Is your brand being misunderstood?
There are times when it isn’t easy to focus on the big picture. Sometimes it’s just a phase where as a company, you’re putting out so many small fires that the brand tends to be relegated to the back-burner. After all, if there are problems in the production line and quality control, it makes sense to put branding decisions to one side so all of your focus is on finding solutions.
The common thinking goes: what use is a brand, if one doesn’t have products to sell?
Unfortunately, the vice versa also holds true.
What good is a solid product line, if your customers can’t distinguish them from the competition?
The modern consumer isn’t just fickle. They’re also making conscious and subconscious decisions, from moment to moment, about the products they use. In a world where switching from one brand of cereal to another is as easy as scrolling down the Amazon page, standing out is more important than ever.
Both parts of the production process are equally valuable to your business. Where the unique benefits and quality of your product are being judged by your consumer’s conscious mind; the typography, colour palette and presentation are attracting/distancing them at a subconscious level.
So assuming you’re in the process of putting out all the small fires in the production chain, it can be a useful exercise to reevaluate your brand at the same time. Here’s a few aspects you can look at for starters:
Type design is simultaneously the easiest and hardest element to get right in your project. Just the notion that how a word is written changes its meaning is hard to wrap one’s mind around. Time for a quick demonstration. Look at three examples below and notice how each one affects your notion of the kind of atmosphere at Hogwarts:
On first glance, each of the above typefaces inspires a different emotion.
The first one has an air of quiet authority and tradition about it. It isn’t flashy, lending it a feeling of ‘seriousness’ as if the people running Hogwarts want you to know that it’s a school for serious witches and wizards looking to perfect their craft.
The second one is more striking with an air of lightness. Like, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s bold and out there. As if the professors are instilling you with confidence from the get-go.
The third one is the most casual. The feeling you get is more of a summer camp than an institution. It’s a place for fun and magic and all the wonderful stuff you could achieve by bringing a bit of magic in your life.
None of these is the ‘wrong’ choice, per se. Because the decision to choose one typeface over the other is all about what you would like your audience to feel. If you were the Headmaster, you could very well want your audience to feel like your school of magic is a fun place. In which case, the third direction would get you closer to your goal.
Of course, this isn’t all there is to typography. There are decisions to be made about lettering, kerning and all the jargon that we, as a creative agency, are here to help you with. This is just to help you understand why agencies place such an emphasis on each aspect of your brand.
Colour plays an important role in how your brand is perceived. It isn’t a coincidence why most fast food joints have a strong red colour. It’s because red is a colour associated with hunger. Similarly, you never see blues and teals used in a burger joint, because it’s mostly used in the medical stream as a method of relaxing and calming the atmosphere.
Colours evoke feeling. They incite emotion. And it’s not any different when it comes to selecting colours for your business. Another thing to learn about design is that the symbolism of elements stack over one another. The colours you choose can be used to lighten the seriousness of your typeface or vice versa. As you add more elements, they interact with each other to create new meanings. You up for a quick demonstration? Perfect.
Yellow is the colour of happiness. It’s the colour of sunlight and joy and bright memories that leave you feeling a glow of warmth inside. Black is the colour of the dark, moonless night. It’s the absence of colour. But it also has connotations of ‘premium’ attached to it. Pairing them not only gives us a visual contrast, it gives us a metaphorical contrast as well. Light vs dark. Day vs night. The petal of a sunflower vs the infinite vastness of space.
But which colour should dominate?
Is Hogwarts a place where light illuminates the dark? Or is it a place where the power of night is brandished in broad daylight? Again, there is no ‘wrong’ answer here. It’s what you want your audiences to feel on a subconscious level that matters. And while you think about that, take a moment to notice how the tone of the ‘serious’, ‘traditional’ typeface is lightened by yellow’s presence.
The typeface still has that power but seems a lot more approachable than before. This is how elements of design interact together to create new, more interesting meanings. Sure, Coca Cola and Ferrari use the colour red in their logos, but you would never mistake one for the other. The colour is just one part of a whole, the typeface is another, the logo yet another and then of course you have the name and so on. As you start making these little concrete decisions (playful type or serious type? primary colours or premium colours?) they add up to create what we call a Brand Identity.
Once you know your Identity, everything else falls into place.
As we approach the end of this post, let’s talk about one last thing. It’s well and good to create an Identity but the most important part is maintaining it. We like to imagine brands as people. Each unique in its own way. Do the same exercise with yours. Imagine your brand as a friend and think about how that friend would react in different situations.
Would it make sense for this friend to react negatively to criticism? What are the values this friend likes to uphold? Maybe they’re outspoken about their values. Or maybe they like showing over telling when it comes to what their beliefs are. Again, as we’ve learned before, there is no ‘wrong’ answer here. But knowing the answers to each of these questions helps you figure out what your Brand is, and helps your Brand’s message remain consistent regardless of the platform.
Because only when you’re consistent, can you start gaining someone’s trust. Every business card, email, packaging, web page needs to be consistent with your Brand’s identity. It should be something that feels obvious in hindsight because that’s how we make friends. We discover things about them slowly and link those things in our minds to build a picture of someone important to us.
Wouldn’t you like your Brand to be someone important in your customers’ lives?
Wouldn’t you like to have them think of your Brand as a friend?
Photo by explorenation # on Unsplash
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