guild’s international woman.
The logos we create often give shape to and enhance the core ideas in ways that words cannot match. But neither of those logos could have emerged had we not have discovered more about the ideas under-riding the brand premise and the feelings driving the founders.
And they would not have emerged if we on the TW Team did not have a mutual respect to push each other forward with our work.
Most Signature Ideas Are Collaborative
“If you put yourself in an environment with lots of different perspectives, you yourself are going to have better, sharper, more original ideas. It’s not that the network is smart.” – Stephen Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From
If you have an itch of an idea that matters, call upon someone or some people to scratch it with you. Find idea collaborators. Create an environment – in real space and/or digital space – where you can share your ideas and ultimately design them as you design the next phase of your business, your making, your life.
If you’re looking for a collaborative pack to share ideas with, a community to lift you up, offer feedback and help you step into doing your best work, I invite you to join our Tracking Wonder Quest Community.
In our community, you’ll gain weekly inspiration, access to special meetups, and opportunities to find allies online and in your region of the planet. Our free community is comprised of professionals, entrepreneurs, creatives, teachers, coaches, and consultants (many of whom align with being introverted) from 15 countries, dedicated to doing business from a place of authenticity and wonder. Join us.