It all started out with this:
💜 Your brand questionnaire got me thinking about my business in so many new ways 💜
This is what my brand strategy client said post filling out the brand questionnaire that I had sent over.
And multiple people asked me on this post to share my questionnaire, to which the obvious answer was nope.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not egoistic or overly protective about the 1–2 pages of questions. It’s just that I spent a couple of weeks creating, curating and modifying it, and I genuinely do feel like it’s my little baby.
So, instead of sharing the questionnaire with everyone that asked, I figured I’d write an article sharing what went on behind the scenes and how to create your own.
Each brand strategist will have a unique take on the questions and outcomes, and that’s the best part of this exercise. This way it also gives you the creative freedom to frame your questions in a way that it suits your personality. It shouldn’t feel like a copy-paste
Let’s get started.
What is brand strategy?
Brand strategy is a methodical process of finding out who you are as a brand, and what your ideal customers expect from you — matching the two up, and creating the wedge in the industry and space you’re in, making yourself stand out.
Your onboarding questionnaire is meant to ask hard-hitting questions to get your client’s in motion. Brand strategy is a combination of three things that will provide your client with a clear direction. This questionnaire will help you gather all the insights you need to drive this project in the right direction.
- Ethos — Credibility and authority
- Pathos — Emotion and imagination
- Logos — Logic and reasoning
That’s the end goal, but how I got to the same end goal was by thinking of branding strategy as a kaleidoscope — many different perspectives, and angles to the same thing, but always looking through the same lens.
Every twist of the kaleidoscope reveals a new and yet stunningly beautiful image right in front of your eyes.
The goal of brand strategy after all is to bring in clarity and help business owners see their business through a well-cleaned glass, and not through haze. Business owners do have multiple priorities on their plate at any given time, and this clarity that you will provide to them, will ooze into every aspect of their business — positively.
Before we begin, two pro tips from my experience of building this questionnaire out.
(skip this if you want to bite the bullet and go to the questions bit)
Pro Tip #1: Section your branding questionnaire
As obvious as this may sound, a list of 30 something questions on a blank white sheet is very intimidating. As a brand strategist, you’re looking to co-create, not scare. And since this is the first step to your branding process, let’s be friends? okay? cool!
My brand questionnaire is split into 4 main sections to guide them into thinking from a singular perspective
- Market/competitive landscape
- Your brand heart/ brand core
- Brand as a business
It’s easier to think of each as a singular box when you begin, and then zoom out to the 10k feet view.
Pro Tip #2: Ask only the necessary questions
Too many questions in a section spoils the broth. As a brand strategist, your role (iterating again) is to co-create, not leave it on the client to ‘figure it out’
Therefore your questions need to be targeted to getting to the answer you’re looking for, and yet be left broad enough that there’s room for conversation and brainstorming.
In a brand questionnaire, you’re not looking for ‘the right answer’, you’re looking for ‘the direction’ of where they want to see their brand, and then that’s where you come in — to co-create that brand with them.
When it comes to questions, if each question isn’t vividly different from the rest, you’ll soon notice the convergence of thoughts happening.
To keep the questionnaire as precise as possible, in my internal notes, I wrote the question goal for each one, and when I was done, I tried to see where I could merge questions to get to the right direction I wanted my client to head in.
If you want your brand strategy project and their branding to succeed, your client needs to have a solid grasp of who they are internally and what they want to present externally.
People buy from people, not brands.
Overall, your brand strategy questionnaire needs to include these main sections
- Internal understandings — how well do you know yourself? Your core competencies, mission, vision, values, ethos and story
- Who you are as a brand — how do you manifest when you speak? why should someone listen to you? why are you different?
- Your market space — who are the big guys you’re competing against, and where do you stand on the
- Your audience — who are the humans who’re going to buy/interact with your brand?
PS: you can shift around the order of items; whatever makes the questionnaire flow the best for your use case
Examples from the field
Here are some questions to kickstart your creative juices that are similar to the ones I have. Use these as a guiding light, and build more depth into each of these questions to really dig into your client’s brand/audience/market and more!
- What was the ‘need’ for the product that you created?
- What are some core beliefs that align with the success of your brand?
- What’s your revenue generation model?
- What are the top three to five key marketing messages (or, RTBs) to use as “proof points” to support your positioning?
- What is the journey your ideal customer can expect from your brand when they engage with it?
- Where are you now as a brand, where do you want to be?
- To call your brand a success, what would need to happen?
- Name 2–4 people who you feel embody your brand, or vice versa?
- What brands do you currently admire in your space? Why so?
- Where’s the white space in the market according to you? Where do you fit in?
- If you were in charge of X (brand/product/service leader in your industry) , what’s the first thing you’d change?
- What does a typical day look like in the life of your ideal customer?
- Describe your ideal customer’s goals, dreams, desires, and aspirations
- Why should your ideal customers trust you?
- Share 5 adjectives or words that best describe your ideal customer
In conclusion, this will seem like a long list of questions, but you’ll save yourself a lot of time and effort by getting clients to mull over these and answer them to the best of their abilities rather than trying to do it extempore. Also, you may have noticed that none of these questions are specific to design or visual style. That’s intentional.
You must be asking why this exercise is important, I’m certain. Here’s why
- It helps gather large amounts of data quickly in one place removing assumptions and presumptions since you’re cocreating
- It helps your clients to dive deeper into every segment in a logical manner, rather than extempore
- It allows for cross-functional collaboration from a single point of origination — visual designers, web designers, packaging designers — they all will refer to this document when creating their pieces of art
- It allows you to pick on keywords or thoughts that might be overlapping through the entire document
- It makes it easier to cross-question if you see a gap between two supposedly connecting thoughts
A solid brand identity is critical for a business that’s looking to develop customer loyalty and retention, which can be a huge competitive advantage.
In a crowded market space, how your brand makes a mark on your customers, and the impression it leaves behind is all that matters.
I know that a branding project takes a lot of dedication and time, hopefully, this guideline helps you avoid an existential crisis!