Building a Better Brand Strategy System: The Story of 10days10brands

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Participants Achieve Extraordinary Results After New Technology Innovations

Brand Personality

Looking at results on the Workwall

In March 2010, we set out to improve Distility 1day1brand – our system that allows teams to create clear, honest and compelling brands in one breakthrough day. Our beta test – dubbed “10days10brands” – took ten innovative MaRS technology start-up companies through our brand development process. Each day, we added a new branding or collaborative decision-making best practice and monitored the results.

This post outlines our journey during 10days10brands and how our findings led to extraordinary results for the participating technology companies.

The Old Way: Time-Intensive and Limited Number of Participants

Developing Brand Strategies

Sticky notes were the old technology of choice

Our old branding workshop relied on physical materials, such as sticky notes and images, to encourage visual thinking. While it produced quality results, it was a manual process. Using printed items was time-consuming for our team and participants. We spent at least twenty hours preparing the printed materials and setting up the room. We also needed three facilitators for each workshop to deal with the logistics of tracking ideas and handling materials.

For example, the personality exercise required review of stacks of printed cards and a lengthy process for the team to promote the winning traits. A typical exercise could take up to two hours, as participants debated the best choices.

Brand Personality Exercise

The Paper-based personality exercise could take up to two hours

Over the course of the day, the room would fill with sticky notes and images as participants developed ideas. They’d explore these ideas and come to a consensus about their brand by the end of the day. However, we were concerned that some participants would become disengaged and agree with the group for the sake of agreeing with the group and completing the exercise.

While quality work was completed, the process also felt rushed. We wanted to give participants ample time for exploration and discussion so they could develop an authentic, quality brand based on their own insights.

At the end of the day, the exhausted Distility team would tear down the room, photograph all the sticky notes and start to assemble the 1 Page Brand Strategy. Participants would not receive their Brand Strategy or be able to implement their new brand for up to three days.

The Goal: Use Technology to Accelerate Time to Meaning

In our efforts to create the ultimate brand development workflow, we wanted to see if technology could reduce the noise in the room, promote deeper exploration, promote deeper commitment, and reduce decision making pathologies like group think.

We also needed a scalable system that could accommodate between five and fifty participants. The old process only allowed time for small groups to create authentic brands. By incorporating the latest technology, we wanted to see if Distility 1day1brand could be scaled to reach global audiences.

The Big Changes: Virtualization and a Rhythmic Workflow

We virtualized parts of the workflow to make better use of time and cut back on paper. For example, when teams completed the personality exercise mentioned earlier, they used Apple Laptops (and now use Apple iPads) instead of physical cards to select ideas that best represent their brand’s personality traits. The automated system allows teams to vote for the most compelling, competitive and authentic traits. What used to take up to two hours is now done in less than one hour. This creates time for deeper discussion that leads to higher buy-in and quality.

Brand Strategy Workshop Workflow

Participants contemplate their brand on the Workwall

We also set up three projectors, one against the other, to create a 20-foot Workwall that projects across the length of the room (see image above). With a single glance, participants can track where they are going, where they are, and where they have been. This allows participants to better refer to earlier ideas and build upon them.

Over the course of the beta test, we changed the energy flow from linear to rhythmic. We had been paying attention to our participants’ physical and mental states and noticed when they were the most productive and how long they could focus. Our changes encouraged optimal thinking during the morning exploration and afternoon discussion sessions. For example, we took more short breaks, moved around in the space, and changed participant positions. These changes allowed for lively and focused discussions.

Since we virtualized so many of the exercises, it now takes us less time to photograph images and assemble the results, and we can now email teams their 1 Page Brand Strategy before they leave our environment. This allows participants to build on their excitement and start implementing their new brand immediately.

Branding Workshop

Distility Facilitators + Profound Medical

Results: Compelling Messaging Helps Participants Advance Their Business

As a result of these changes, 87% of the 10days10brands participants reported that they were “very satisfied” with the outcome. The remaining 13% reported that they were “satisfied”. Most importantly, the technology allowed them to complete tasks in a shorter amount of time, yet arrive at higher-quality decisions.

Check out the following success stories to learn how the beta companies benefited from their clear and compelling brands:

By the way, we still use sticky notes. They’re now just virtual sticky notes on our Workwall (see image below).

Branding Workshop Workwall