I’ve just read an excellent article by the hugely talented Seth Godin, where he sets out to define what a brand is. You can read that in full here and I thoroughly recommend you do. But what we do is branding. The creation of brands, so its important for us to take a slightly different view to the great Seth and define what we believe exceptional branding to be all about.
Exceptional branding is about creating and controlling every single element of the customer experience. The way you put these elements together is the way you are. It is you. It is what, who and why you are. It is your brand.
Branding is a way of being, a way of thinking and your way.
Wolff Olins, the agency that are widely seen as the creators of modern branding describe it as creating the situation where you become ‘one of one’ and not one of many. You become unique in your own market.
Bill Schley in his book ‘Why Johnny Can’t brand’, takes this a little further. He says that to create a brand, this could, or maybe even should, be in a market you have invented yourself in order to allow you to differentiate yourself clearly. More of this in bit.
The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary has a rather different and remarkably narrow view on what constitutes a brand. To us it appears out of date and well wide of the mark of where current thinking is based.
The act of giving a company a particular design or symbol in order to advertise its products and services:
Example. ‘The successful branding and marketing of the new beer has already boosted sales and increased profits.’
I’m afraid we take a different view again. A brand to us is a way of being, not just a new style of advertising and packaging.
Its more than the way you act, it’s the way that you are.
The dictionary view may be that it links to the marketing of a product, for us, its intrinsically linked to the whole outlook of the organisation. It sets the entire agenda for how the marketing should begin to behave. It is most definitely NOT just the ‘prettying up’ of the advertising and packaging.
Virgin, Nike and Google, to name but three, are not just about clever marketing. They are about being built on a brilliant basis throughout every possible touchpoint.
They set an agenda for how their brand should be perceived and work incredibly hard to ensure that wherever anyone comes into contact with them, they will get the correct Virgin, Nike or Google experience.
So are any logos brands?
Well, no, they are simply logos. The word logo is an abbreviation for the word Logotype, which is design speak for a mark of distinctiveness. In some cases, this is extended into a trademark, but overall, it’s a name made up of individually designed letter types that allows us to recognise who you are.
If you look at the logos around you that you come into contact with in your daily life, you’ll notice that fewer and fewer have an actual ‘icon’ element attached to them. It would appear that the trend is changing away from the complicated icon towards the use of illustrative typography.
And they come in all shapes and sizes. Some good, some bad, some words, some images, some illustrative, some as an outline or silhouette.
But they are nothing more than a public mark that represents your range of products. Perhaps the reason for the increasing simplification is the sheer number of uses that a logo can face.
A brand manual we write at Purple Circle today, may be as many as 200 pages plus and talks about behaviours in many applications. A brand manual of the mid 90’s was all about how you could and couldn’t use the logo.
If you look again at where a logo is now expected to work consistently, the list is endless.
In press advertising
On the product
On the big screen
And probably many more. So this means even brand colours have to be specified not just as Pantones, but as RAL, CMYK, RGB and maybe even the Dulux colour make up.
But this is the challenge of the logo designers, to make something that looks ‘distinctive’, recognisable and actually works to differentiate this product or service from any other in the market.
The less detail or elements you include on the ‘logo’, the harder it is to differentiate it and the more details you include, the harder it is to replicate consistently in all of the different media.
I’ll add some more to this later.