Brand Focus: The AMIE Process

Branding is often seen as a design project — refreshing logos, launching new websites and updating marketing materials.

That’s a great solution … if you have a graphic design problem.

And maybe you do.

Fonts get dated. Images lose relevance. Colors go out of favor.

When your visual identity does not reflect the organization you are today, it’s a problem. If you fix that problem by changing anything — a color, a font, a style, an icon — it can take months to transition all your materials to this new identity.

That’s time and money invested in getting people to identify your organization with this new look. If your problem was that your look wasn’t current, you’re on the right course. Follow this path and press onward!

But what if your visual identity wasn’t the source of the problem?

You’ll have spent more than a year working on a project and then getting your supporters to recognize it.

And then … it doesn’t work.

If by work you mean it doesn’t help figure out who you should prioritize among all the people you want to reach. It’s not helping you pinpoint what the most important people value and how to talk to them. If, despite what you say you do, those people are not getting what they need when interacting with your organization.

To do that you need AMIE.

The AMIE process is Iris Creative’s Audience-Centered brand focus methodology.

The process of branding — or brand focusing as we call it — is about defining what you do better than anyone else and finding an Audience that deeply values it.

The AMIE process is Iris Creative’s Audience-Centered brand focus methodology.

The process of branding — or brand focusing as we call it — is about defining what you do better than anyone else and finding an Audience that deeply values it.

When you know your focus, you can design your operations — from marketing to hiring to program delivery around it. That clarity and consistency connects Audience, Message, Image and Experience in a way that attracts what you need.


The AMIE process starts by making sure you are aligned with the right people at the outset. Too often branding engagements start by asking who you want to reach. The AMIE process starts with a different question:

What do you need people to do in order to thrive?


We call these “Desirable Actions.” And once we know what people need to do, we can find the people taking those actions now and learn more about them.

This is the key to our research methodology. We break down Audiences into four relationship categories: Lovers, Likers, Haters and the Unaware.

Lovers are the people who are taking desirable actions frequently. Imagine them in the center of a target. It’s normal to consider your Lovers when focusing your brand.

However, often from there people shift their attention to the Unaware. That’s everyone who doesn’t know you or hasn’t interacted with you.

This is the toughest and most expensive target you can choose. And not just in money. It costs focus — because everyone wants everything. In the effort to catch these elusive prospects, it’s like aiming for the outer ring of the target — and then you’re more likely to miss entirely.

Next, the Haters. This dramatic term describes the people who have come and gone. Given one donation. Didn’t renew membership. Attended a single event. The folks who show up but don’t stick around and never progress to giving back.

It’s easy to think someone who was attracted once is a great prospect. But focusing on getting someone back who has awareness but not interest will pull you off your center before you find it. If you start your search for the perfect person here, you will become what someone who is not donating, buying, joining or attending wants you to be, very likely at the expense of those who are the key to your success today.

And this brings us to the most valuable Audience: Likers. These people are close to being Lovers but not quite. They’ve showed up more than once or twice. They’ve taken desirable actions. They may mirror the entry point of the people who love you today.

This is the most overlooked group in branding, fundraising and marketing in our experience. They are also the closest to becoming your next biggest fans.

We put Lovers in the center of your target, and research to learn what they value. We then define what makes someone a Liker and research their values.

When we evaluate the shared values of these groups, we can then define emerging Audiences as new prospects who share similar values.

As these Audiences expand, they will have different personas and marketing needs. But, when the core values are shared, your organization can stay focused on delivering that value rather than chasing disconnected interests.

This is what shifts you into marketing strategically rather than executing tactic after tactic hoping it will catch someone’s … anyone’s interest.

The Audience phase of the AMIE process includes a suite of discovery research as well as collaborative work and culminates with the development of core brand personas.


With clarity on Audiences, the AMIE process moves into the second phase, Message.

Message is different than copy. Message is about defining what is true about you no matter what. It includes mission, vision, and values, your name, your tagline.

This phase evaluates and refines those statements as needed and adds a new one, a short summary of why you need to exist ­— the value you create. This is called a positioning statement.

Messaging guides marketing copy. This phase will take the positioning statement and adapt it to develop key Message points for each of the brand personas so there is direction for marketers and fundraisers when developing content.

In this phase, existing values are reviewed or developed, and a plan is created for bringing these values into action. Values do not exist unless they are demonstrated, recognized, hired for, and celebrated. This will show up in Experience if it is not addressed.

Through consulting, workshops and collaborative work, the organizational Message is developed, refined, and documented.


In part three, Image, we develop the visual aspects that people recognize as brand. This may mean a new logo, but not always. Your logo is a visual hook to connect people to the idea of why you exist.

The Audience research and Message development stages will determine what’s needed. The outward face of your brand may need a creative refresh to make it current, a strategic shift to align with the direction you are going or … nothing at all.

This is a significant decision. Remember, any change you make will be an investment of time, resources, and the attention of your community in order to adopt a new identity. However, if your current Image does not represent who you are and where you are going, staying where you are won’t fix that.

Building the visual Image takes all the previous work and layers in creative input from stakeholders. We conduct a Creative Brief meeting to gather impressions, ideas, and constraints. This tool guides creative development and decision-making.

This is a key tool to support making choices based on the brand and the Audience rather than on personal opinions.

In this phase a logo and letterhead are designed, and website planning begins. The decisions made are captured in a Style Guide to manage the brand after the launch.


Experience delivers what you promised (Message) your community (Audience). It’s in everything from your marketing to your programming. Every place someone interacts with your brand builds your story.

This phase initially includes launching the new brand internally and externally. Once the events are over and the t-shirts are passed out, the work of transitioning truly begins.

Within the scope of the initial Brand Focus project, we cover planning the launch, marketing communications (marcom) strategy and a transition plan for marketing.

This process typically takes 12-18 months. Build out of a website, if needed, is budgeted and completed before launch. Once the marketing rollout is under way, Phase 2 projects to implement communications, culture and values can be developed.