1. What is the difference between a business consultant and brand consultant? 

A business consultant is experienced in areas of looking at a business's startup or growth. Their areas of expertise lies in the following. For example 

- merger and acquisitions

- loans, looking for investors, venture capitalist 

- succession planing 

- advise on business models and geographic regions to expand into etc

A business consultant is typically an expert in certain field like healthcare or IT because they have spent most of their lives working in these industries. Most business consultants have knowledge that branding is important to the survival of the business, hence they will refer a brand consultant to the client. 

A brand consultant is specialised at positioning the business amongst its competitors. Many graphic designers claim to do branding, but they are actually only providing a new set of brand identity (e.g logo, stationery, collaterals). That said, not many brand consultants also advise the client to look into business matters like business models because they to dive into market research and propose strategies from there. Different brand consultants deploy various frameworks and methods, so it's important to work with one that fits your budget, time frame and needs. 

2. I hearing "brand" and "brand identity" pretty often, are they the same or different?

What is a brand?

A brand is an intangible aspect of a business that serves to

1) Help consumers differentiate a product or service from the competition

2) Deliver assurance

3) Connect with the consumers to form long term relationships

How a brand is perceived affects the success of the business and it is important that all employees, stakeholders and marketers share the common understanding of what the brand stands for to ensure consistency in delivery of the brand experience.

What is brand identity?

Brand identity is tangible and uses the five senses to increase awareness, change perception, aid recognition, facilitate education and fuels brand loyalty.

For example, aside from the logo, certain colours, smell, font type, music and service experience can be unique and representative of a brand.

A C.I. guide serves to illustrate the various touch points and gives a strategic guide how to take disparate elements to form a meaningful identity for the business.

3. What is a C.I. guide?

A brand guide or C.I. guide (corporate identity guide) is a summary and presentation of what the company stands for and its differentiating factor, as well as a framework of how various collaterals for different touch points should be designed. It helps internal and external partners especially in the field of design, branding, printing, PR, HR or even architects adhere to the brand identity for consistency across countries and media platforms.

MNCs who need to execute marketing activities across countries see this as a compulsory manual, but we recommend business of all sizes to develop a basic guide to feature the brand summary with logo colours and usages. Business is dynamic so even a basic manual done well can help new designers develop new collaterals that was not previously featured in the guide.

4. Can we skip the research process?

Ideally, a thorough and well executed research exercise will shed good insights into how your customers think, behave and feel for you to plan your business strategy accordingly.

However we understand in the practical world, some businesses do not have the luxury of time and monetary resources to even wait 1 - 3 months for the results. Rather than giving it up totally, we propose research to be within the branding framework that is continuously reviewed with a manageable budget and time set aside.

Interestingly, some company intentionally forgo the research process because they think that people will respond based on what they want or know. In coming out with a revolutionary or innovative product, true success is making people desire what they didn't know was missing in their lives. 

5. Can we go straight into revamping the logo or website?

Design in my opinion is a science and an art. Combining form and function, an attractive website must also convert traffic into sales. Likewise, a pretty packaging must be able to also differentiate its product from its competitor by stating the product’s value upfront. Not attempting to review the business first might mean we run into the risk of not being able to fully convey the true value of the offering and convince the customers why they should choose your product.

6. What is brand architecture?

Brand architecture explains how business units, hierarchy of brands or subsidiaries relate to one another in a single company. Discussion of this is important as it has implications not only on branding but also on service, logistics and accounting costs. It is important to bring consistency, visual and verbal order, thought and intention to disparate elements to help a company grow and market more effectively.

7. Is branding a one-off process? 

The reason why you have an impression that branding is one-off is because many people think brand = brand identity. The former is intangible and it exists as long as the business exist. The latter is tangible and uses the five senses to increase awareness, change perception, aid recognition, facilitate education and fuels brand loyalty. Many graphic designers also claim to offer branding services, when they are only giving clients a new set of logo and stationery because the company looks better with a new logo and website (so this is one-off). Whether we eventually decide to change your logo is secondary, we need to first decide if your current offering is helping or creating more competition for you. 

It is inevitable that your business will grow and face new opportunities. The job of the business owner will be then to constantly review to see if what the business is portraying to the public is in line with their plans and business model. When you come to a cross road again because you cannot determine if your past/current positioning works for you, the brand consultant is called in again, and hence the cycle starts.

Branding is not a one-off service; instead, it is a daily affair because in daily operations, the staff you select, the language and tone of voice on your flyers and content for the website is ultimately the business owner's decision how he wants the public to remember his business.