Definitions of “brand” abound. The one we find most valuable: what your diverse audiences think and feel when they hear your name or see your product.
At Elixir, we focus on “our customer’s customers.” We need to know who they are and what they think about you today – what they expect, or need, or want from you. We also need to know what you want your customers to think about you tomorrow – before we can design anything for them.
Many years ago, we brewed up our North Star process out of necessity. Too often, we were asked to create design based on strategy documents from branding firms that distilled a client’s essence beyond the point of pasteurization. Frequently, the attributes described – though accurate – could just as easily apply to the closest competitor(s). The documents left no trace of idiosyncrasy (the most valuable differentiators) from which to tailor the most fitting solution.
Our North Star process enables internal consensus: a shared, actionable roadmap based on collective insights. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, our designers influence the strategy process as much as the strategy informs the design process.
To deliver for our clients, we rely on both strategy and design. Depending on the project, the proportion varies. Some assignments require only a few hours in a conference room , listening to you and to our guts, before we proceed. Other projects warrant research: one-on-one interviews with current and prospective customers, followed by workshops and what we refer to as “brand design prototyping.”
This, in a nutshell, is how we think. Strategy (which really just means “what we are going to do”) is inextricably linked to design. Design is inextricably linked to strategy. Many firms say the same thing – but we have been told countless times that our holistic approach sets us apart.
Complete North Star Process
This diagram represents our complete process in which Research occurs before Design. For certain assignments, a draft “North Star” (a single piece of paper encapsulating what we want our target audience to think and feel in the not too distant future) can be created in a single kickoff meeting.
You tell us who your audiences are and who your competitors are.
We collaborate with you to create a conversation outline that informs a free-form telephone conversation (interview). Our questions are open-ended and intentionally simplistic.
Interviews are one-on-one, never focus groups. We listen intently.
We sift through what we have heard. We distill what each audience thinks about you – and your competitors – today. We are always gratified by the brand insights we are able to gain by listening to relatively few interviewees.
We consolidate and share the complete interviews (preserving anonymity). Depending on the assignment, we may batch responses by question.
Workshop 1: Today
What do your different audiences think and feel when they hear your name and see your product today? We identify neutral, positive, and negative perceptions that fit “on the head of a pin” in their minds.
Workshop 2: Tomorrow
What do we want your audiences to think and feel in the not-too-distant future when they hear your name and see your product? We harness positive perceptions and reframe “negatives” as we draft your “North Star.” We share draft versions of verbal tools (elevator pitch, story/narrative, messaging) that align with your North Star.
Workshop 3: Tomorrow Manifested
The Elixir team presents for discussion brand design prototypes of significant touchpoints and refined verbal tools.
Final Workshop: Pre-Design Tools
We present the aligned foundation for your communications: your working North Star; working narrative; working elevator pitch; and brand design prototypes (which serve as the preliminary brand visual guidelines).
Now we can “make” whatever you need: logotypes, websites, brochures, presentation decks, packaging, business systems, signage, etc. Note: Once we have executed a couple of key communications, we use them as a basis for your brand visual guidelines – a tool you can share with other communications partners.