How your beautiful brand will disappoint you and then you will feel bad.
Things are easy to understand.
A product is a thing, and everybody understands things.
A car is a thing, and a Vitamix is a thing, and even cloud document storage is a thing. Admittedly it’s a weird thing. A server somewhere. In a cloud. Like a koopa troopa. But it’s a thing.
You, a business, are in the business of making and selling these things.
You push X units of a thing or Y volume of a thing or Z licenses for a thing.
These amounts are quantifiable and reportable. These things fit easily into spreadsheets. These things fit easily into spreadsheets alongside cost per square foot of office space, a thing, and cost per head, another thing.
At the bottom of the spreadsheet is profit which, after all, is a very specific number of a very specific thing.
All of this is good, and all of this is well-managed business. It makes a well-ordered, Newtonian sense.
And so it also seems to make sense when you create a beautiful logo, brightly colored, unimpeachably sleek, to represent yourself or your latest thing. This thing, finally, will present a unified identity to your customers.
Of course the logo has usage rules, and guidelines, and its own marketing police force.
And you’re so proud of this thing that it sits there, as if under glass, in a terrarium, immobile, untouchable, under guard, to be regarded.
Look at our logo, you say. Look at the anthemic video we made for sales. Look at the brand book with its glossy cover. What things! Much cool!
Yeah they’re cool. But you can’t use them.
Most brands keep their newly-minted identities (and associated pieces of collateral) like butterflies under glass: so pretty, so precious, so very very lifeless.
Why? Because you were so invested in creating a thing, you neglected to create a process. A brand style guide is not a process. It’s a rule book. It tells you no.
And more importantly, it’s not an idea generator.
That’s fundamentally weird, right?
After all, here’s your brand identity — the THING that’s supposed to tell you who you are — and it doesn’t have a point of view.
A logo and a brand style guide don’t tell a bizdev guy how to write a partnership email.
A logo and brand style guide don’t tell a sales guy how to empathize with a potential customer.
A logo and a brand style guide don’t tell a developer how to make better decisions about how a product does the thing it’s intended to do.
Or put it another way: if your brand identity doesn’t help everyone have a conversation with your customers, then what’s the point?
Weirdly, nothing else in your company works this way
Brands make things, but it’s the process of making the thing that makes the brand valuable.
Ford isn’t valuable because it makes the F-150 thing, it’s valuable because of the process of profitably making and selling a rugged truck with ruggedly delightful cup holders.
Vitamix isn’t valuable because it makes the Vitamix thing, it’s valuable because of the process of profitably making and selling a blender that’s so efficient you forget you actually hate the kale you’re efficiently blending.
Or, consider Amazon [disclosure: they’re a client].
Amazon isn’t valuable because, as its logo implies, it sells everything from A to Z.
Amazon is valuable because it modularized its infrastructure to more efficiently allocate internal resources on an ad-hoc basis while also selling those resources to customers.
Amazon focused on process and changed the world.
Brand identity isn’t a logo. Brand identity is a point of view
A pretty face is just a pretty face.
But looks, as my grandmother told me, fade. What sticks around is the conversation, and how much you enjoy that conversation.
Focus on the conversational power of your identity. Make tools that help everyone from the CEO to the intern able to better tell your story.
Ask for a process, not for a thing.