You have engaged with a new graphic designer, copy writer or another creative vendor. It’s common for clients to work under the premise that simply tasking the creative with a project, providing a few instructions that they think are important, and waiting for the magic to happen are the steps that will lead them to checking off the box for the creative challenge at hand. We work in an era that values quick decision-making and swiftly moving to the next task, so in this light it’s natural for savvy professionals to follow this instinct. However, effective creative outcomes often stem from a more strategic starting point. The path a creative project takes, whether it’s in the realm of design, copy, video or images, should start with a conversation about your goals and what makes your brand unique. Enter the brand discovery.

What is a brand discovery?

A brand discovery isn’t a one-size-fits-all process; It’s different for every business, every project and every creative strategist. Only one meeting might be needed for some projects while for others, several meetings may be needed. However, the primary goal of a brand discovery is the same: create a strong connection between your brand and your audience, setting the stage for growth, loyalty, and desired outcomes.

What’s the purpose?
Understanding why a business is refreshing their brand identity, creating a marketing piece or producing a video is absolutely critical. Without a well-defined purpose, these initiatives risk becoming mere aesthetic transformations rather than powerful tools driving meaningful connections and business growth. Better stated, it transforms your efforts from tasks to purpose-driven endeavors that resonate with the audience, reflect the brand’s values, and ultimately contribute to its success in the ever-changing marketplace.

Understanding your audience is essential 
One of the underlying purposes of a brand discovery is to understand your core audience. After all, it’s your customers who keep you in business, so learning about them is paramount. Creative strategists will want to know their gender, age, income, personality traits and behaviors. The information collected here will help creative strategists make brand more relatable to your audience, and relatability is one of the foundations of trust and confidence in your brand.

Another important step: Examining the competition
A good brand discovery will also include a competitive analysis. A competitive analysis will uncover not only direct competitors, but also similar businesses. Asking who “you” are may not be enough. It is just as critical to ask who “they” are. Once this is defined, an analysis on their strengths and weaknesses compared to your brand may shed some new light on what your creative marketing strategy should be.

What more does it involve?
A brand discovery unveils various insights including where your brand has been, where would you like your brand to go, what creative challenges you have faced, or how will the new creative challenge co-exist with your brand.

Why do I need one?

Many clients have their own perception about the necessity of a brand discovery, often associating it exclusively with developing a brand strategy or with their identity.  However, it’s more fundamental.  In its most ideal form, a brand discovery is a conversation led by a strategist with the objective of uncovering who your brand is, what it offers and why—a crucial process regardless of the specific deliverable.  Clients may be asking “how do I know if I need a brand discovery?” Well, the answer might lie in this analogy: If you were experiencing a health concern, and instead of scheduling a face-to-face visit with a doctor, would you email the doctor’s office, sharing a few notes that you believe are essential for a diagnosis and treatment. You could try! This sure does seem like a convenient shortcut, doesn’t it? The reality is, your  doctor would likely insist on an office visit. Why? Because a comprehensive understanding of your health requires more than a snippet of information that you think is important. You doctor will more than likely need to dive into your complete medical history, seek their own answers regarding your symptoms, and may even conduct specific tests to get a better picture your health issue and determine the right treatment. The same principle applies to your brand and marketing collateral as it does to your personal health. Creative strategists are much like doctors, and your project is the patient.

Some brands may already have an extensive brand guidelines book, or brand strategy document, with the brand persona, core values, brand tone and manifesto already written by another team or individual. Yet, even the most detailed document cannot replace the insights discovered through a conversation led by an experienced strategist. Just as a doctor might have their own set of questions and tests for your new ailment, strategists use the brand discovery process for your new creative challenge.

Essentially, starting creative projects without a discovery is as ill-advised as shooting arrows blindfolded. When creative strategists work in the dark, they are unlikely to hit the bullseye on the first, second, or third attempt. While the creative process is inherently subjective, a robust brand discovery aims to remove subjectivity and unfounded preferences, replacing them with informed choices.

You may be pondering:  “But I’ve witnessed blindfolded stage performers shoot arrows or throw knives at their assistant with tremendous accuracy. Why can’t skilled creatives be this accurate?” Indeed, these blindfolded performers employ deception and trickery, and some never truly hit the target at all. If you prefer to work with a creative who relies on deception and trickery, there are plenty who will make themselves available to trick and deceive you. However, if honesty and real results are what you seek, collaborate with a strategist who understands the importance of a well-conducted discovery session.

So, the next time you contemplate skipping the brand discovery process, remember that it is more critical than doing the work itself. It’s the compass that ensures that every creative challenge becomes a triumph in its own right. Embrace the power of discovery, and let your brand soar to new heights.