Brands Behind the Curtains

What's the behind-the-curtains process for creating iconic brands? Here are the high-level phases that take place before any logos or messages are written down on paper.

What's the behind-the-curtains process for creating iconic brands?

People always ask what messages/copy their brands should have. But few know there's an extensive process before writing a single word. Here's the behind-the-curtains framework to make your messages great. Everyone is curious to know about the copy because that's what we ultimately see. It's an extensive framework that starts with brand strategy, positioning, and narrative.

We think of it as the invisible framework that gets the brand and audience in a room together. It's where we talk about the soul of the brand, the audience, and the current state of the brand. It's where we ask the hard questions about the brand, build the brand narrative, and understand the brand's purpose and the role it should play in the world.

So here are the high-level phases before any words are written down.


This is the part where we analyze the category, the competition, and the positioning landscape. The research involves understanding the industry space, vertical, and competition. This helps inform the brand's future strategies by understanding the current state of the market and competitive landscape.

This understanding will help us build a framework for positioning a brand in the category landscape by understanding where others situate themselves and what territory is up for grabs.


This is where we start to understand the audience, their motivations and pain points, what kind of people are buying our product, how they think about our brand, and why they are buying one brand or another. This is also where we start to talk to our customers, understand their pain points, and learn about their motivations.

This is a foundational building block, where we go into the underpinnings to understand not only whom we are serving but also the why behind their purchasing decisions. We dig deeper into the customer journey, try to understand whom the brand is speaking to, and articulate the pain and the relevant vocabulary that customers use.

Simply put, this is where we figure out who our customers are, what they are looking for, and what drives them.


This is where we dig into the brand's current DNA (its positioning, purpose, values, etc.), the current state of the brand, and the audience. This helps us see the brand's role in the world, what's working, and where there's room for improvement.

It also helps clarify the brand's current position in the competitive space, the gap it needs to close, identify opportunities, threats, and the next step in the journey. It involves understanding everything about the current brand positioning amongst competitors and in people's minds.

This is the moment we ask ourselves: is the brand still aligned with its declared purpose? Is that purpose still relevant? Is it still positioned well? Does it still resonate with the audience? Is it still meaningful in the context of the category, the broader world, and the times?


This is where we look at the data and try to find those connections, windows of opportunity, fertile territory, etc. We try to understand the audience's behaviour, the people most likely to buy, their motivations, and the pain points that are relevant to the brand or may become relevant in the future.

This connects the dots and builds the right set of tools to better position the brand for its audience or find new audiences to appeal to. It involves looking at the customer data, the competitive landscape, and the category data.

This helps us understand who we're serving and the gaps we can fill with our customers. It also helps us build a framework for getting better, deeper, and developing stronger relationships with our customers. Lastly, it helps us understand the proper channels to build a relationship with our customers.


This is where we look at where the brand is today, where it needs to be tomorrow, and the next step in the journey. This involves analyzing the insights, looking for points to influence the audience, creating trust, and shifting perceptions to move the brand into the desired space.

Once relevant insights are extracted, we set up potential directions and decide on the central positioning elements. It's where we start building narrative directions and articulating the new purpose and the role the brand should play in the world. This is an exciting part of the process because it's where we start to articulate the voice of the brand and its possible future.

The strategic direction involves building a framework for where the brand needs to go and setting up the central positioning elements (i.e. the desired brand purpose, values, and personality). It helps us "humanize" the brand and build a feeling of familiarity and connection with the brand.


This is when we start to build the brand's narrative. Taking the positioning elements from the previous step, we model how they would look in various narrative approaches and carefully choose the brand's trend-shifting perspective. It involves building a framework to define how things were before and how our brand has changed them for the better.

We determine here what the brand should become, how it communicates, differentiates itself, and stands out. We're looking at how to break the mould and be a trendsetter in our industry.

This is the most exciting part of the process because it involves building a narrative direction and defining the essential way the brand changes the status quo, defining why it's a must-have, not a nice to have. It puts the brand into a broad, life-changing perspective and forces us to think hard about what the brand stands for and how it offers a better way than anything that existed before.


Branding, positioning, and category design are not copywriting exercises. Copywriting is just the visible element of the process that the public ultimately gets to see, hence, why it is the one that gets the most attention.

In this stage, creatives and copywriters find ways to apply the positioning and narrative strategy developed before. They craft the creative approach that can best emphasize the strategic direction and evoke the right imagery and feelings in the target audience. It may look like this is where the magic happens, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Without the previous research and strategic approach that guide the copywriter and clarify where the focus should be, what tone should be used, and what vocabulary is relevant, very little of what a brand does would bring any real impact to its audience, and the quality of the copywriting would suffer.


Once the narrative direction and the central positioning elements are in place, we move to the design phase and start developing the brand's identity system. This is an iterative process where we first sketch the logo, then move to refine it, and finally go to the next step, which is to develop the identity system's colour palette, typography, and layout.

What's most important here is that the final design matches the brand positioning, personality, and desired perception.


Brands are not just logos and taglines. Without the hard strategic work behind the curtains, the tagline would not be relevant, the logo wouldn't mean more than an emoji, and the brand would not have what it needs to take a chance at becoming an iconic one.