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Find and leverage the essential truth of your brand.

When time is of the essence, marketers are sometimes hesitant to pursue a brand discovery process. However, to give your brand a competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace, there are clear benefits to a full discovery process that is scalable and agile.

As a brand strategist, I have worked at agencies across the country over the past three decades; one of the things that makes Core different from other agencies is our “5D” process, which starts with thorough discovery.

All agencies do discovery, in various ways and to varying degrees. At Core, if I could only choose one word to describe our Discovery process, it would be “thoughtful.” (Other descriptors, if permitted, would include “diligent,” “fun,” “engaging” and “insightful.” These are the same words our clients often use.)

We apply our Discovery process to branding, product marketing, healthcare service line marketing and more. For the sake of simplicity, I will describe it here primarily in the branding context.

Engage Your Team Early and Often for Effective Cross-Functional Alignment

Defining or redefining your brand strategy is, of course, an important undertaking for your entire organization and all the people within it. There are likely many people across numerous functions in your company that have useful insights to contribute, need to feel heard, and must have some “buy-in” during the branding process to live the brand once it is defined. For those reasons, our discovery process at Core is built around collaboration with your cross-functional team right from the start. The ideal group size for these meetings is around ten to twelve people. And depending on your organizational structure, we generally recommend involving not just the marketing team, but also representatives from executive leadership, human resources, sales, customer service and other functional areas.

Our kickoff meetings and discovery sessions are opportunities for your team to understand where the process is headed and weigh in on our foundational shared understanding of the goals of the work and the key elements that will shape brand strategy.

We typically offer the option to survey all your employees at this stage if one has not been recently done. This ensures that every single person within your company has the opportunity to express their views on your mission, values, culture, engagement and other elements that greatly impact the ultimate expression of the brand.

Listen Deeply to Your Internal and External Audiences to Develop Empathy to Guide Both Strategy and Creative

After the initial discovery session, it’s time to dig deeper, peeling the layers of the onion, as it were (though I would argue that a brand is far sweeter than an onion, perhaps more akin to a pomegranate — the most complex fruit, according to Google/ChatGPT).

The ideal discovery research plan includes a mix of both quantitative and qualitative research, which complement each other. The quantitative study, whether of employees, customers or both, is statistically reliable and projectable to the market or audience as a whole and is used to assess the current state of the brand in terms of awareness, perception and the like.

Qualitative research, on the other hand — usually in the form of observation, interviews or focus groups — gives us the opportunity for far deeper listening and exploration than a survey tool ever could. We’re able to lead probing conversations in which employees and customers share their pain points, hopes and feelings. This gives us true empathy for the people the brand exists to serve and a map to some of the key facets of the brand’s strategic direction.

This research and the resultant empathy map provides an essential foundation for ensuring the relevance and motivational power of both the brand’s strategy and its creative expression. So, while we can collaborate to create brand strategy from very limited conversation and research, and that can deliver a successful result, it is not likely to deliver the optimal result.


Uncover and Crystallize the Essential Truth of Your Brand

Truly, the ultimate benefit of our diligent discovery process is that it enables us to develop a deep-felt sense for the truth of your brand. Informed by the activities discussed above, we are experts at sussing out the essence of what makes one brand distinct from another.

For example, in healthcare, we’ve recently found that while one health system brand stands for empowerment, another stands for surprisingly human care, and another feels like family. Each of these brands was uncovered through diligent discovery.

This benefit was expressed beautifully by our client:

“Through insightful internal, customer and competitive research, Core was able to hold a mirror up to TriHealth’s true identity in the market. With that knowledge, Core guided us through a collaborative and thoughtful process to bring that identity to life through our marketing and to rally our 11,000+ team members behind it. In the end, we developed a unique, credible and impactful brand position and creative platform that resonates with both healthcare consumers and our team members.”

A few questions to ask yourself

Again, we understand and empathize with the need for speed. As you weigh the relative importance of discovery speed versus depth, we encourage you to consider the following questions.

Which Discovery steps will best engage your team and enable them to feel heard, so they will feel a stake in “living the brand” later on?

Have you done enough research to have true empathy for your key audiences so you know how to address their desires and relieve their pain points?

How confident are you that your brand strategy is an accurate reflection of the essential truth of what you are or what you aspire to be?

If you’d like to schedule a complimentary 30-minute session to discuss Discovery, contact Sue Spaight, VP of Insights and Strategy.

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