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How to align your brand with your growing business

Like most of our clients, First West Capital is experiencing exciting growth opportunities and an evolution of our business. We’ve added new team members, opened new offices and partnered with many new mid-market businesses across Canada. Last year, we realized that our branding and marketing weren’t fully reflective of the business we’d become. Thus began a transformative journey to align the First West Capital brand with our growing business. Here’s what our process looked like, in case you too are having an “ah-ha” marketing moment:

Understanding the data

Brand is so much more than a logo. To quote Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Great marketing (the promotion) should enhance the brand (the messaging) and be guided by a solid understanding of your target audience. If you haven’t determined your target audience(s), or you need to evaluate them, it’s the best place to start. And so, we did what good analysts do: research. We partnered with a marketing research firm to conduct qualitative research with our stakeholders, clients and employees. It confirmed what we suspected: our target audience and our place in the market had shifted.

You don’t necessarily need a research project to gather data; some basic Googling can tell you a lot about your audience, competitors and industry. The idea is, knowledge is power. The analysis of our research became the foundation for all decisions about our brand, and from there we started to reimagine our brand strategy. We no longer had to guess about who our audience was (hint: YOU!) or make assumptions about what they needed. The first step in the strategy was taking a deep dive into our messaging.

Aligning the messaging

Once we understood our brand and audiences, we had to revamp the way we communicated. Our messaging consisted of product-focused, technical language that even the most financially savvy reader would gloss over. What we learned was we needed to focus on solutions that helped our audience overcome their challenges. That seems simple enough, but you have to be able to inject your unique selling proposition (USP) and brand personality into your messaging too.

It takes a fair bit of effort to craft your tone, develop the right language and effectively articulate your brand – and commit to using it consistently. We created a brand and messaging guide and engaged our entire team in the process to ensure future buy-in and correct usage. The team also offered insights into different parts of the business that need to be communicated, and often knew exactly the kind of messaging that would work. Shifting our messaging was a game-changer; it became crystal clear why we exist and the value we offer to clients, and it paved the way for us to execute the brand through our marketing.

Marketing the brand

Clarity on brand and messaging was the catalyst for the update to our branding (logo and look) and ultimately the complete redesign of the website and other marketing materials – which was no small undertaking. A rebrand can range from simple updates all the way to renaming your company. Consider the following factors before you rebrand: existing brand equity, cost, capacity and capability of existing staff, and the impact on your overall business strategy.

There isn’t a scientific calculation to determine if there’s a need to rebrand, unfortunately, but you will need more than instinct to justify it. The beauty of data-driven marketing is that you can weigh the pros and cons against verified information, making it easier to commit (or not) to a big brand change. Check out Investors Group, now IG Wealth Management, for another real-life example of brand evolution.

The good news was we had already done the hard, strategic work required to guide the creative expression of the brand. Along with our marketing agency we were able to bring the brand to life, and now we feel our marketing accurately represents who we are, and what we do.

Embracing the process

It’s worth mentioning that our brand journey took us the better part of 18 months. This isn’t meant to be discouraging, but rather to emphasize that the process offered up a lot of valuable insights about our business that took time to unpack, and that we might have missed if we’d rushed. We were able to validate our place in the market, reaffirm and articulate our strengths and the entire team was able to engage with how we market ourselves.

The process was much more than making First West Capital look great (although we do look great!). It was about being adaptable to changes in our business and ensuring we’re able to engage with our audience in the most effective ways.

And if we’re being honest, it was kind of fun.