Build Your “Brand”
Having a solid brand is as important now as it ever was. However, the word, “brand” is taking on a different meaning as we move towards a socially networked world (in this article, “brand” will simply mean outward projection). Smart companies invest in making sure their brand registers in the happy place of consumers at point of purchase. But as social networking weaves its way into our every day life it’s becoming more important for individuals as well as companies to have their own “brand” which can sometimes be just a screen name and an avatar. At the recent Future of Web Apps (#FOWA) conference I picked up a tweet posted by @thomascox and @waynesutton who reported from the virgin.com presentation, “”It’s no longer about the brand, it’s about you, social networking isn’t about the brand it’s about connecting people with people”. What I take away from that is your ability to connect with people defines an individual “brand”. That connection is has to do with everything BUT trying to sell them something.
One of the best individual brands online is Gary Vaynerchuck (@garyvee) from Wine Library. His name, picture and personality are what people identify him by. Gary is one person who has leveraged social networking to connect with people. That has translated into PR success in traditional media like TV and print.
A good brand will register on the front of the brain, near the eyeballs. A great brand will flow past the eyeballs and register on the back of the brain. It becomes something more interesting on the subconscious level. When I create a brand I want to go even deeper and register with someone’s Lizard Brain. There the branding imprints like a metal press on an assembly line stamping the message permanently. I want an audience to roll their eyes back in their head and slobber all over themselves when the brand message massages the yummy serotonin out of their Limbic system like warm liquid magma.
If a logo is an outward sign of an inward belief, then a brand is a collection of elements, including your logo, that project your personality.. The elements making up a brand are also things like an avatar, screen name, color scheme, tag line, attitude, photographic style, placement, frequency, cloud patterns, font usage and anything else that make an audience think about you or your company. Branding is the first thing your customers or audience see. In a digital space like a web site there are more possibilities to “brand” but it needs to be consistent.
I’ve seen so many business owners who have to wear all the hats. They’ll think about cash flow, legal, computer systems, product development, marketing and sales among other things. The outward projection of their brand is an afterthought. The problem is, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Before a customer decides if they want you or your product, they’ve already formed an opinion subconsciously based on your branding. Don’t half-ass it and wait until the end. Make it a priority from the start.
A recent example is of a winery owner who spent $50 million to buy a vineyard and winery. He hired a rock star winemaker and invested in a high caliber barrel program. Then it came to the label for his wine. He asked the architect working on his house to “throw something together”. The architect was paid $100 to design the label. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Why would you spend all that time and money but then cut corners on the one thing customers are going to see on the bottle? It’s not the business owner fault, it’s just not his strong point.
It’s like building a Ferrari from the ground up using the best tires, engine and suspension, but putting a cheap plastic exterior over it. The pie chart of anyone’s business should have a nice fat slice dedicated to design and branding. Successful companies do that. Apple computer allocates 30% of their product development to design. Coincidence? I think not.
Creating a successful brand takes commitment from the start. The following brand building steps are more for companies but individuals can also take away something:
+ Research! – Take time to understand your market by doing visual research. Pull the logos of companies you’d appear next to at a trade show. Think about where your new logo or branding will appear. Embroidered on a polo? Printed on the side of a truck? Digitally on a web page? Different applications require different design styles.
+ A logo is an outward sign of an inward belief. What’s the belief? Often times that shows up as a mission statement, but I challenge clients to develop a passion statement. What is it about you your audience will be passionate about?
+ Pick 3-5 logos or brands you really love from any industry. For whatever reason you gravitate to those….perhaps it’s the colors, or the illustrative style. Whatever. If you are working with a graphic designer it will give them a flavor of what to aim for.
+ The first 3 items listed above get overlooked all the time. You can’t just sit down and start drawing something.
+ Thumbnails. I like to sit with a client somewhere out of the office and do a number of rapid fire thumbnail sketches. The rule is you spend less than 20 seconds on each one. Don’t focus on quality, just quantity of quick little sketches. When I designed the Denver Broncos identity with Ken Black and David Odusanya at NIKE, we literally sketched hundreds of little horses (maybe thousands).
+ What happens next is usually a good place for a designer to lead the process. You can whittle down your sketches to 3-5 you really like. The designer can start to illustrate it further adding color and font.
+ As logo, color scheme and font start to take shape it forms the Graphic Language. The Graphic Language becomes the foundation for your brand.
Social Networking has splintered the notion of a brand. For companies, it’s still critical to connect with consumers. For individuals and savvy companies it’s becoming more. Successful branding in the web 2.0 has more to do with connecting with people on other levels that don’t have to do with you selling them something.
Be memorable. Be consistent. Have a point of difference.