We can’t tell you how many times we’ve been asked, ‘So, branding, huh. What’s that, like designing logos or something?’ Well, yes. And no. Actually, no and no. At least nowadays.
Once upon a time maybe, what you looked like (and how quickly people recognized you) was all that branding entailed. In those days, studios like ours dedicated their energies to crafting brands the way ranchers once forged them—for searing their mark on the cattle (aka consumers) that belonged to them. Thankfully, those days are long gone. Good riddance.
Today, branding stands for something entirely different. Thus the blank stares we sometimes get when trying to explain what we actually do. These days, branding is less about creating an identity and then relentlessly tagging the world in the hopes that people will, relatively unconsciously, reach for your product (on a crowded supermarket shelf, say). Now, it’s all about creating a compelling experience (of a delightful product, say) that resonates with people on a visceral, personal level. It’s about coming to a clear understanding of what you, as a company, are actually all about (and how you’re tangibly different from your competition)—and then building your entire business around that one thing, that one idea.
Branding isn’t your logo anymore. It’s everything you think, do, and say as a company. It’s what you make, why you make it, and how.
In other words, branding is…
Not About You
It’s about them. It’s about how consumers connect, personally, with what you’re promising (and how you’re making good on it). If you don’t move your audience, you don’t move the needle. It’s that simple.
Not A Monologue
It’s a conversation. It’s not about spinning some clever yarn and stepping back to count your shillings. The best brands are the ones that don’t keep an iron fist on the reins—that don’t try to lock down the talking points, that let the narrative be shared. They talk with the consumer, not at the consumer.
Not About Repetition
Or even consistency, really. Once upon a time, the supposed secret to shoring up your brand was hiring a blue-chip design firm to crank out some massive guidelines document for people to religiously follow. Not anymore. Sure, we still deliver guidelines (sites) for our clients. But they tend to be pretty succinct. And pretty flexible—with the goal being building a house with good bones and then adding onto it as the family grows, as the times change, and as your needs evolve.
Not A Design Exercise
Sure, it’s informed (some would say driven) by the same sort of thinking that shapes the design process (i.e.: identify the problem, understand your audience, prototype, test, refine, repeat). But it’s not something solely focused on creating some sort of visual artifact. It’s not about making a logo, or deciding upon a typeface or a color palette or a photographic style. It’s more about message than look. It’s about identifying your intentions (your true and deep motivatiors) and then using them as a lens for everything you do. Having a brilliant and beautiful design system is gravy. At least when you work with us.
Not A Solo Endeavor
Basically, it’s not something you can hire an agency like ours to go away and do for you. It’s a collaborative process wherein you and your agency do the heavy lifting. Together. And, in our experience at least, it’s one where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts—where the magic comes from everyone taking ownership and being equally thunderstruck by the brilliance of the solution.
Got it? Cool.