What are the key considerations for anyone starting a new brand, reinventing an existing one, or helping their client work to establish theirs? Read on…
The playing field for brands is changing. We’re now gradually seeing a shift, from a world of fear-based selling to a more positive, innovative place where brands talk to shoppers as people on the same level, as opposed to treating shoppers like they are minions following the herd.
While this may sound complicated to some, in reality, it’s far simpler than ever before – because at the heart of this new approach is honesty and integrity as well as a desire to do what’s right.
A brand is so much more than a logo and a typeface. That’s merely the visualisation of it – and our role as web designers is expanding, as more people are using the web to define who they are, and not just as a shop window. The problem is that many brands can’t define who they are.
Finding your ‘Why’
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” says author and marketing and branding expert Simon Sinek. His TED Talk about ‘Why’ is one of the most important thought pieces of our generation when it comes to brand building.
Understanding your true core – the essence of why you do something – is as important for your customers to know as it is for you. It’s astonishing how many brands think that the root of their business is ‘to make money’ But as Simon says: that’s merely an outcome. You have to go deeper, down into the human psyche… and much like discovering who you are as a person, once you find that ‘true north’ inside you and your brand, it won’t feel like you have to come up with ideas, you’ll begin to naturally develop them through your own intuition.
Your ‘Why’ should be something that can be boiled down to a single sentence or phrase. It won’t be for example: ‘We provide expert premium architectural services to builders and planners throughout the UK’. That’s what you do. A ‘Why’ might sound something more natural to a human way of speaking. For example let’s look at the following: ‘England is naturally beautiful, but buildings keep changing that. Every building we design considers its surroundings first in order to be in true harmony with nature.’ This could then be boiled down to something simpler still. For example: ‘Surroundings first’.
The difference here is obvious. To some it may sound fluffy, but if you truly care about your work, you’ll care about the environment too. Would you rather work with a company whose primary focus is to make money?
To get to your ‘Why’, you simply keep asking yourself ‘Why?’ until you get to it. This typically will take around five iterations – but be patient, it’ll come.
So we start with:
“We design buildings.”
“Because it’s what we do.”
“Because we like doing it.”
“Because we do…”
“Because… the landscape is damn ugly in places, and we wanted to make a it look more beautiful…!”
Ah ha! Now we’re getting somewhere.
What you do
So you’re now clear on why you do something, the next item on the agenda is to know, with complete clarity, what you do. Saying ‘we design buildings’, isn’t clear enough.
Be more specific and ensure that every time you answer, it’s in exactly the same way. Who do you design for; what types of buildings do you design? Are they specialist? What’s the focus? And how can you say you’re contributing in some way?
How you do it
This again, isn’t as obvious as answering ‘by placing bricks and mortar together’. It’s about how you carry out your ‘Why’.
So the question really becomes: ‘How do you ensure landscapes are more beautiful places?’ The answer might be: ‘Through considering the environment first and foremost, before designing buildings with particular materials in mind that are sympathetic to the area. We also aim to solve the problems the customer is experiencing – lack of space, not enough natural light and so on.’
Who is your who?
Know your customer better than they know themselves. Create profiles on them, know their names, shopping habits, where else they buy, what they do for holidays and what books they read.
But above all, be respectful. You’ll find that many consistencies begin to emerge but only by fully understanding your audience can you join in their conversation and be sure you remain relevant – which in today’s climate is vital.
FIVE BRAND ESSENTIALS TO CONSIDER
You should really refresh every year. Most brands only consider it every three to five years, but customers are moving so quickly that you can’t afford to stay the same for too long.
Love it or hate it, 72 per cent of all internet users are reportedly active on social media of some kind. So give strong consideration to how you’ll be relevant on social. No more dormant Twitter accounts please!
Research is started with a search query by 48 per cent of people. Great content goes a long way, but be specific; talk about what matters and engage with your audience in a way that’s relevant to them – not just about what you want to talk about.
According to the Office of National Statistics, 74 per cent of all adults bought goods or services online in 2014, up from 53 per cent in 2008.
Mobile web surfing accounts for 52 per cent of our time according to Comscore. The rate at which its growing is faster than desktop use.
FIVE WAYS TO STAND OUT
Creating a strong brand requires a strong, visually striking and memorable appearance. It pays to be bold and to go all out to ensure that you stand out from your competitors. Below are five key considerations and ways they can be applied:
Tone of voice
It’s often an overlooked area and left to the end of any branding project when someone asks ‘Oh, can you write some copy for the website?’ but copy can be the making or breaking of a business. It’s very much like judging the sort of conversations to start at a dinner party. With your mates, you’ll ask about the latest date or drunken tales, whereas dinner with the in-laws requires a very different tact. Always keep the audience in mind and who you’re talking to – but this doesn’t mean it has to sound forced. Again refer back to the ‘Why’ that you created at the start and draw from there. Be authentic; tell the truth and you never have to remember anything. Finally make sure that you are consistent. From your website and emails to brand packaging and customer service teams verbal communication style – the same message and tone of voice needs to flow through it all.
This goes hand in hand with tone of voice. Once you’ve decided how you’ll speak, how will that look on screen? How will the font represent your message? If your general vibe is light-hearted with a sense of humour, you wouldn’t select a blackletter typeface. Again referring back to the dinner party analogy, if the tone of voice is the type of conversation you have, selecting the right typeface is dressing appropriately for the occasion.
You have a beautiful logo, but visual style doesn’t end there. What about photography? Illustration? A brand pattern? Find something simple and try it out with your brand on various different platforms. Will it work online, in print, in black and white, on a billboard from a distance? Think of O2 as a key example here. Their blue gradient and bubbles style is recognisable no matter where it’s seen without having to see their logo or any writing.
Following on from visual style, pick a colour palette that won’t date easily. Choose carefully and stick with classic colours, not ‘of the moment’ colours. Right now there’s a trend towards neons, largely thanks to the Nineties renaissance in dance music. Come next year, it’ll have moved on and if you’re stuck with 10,000 lurid day-glow tote bags that nobody wants, your finance people won’t be pleased when you ask for additional budget to replace them with white ones.
Above all, offer amazing service, and look after your customer. They’re not coming to you just for your wares. The greatest identity and design work in the world can’t save you if your customer service and delivery is shoddy and ill considered. You need look no further than eBay for proof of this. Nobody wants to deal with someone with a two-star rating, even if their eBay shop is beautiful. Be helpful and use every customer encounter as an opportunity to learn more about your audience.