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  • Writer's pictureLairs Johnston

Branding That's So Much More Than Pretty

Updated: May 26, 2021

Branding, when done well should be what your customers say about you, not what you tell your customers. When I set up branding for a company it's a really long, intense, and intentional process. For time sake, I'm going to grossly shorten how I go through branding an organization.

It's also important to note I was leading an extremely design heavy marketing department. When leading teams like this, the first thing I want to get rid of is anyone saying the phrase, "I just feel like this design is better" and change it to, "based off of this data I think our demographic would like/convert with this". That mentality takes a brand from good to great.

The Demographic

I'm going to sound like a broken record but I can't function in anyway until I've gathered accurate analytics on the demographic and how they operate. What I do is always calculated with data that proves the design and changes can work. Also, design always needs to have an optimization plan, stagnant marketing will always diminish over time.

The organization I'm going to use as my example is a $20 million software company that sold CMS's to Churches across America.

For me, the first thing to do is to recognize who your brand persona is, if you build a brand based off of who you WANT to reach your most likely going to miss people that immediately align with your product. It's also important to identify the different roles in your brand and their importance. For example, Kay Jewelry makes jewelry primarily for women, but targets the man who ultimately is the purchaser. You can tell from their ads they're very aware of who their target buyer is, who their wearer is, and even putting most of their effort targeting married couples. Figuring out purchase roles becomes increasingly difficult when you try and target a Church as you need buy in from multiple people and personalities.

Ultimately, with the collaboration of the C suite and Director levels over all the teams, I lead a very intensive brand meeting that produced the following brand persona:

Knowing your audience before ever creating a marketing campaign or brand design is crucial for me. You shouldn't even start building before you know as many details as your persona as possible. You can see we not only talked about what our persona liked, but also what they DON'T like. This helps make everything moving forward a thousand times easier and puts people on the same wavelength.

It's important to note that just because you have a brand persona doesn't mean you ignore your other potential customers. The purpose of a brand persona is simply to make sure things are built with intentionality and there's unity in messaging and design across and entire user experience.

Data to Back Decisions

I was told, "every rookie marketing director blames the website" and while this may be true, I had some data driven concerns.

We were getting over 170,000 page views a month and CTA's saying "learn more" were leading to sales forms (they clicked to learn more and were asked for information). The fourth most viewed page (integrations) was buried on the site. People obviously care about the integrations but we were making it difficult to get to. Half of our leads were current customers who had a question but couldn't figure out how to get ahold of a support person. We had over 40 landing pages that were a part of the navigation for prospects explaining the software. Also, all across the site we were making brand statements that we were contradicting with our branding/marketing. "Know, grow, and keep your people" is hard to back when your own customers and prospects are getting lost on the site.

This lead me to build commercials that highlighted our actual value props. We turned the site into a 3 page experience, highlighting the top features (based on top viewed landing pages from previous site). We added elements of animation where necessary (highlighting our powerful software) and showing our differentiator. Integrations became a feature we highlighted on the front page along with multiple other adjustments we made to follow data from our research.

Also, from a funnel perspective, I believe it's important to start at the conversion point and work backwords. Have an extremely highly converting landing page, then drive more traffic to it, then optimize. Far too often I see people paying to drive traffic to a page with poor UX/UI draining valuable marketing dollars. This is why we turned the site into two funnels, one for prospects and a proper funnel for customers.

Who You Are

Now that we figured out our audience and have some data to guide us, we needed to figure out why our prospects and customers should care about us. This is another lengthy process. What problem does our software solve, why should they trust us to solve their problems, what do we do different than our competitors?

Answering these questions helps us know what to highlight in our marketing. After many more meetings (you need buy in from everyone or it wont work) we came to the conclusion that we were 3 things:

Powerful, relational servants.

Powerful because that's our differentiator, we were more powerful and did more than our competitors. Relational because people who work at a Church are driven by relationship and to not have community be a driver would be a sure way of missing our demographic. Finally, we needed to keep the pastors and administrators the heroes of the story, making us always the servants who exist merely to make our customers lives easier with cutting edge technology.

In order for our customers to agree with these 3 words they needed to describe every experience with our software and sales process as powerful, relational, and they needed to feel heard and served.

The Traffic

Now that we have a site that was built with intentionality that represents us with our customer/prospect in mind, we were ready to drive some traffic to it. We began making commercials for the different levels of the funnel:

Brand - top of funnel - this is where you make statements that resonate with prospects. Here they learn that we were a company that serves churches.

Inform - middle of funnel - this is where you learn HOW we help churches.

Convert - bottom of funnel - this is where you get the last piece of info that pertains to you specifically that gets you to convert.

Here's an example of some of those assets:


In Your Shoes

Who We Are


Chainsaws and Schedules

Customer Testimony

For conversion you use ads, highlighting and testing different value props to see which converts the best after which video/user experience. These are meant to be simple, straightforward, and highly clickable. At this point the user should know our heart as a company, how we make their job easier, now it's just get that conversion. If they don't have one of the first two, optimization comes in to play to test and figure out what that demographic does care about.

Like I said, this is a gross abbreviation of the work that went into rebranding a $20 million software company, but the logic you see here was applied to everything that we did!

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