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How to think about brand identity with SLOPE co-founder Jeffrey Zhao

Marie Papazian

Marie Papazian

SLOPE agency

Last week, we sat down with Jeffrey Zhao, founder of SLOPE.agency, to chat about what it’s like to run a branding & marketing agency. SLOPE is a full-service creative agency that prides itself on helping venture-backed companies define their brand, and has worked with some leading brands in the D2C and tech space including Verishop, Nuggs, and Function of Beauty.

1. At what stage do you usually work with e-commerce brands? Is there a “right” time to re-think brand identity?

In an ideal world, earlier is typically better so that brands can begin building equity into a consistent narrative and visual system. For a lot of e-commerce brands, pre-launch is a great time to invest in branding. Tactically, a great brand identity system will help unblock a lot of other efforts like website, packaging, marketing materials, etc. Remember that brand identity is not just a logo, but rather about building a consistent visual system and framework on how your brand shows up in the world. Having this system will make many of the things needed for launch easier to execute in a way that maintains a consistent look and feel unique to your brand.

As you scale your business, the ROI of investing in your brand becomes more obvious. Essentially, as you spend larger amounts of time and energy to scale customer acquisition, it becomes increasingly likely that investing in branding is ROI-positive, since even if we are very conservative with our assumptions about the amount of lift brand provides (let’s assume a flat percentage lift on conversion rate), the fact that our potential customer base is much larger means that it’s likely the math still works out.

2. What do you think are the right priorities and goals brands should have when strategizing and planning a brand revamp?

At a high-level, it’s important for your company’s brand to be rooted in strategy. This includes making sure that there’s a solid understanding of what your brand is hoping to communicate and having both the brand strategy and visual identity reflect that goal. Otherwise, you’ll end up with disparate pieces that don’t quite mesh together.

Also, be realistic about your timelines. While there’s no need to drag out the process, it’s great to take some time for creativity to flourish. Make sure you give the brand process the space it needs to breathe and run successfully.

3. What are some things brands should do after they complete a rebranding to make sure that it’s a success (e.g. content, social media)? Is this something that’s measurable?

Consistency is the #1 most important thing! Building a great brand takes work. Make sure that the brand is rolling out consistently over every customer touchpoint, including social, website, packaging, marketing campaigns, ads, and partnerships. If every aspect of the brand, from the verbal to the visual identity, are being consistently applied across these touchpoints, then you’ll start to really reap the rewards of building brand equity with your customers. That’s how you use a brand to compound the impact of your marketing efforts.

At the same time, remember that brand strategy and identity set the scaffolding and framework for how your brand should represent your company, but a brand book will never cover every possible situation and application. Brand is iterative, and as your company scales, new learnings and insights should continue to drive the evolution of the brand.

SLOPE clients SLOPE has grown revenue 400% year-over-year and has worked with over 100 different companies, generating over $70 million in revenue for them.

4. Where do you see brands fail while doing a rebrand?

Good branding won’t fix product issues. Great businesses tend to have both a great brand and a great product. Both are necessary, but not sufficient conditions for success.

Internal alignment on what your company’s goals are is also crucial. The brand process shouldn’t buckle under individual subjective opinions about what looks “good” versus what doesn’t. This kind of tension inevitably leads to design by committee, and typically an undifferentiated brand system. Instead, align on your company’s internal goals as well as the strategy of what you want the brand to communicate. Use your brand strategy and positioning as a filter to answer questions about whether or not your brand is moving in the right direction for your business versus just purely relying on subjective visual biases.

5. How would you recommend smaller brands that are just getting started use brand identity and strategy to stand out against competition?

Industries are crowded these days. Consumers come across many companies advertising a lot of different products. Your brand represents the unique space your company occupies in customer’s minds. Why should they care about your company? What is it about your story that is interesting and unique? Brand strategy and identity should define frameworks for you to best tell your company’s story authentically and consistently from both a visual and verbal standpoint.

6. Are you taking on new clients? What is the best way for companies to work with SLOPE?**

Of course - always happy to chat :) Email us at hi@slope.agency 👋

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We’re a full-service agency that prides itself on bridging the silos between marketing and design.
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