By Fran Johnson
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Do all brands need to be audience led?

Donald Trump’s campaign for president was launched over a year ago. His disdain for political correctness and aggressive stance on immigration shaped his initial message.

Fast forward a few months, and the tone of the campaign was still evident, however Trump began to be heavily influenced by the results – which messages worked with his potential voters? Which got the most retweets? His White House mandate was being shaped as he tweeted and the resulting policies went down well with initial public opinion.

Reacting to an audience can work, but it is a tricky place from which to build trust. Whether your initial brand strategy (if you had one!) revolved around your audience or not, branding is a flexible business and can be altered over time.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.’

Henry Ford

Understanding how your audience communicates is crucial to engaging with them. The hard part is balancing the reactive ‘this seems to be working’ with the long term strategy of influencing and leading the conversation.

So where do you start?

I believe there is a scale when it comes to whether your business is founder-led or audience-led. At one end sits a musician or an artist – it’s safe to say if people like your product, they are likely to like your taste! However a bank for the masses will need to make brand decisions based on their brand values and communicate directly to a specific audience.

The branding process requires quite a few gut decisions, especially around the visuals. There is wisdom in working out where on the scale your company sits before you start looking at visuals to promote it.

On one end of the spectrum, it doesn’t matter if your personal favourite colour is purple – it shouldn’t impact your decision making. On the other end, it could be taken into account if there’s no audience-related reason to avoid purple.

At a dozen eggs, the most successful processes I’ve witnessed are when the client can detach themselves from the brand we are creating, which is easier said than done!

What is your audience looking for?

Every audience has its own visual language. When I mention Harley Davidson you will have a different mental picture than when I reference a ‘yummy mummy’. Tapping into a familiar visual language for your audience can provide a great starting point for communication, which you can then build upon.

The easiest way to understand the current visual language for your audience is to research the brands they already interact with. Are there any common themes? Is there a colour palette emerging? What is the tone of voice?

Knowing more about your audience’s brand landscape means you can start to work out which areas you want to fit into and where you want to differentiate yourselves. Over the course of his campaign, Trump started to wear a baseball cap and no tie – a nod to large swaths of the American population.

Keep on checking in

Whilst I’m an advocate for working out the persona for your audience – Where do they shop? Who do they spend their time with? How do they feel? – Your audience can change. Or your assumptions could have been incorrect. Make sure your audience always remain real to you.

Charnwood Brewery

Branding a micro-brewery and standing out from the crowd


Slack, a successful messaging service, requires every engineer and designer to spend at least 2 hours a week on the support queue, ensuring they are never too far away from understanding a customer’s irritation. Charnwood Brewery, a client of ours, meet their customers on a near daily basis in the brewery shop and bar, allowing them to gather immediate customer insight and reaction.

Meeting your customers and not allowing a stale and perhaps incorrect persona to get established in your mind’s eye is crucial to having an audience-led brand.

Your brand can work for you. Drop us a line if you have any further questions or would like to know more about our branding process.



Slack’s support queue: Transform: A rebel’s guide for digital transformation by Gerry McGovern

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