If your answer to that is, they don’t, I would suggest looking for another agency. Because the answer to this question is it represents the very core of who you are as a brand. Just as a builder will follow an architect’s plan, a creative team will use a brand foundation to create your visual identity.

Finding clear sky in a creative maelstrom

To the more logical mind, working with a creative team can seem like grabbing at smoke. How can you pin down something that is flitting from one brilliant idea to another? Which one will work for your needs? This is why it is important to choose an agency whose first question is: “Who are you?”.

Clarity of message

I would argue it is virtually impossible to commission an effective piece of visual design if you don’t know the basic essence of who you are as a brand. You might counter that by saying “I know exactly who I am”. Great! Now tell me, and your architect, and interior designer, and web content producer and, and, and… Gets complicated doesn’t it? It’s important to question will it appear coherent with other communications, across a range of media, commissioned by different people and executed by alternative creative suppliers?

So what will a brand foundation do for you?

This process takes a mission statement and gives it substance, accountability and transparency. A clearly articulated brand foundation gives substance to all the ideas about your brand that you carry around in your gut – but which, if the brand is to grow successfully, needs to be shared. It makes the hard to define stuff, that you just innately know, transparent and available for all your people to see. This articulation, making it real, writing it down, also makes everyone’s efforts accountable. The target is clear, the goal is set – does what you are doing take us towards or away from our desired future?

Choosing a creative partner

Many London creative agencies will give you something that looks great. But how do you know if it is right? Will it amplify or contradict the values and personality your brand is trying to project? All your employees and suppliers need to have a clear, unequivocal and shared understanding of the brand story that they are responsible for telling. A brand foundation enables this consistency to be managed more efficiently and effectively.

Let me ask you a question

You have red chairs in your reception and a key customer asks: “Why red?” do you say, “Because I like red and it brightens up the place”, or, “Because we use red as an expression of the energy and warmth that we bring into our professional relationships”. Both valid answers, but the first is an expression of your personal aesthetic – while the second demonstrates an understanding of your brand.

Why do your customers care?

Morgan Stanley’s AlphaWise1 consumer survey shows that ‘Good Ethics’, as a purchase criteria, is rising up the ranks of motivations behind purchasing decisions. Over the course of the six-year survey it has risen 9%, whereas ‘Good Advertising’ has grown only 4%. It shows being able to articulate what you stand for is of increasing importance. Another recent survey by Salesforce suggests that 75% of consumers want a consistent experience, across all touch-points. We’re back at clarity of message again.

Getting it right produces tangible results

Consumers want clarity and a consistent message, a 20% increase in simplification translates to a 96% increase in purchases, return purchases or recommendations (CEB 2012).

Summing up

A brand foundation clearly articulates the core tenets of your brand so they can be used as a benchmark against which to measure the ‘on-brandness’ of any business decision or piece of communication. It becomes the battle-flag that your organisation rallies behind.

See how Incorporate Design helped Hazel Capital with a brand foundation that shaped their visual identity and resulted in securing £2.6m in growth capital.

If you feel you struggle with articulating your brand to multiple suppliers then perhaps it’s time to get us on board.

Obliterating indifference since 1987