You can’t hit your target if you don’t know what it is.

The importance of setting goals before undertaking a branding project cannot be overstated. It’s important to have clear objectives for your branding project, whether it’s a new company, product or service brand system, an overhaul of an existing brand system, or the branding of a specific product, service, promotion, event, etc.

But what kind of branding goals are we talking about? And how do we figure out what they are, and how to meet them? Hopefully I can give you some insight into how to get to these answers.

When starting a branding project, we want to establish goals in five key areas:

1. The overall objective we are trying to accomplish through the branding effort.
2. The specific desired result(s) we are trying to achieve with the branding effort.
3. The audiences we are trying to reach with the branding effort.
4. The project scope and deliverables we need to create for the branding campaign.
5. The project schedule, milestone dates and target launch date we are trying to meet.

So initially we need to answer five questions:

  • Why are we doing what we are doing? (the overall objective)
  • What are we expecting after launch? (the desired result)
  • Who are we doing it for? (audiences)
  • What are we doing? (project scope and deliverables)
  • When are we doing it? (project schedule, milestone dates and target launch date)

1. Why: The Overall Objective
This first of these questions is the most important, and many times it’s not even asked in the context of a branding project. It’s critical to know why a branding project is being undertaken, and what the reason is behind the initiative.

I’m a big believer in branding goals supporting a specific business goal. And that the business goal should support the company’s Mission, Vision and Values. If the business goals are not in alignment with the MVV, and the branding goal isn’t in alignment with the business goal, even the best branding efforts won’t be able to solve the problem effectively. Answering the “Why?” question at these three levels (MVV > Business Goal > Branding Goal) will greatly increase your branding project’s chances of succeeding. Our Project Goal Setting Worksheet can help you answer the “Why?” question.

2. What: The Desired Result
Now it’s time to define the target we’re shooting for. For now, we’re just looking at the overall result we’re expecting to achieve — we’re keeping this at the “big picture” level to start with, we’ll talk about breaking the main target down into smaller targets later. There may be more than one result we’re trying to achieve, and that’s fine as long as they’re different desired results (e.g. for different audience groups), and not subsets of the same result. Again, our Project Goal Setting Worksheet can help you with this.

3. Who: Audiences
Here we’re going to outline in detail whom the branding effort is meant to reach. I like to organize target audience members into three audience groups (I call these the “3 C’s”):

  • Customers: Anyone who currently buys or would consider buying (prospects) your company’s products and/or services.
  • Company: Leadership, management, staff, recruits, contractors, vendors, strategic partners — anyone who can be considered as being on the company team (now or possibly in the future).
  • Competitors: The competing companies and service providers in your business category, as well as companies, products and services that compete for your customers’ attention.

Our Audience Outline Worksheet can help you define this.

4. What (again): Project Scope and Deliverables
Expected project scope and final deliverables should be defined in detail. Don’t worry about when it’s all going to happen, for now just list the different parts of the project, anticipated needs, components and accompanying specific deliverables. Our Project Scope and Project Deliverables forms can help you with this.

5. When: Project Schedule, Milestone Dates and Target Launch Date
Finally, we’re going to outline in detail all project milestone dates, from your projected start date to the target launch date. I suggest doing this in reverse, starting with the target launch date and working backwards to the projected start date. I also suggest using the “R” in S.M.A.R.T. Goals (link) here, and be realistic about the time it will take to complete your project. My experience has been take the time you think your project will take, and double it. Really.

Basecamp is a great online tool for project management and scheduling — if you’re not familiar with it I recommend checking it out. And later, we’ll talk about our Next Steps worksheet which can also help with your scheduling.

What other questions do you ask when starting a branding effort?