How to Build a Brand: The Brand Interview

You may have heard it said that brand is the sum of what your customers say about your business when you're not in the room to hear. And it's true that to some extent, your brand is outside of your control. However when you carefully create your voice, tone and position statements, you control a great deal about how your brand will be perceived. As long as your brand lives up to the set of brand guidelines you create, chances are good that your customers will understand the essence of your brand.

Whether you're just starting out or taking a second look at your brand pillars, a brand interview can be an excellent first step in discovering your brand.


Main Requirement: An Open Mind

Part of the brand interview involves agreeing in rote information: what is your company's ultimate vision? How do you intend to achieve that vision? Who is your main competition?

But the art of building a brand happens when you dig deeper into more ethereal questions--and that requires an open mind.

Come to your brand interview without an expectation of where you think you'll end up. Instead, use a series of associational exercises and explore all the alleyways and avenues your answers take you down.


3 Types of Associational Exercises

There are plenty of associational exercises to choose from. For the sake of brevity, I've selected three popular exercises: the Lightning Round, A vs. B and the Visual Exercise.


The Lightning Round

During the Lightning Round, you will be presented with a series of questions and asked to provide an answer as quickly as you can. The questions can range from the seemingly mundane (If you were a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would you be?) to the more fantastical (Name a super power your brand would have).

The useful information is derived not from the answer you give, but rather from the reason behind the answer. For example, if your first thought was that your brand resembled a peanut butter sandwich, you may discover some insights about your brand by examining the reason for your answer. Perhaps you answered in this way because your brand and your produce is a staple in your industry. Maybe you always associated peanut butter sandwiches with comfort and simplicity and that is the kind of notion you want your customers to feel when they interact with your brand. Whatever the reason, it is important to take the time to deeply examine them once you answer all the Lightning Round questions.

An easy way to get started is to discover your Brand Archetype which will help guide you.


A vs. B

An exercise similar to the Lightning Round is A vs. B. During this exercise, you are presented with two options and are asked to decide which option you believe your brand more closely associates itself with. For example: Apple vs. Google. Simply decide whether your brand is more like Apple or more like Google.

Like the Lightning Round, the actual answer is not as important as the reason behind your answer. People hear the options and relate them to different things. Whatever the answer was, take the time to explore the reasons behind your choice. As you continue through each set of A vs. B, chances are good that you will begin to notice certain similarities behind your answers. As the pattern emerges, so will certain core brand traits and elements. As you discover these, you will be able to use them as foundational pieces for building your brand.

A simple way to get started with this is to make a paper with two columns, the first column is what your brand stands for, the second is what it is not. For example "Feminine but not girly", "Professional but not impersonal," "Upbeat but not obnoxious," etc.


Visual Exercises

Brands are deeply visual, so it's equally important to include a visual component to the brand interview. This is often called moodboards and can be done in a number of ways from a Pinterest board to cut outs magazines to more professional presentations. What's most important is not the style it is created in (your customers will never see these initial visuals) but finding the images that resonate most with your brand.


Putting It All Together

Brand interviews can and should be a lot of fun, but they're hard work and they yield a lot of information in a short amount of time. Once you complete the interview and the associational exercises, let your answers breathe for a bit. Come back to it after a day or two and analyze the results. Look for similarities and explore differences. Bring in a second opinion if necessary. Brands aren't built overnight, so it's critical that you take the time needed to get it right.