branding: why defining before designing is so crucial - Astute Communications

At Astute, we meet clients at all stages of development: some need branding from the ground up, others just need some SEO added to their web presence. Regardless of where they fall on this spectrum, we always ask— do you have brand guidelines?


so, what are brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines are simply-put, a handbook of who your company is. It can include colors, type fonts, messaging examples, and even help to define how you hope customers perceive you. It’s your company— just add water.

It’s a tedious process to outline these objectives, and often times it can be intimidating to truly define who you are as a company. It can feel like you’re putting yourself in a box. But a good brand has an established starting point and evolves over time— so, think of it as more of a road map and less of a box.

A website or social media strategy becomes disjointed when it’s not rooted in a company’s true brand. All of your digital marketing components are a vessel for you to yell loud and proud who you are as a company.

Before you jump into deciding what you look like, you have to outline what makes your brand tick. They say it’s what’s on the inside that counts.


4 questions to ask in order to define your brand


1. how do we relate to our customers?

At Astute, we use the 12 Jungian archetypes to help define how we relate to customers. Each archetype is developed into a specific brand persona with defined character traits. Using a combination of primary, secondary and tertiary archetypes, we are able to begin building a complex, but definitive tone for each client.

Determining how you relate to your customers is crucial to how your messaging will read, and how users will experience your brand. It will drive your goals and help to steer you in the right direction when it comes to design and other marketing decisions.


2. what words and feelings do we want people to have when they experience our brand?

This one stumps people sometimes. Often we work with high-level medical companies or data-driven environmental brands and while most people understand the concept of integrating feeling into their marketing, trying to define those feelings is foreign.

And we get it. Feelings are elusive and ever-changing, but it’s important to also recognize that they are instrumental in customers’ decisions. Branding is all about delivering an experience that will be attractive, familiar or somehow otherwise relatable to your customers. It is so much more than just what you look like–it’s all about connecting on a deeper level.


3. do we have a role model brand or a company whose brand, messaging, and overall image we like or want to align with?

What are good role models for, other than paving the way? Having a company that you look at and say, “I’d like to be in their league”, or “They’re doing this really well,” is about getting to the heart of who your company is. When it comes to marketing, copy-catting is a no-go, but often being in the weeds of your own brand can make you a little blind to its strengths and weakness. We find it’s easier for companies to identify what they like or dislike about other brands, and we can move from there.


4. who is our ideal customer?

This speaks to the heart of your audience. Who are they aside from their age, gender, race, socioeconomic status? Do they value religion? Do they have children? Do they desire convenience or an in-depth customer service experience? Are they more likely to respond to numbers and statistics or emotionally-driven content? Are they looking for a long-term company relationship or a one-off solution? These questions inform not only what you say, but how you say it. It can be easy to be hyper-focused on who you are as a company without even stopping to think who it is you’re asking to trust you with their money, time, etc.



Beautiful websites and stellar user-experiences are crucial for brand recognition and converting users, but those things are built on robust brand exploration. Pump the breaks on the design front and build definitive brand guidelines. Your customers (and designer) will thank you.