Is your brand being misunderstood?

Is your brand being misunderstood?

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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:

1) Type

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: 

Capture d’écran 2019-09-17 à 10.11.48

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.

2) Colour

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. 

3) Consistency

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?

 

The Case Against “Style”

The Case Against “Style”

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Alright, creatives around the world, brace yourselves because this next sentence is gonna hurt: your commitment to a personal style is harming the work you do. 

There, we said it and we will not apologise for saying it. It’s blasphemy for any creative to admit that their sense of personal style is anything but perfect. After all, we define ourselves by our personal styles. The way we think about certain things in the world helps us to creatively engage with the world around us.

That’s the point of our whole job: to creatively express the values of a brand. If the client wants to sell Coca Cola, we tell the client to associate the brand with happiness. We build brands and strategies, just on the basis of our outlook towards the world. Do we feel “happiness” is the best idea to associate with a cold drink or “adventure”? What if we associated the traditional cola drink with “happiness” and the client’s energy offering with “adventure”? What’s the best tagline to associate adventure with the client’s energy drink? 

How about “Do The Dew”?

We think about ourselves as the creative heads who made those decisions. At least, that’s what most of us aim for, right? To create an idea that connects with billions and lasts well beyond our lifetimes. Sure “Do The Dew” isn’t the epitome of art but it’s a tagline that satisfies the client’s marketing needs while living well beyond its creator. If that’s what comes out of “personal style”, why then should anyone argue against it?

Well, here’s a few reasons:

1) A set style limits growth

In the design world, the phrase “form is greater than function” is thrown around a lot as a the most obvious critique. That criticism comes directly out of the idea that the “personal style” of the designer is weighing down the functionality of the logo/branding/identity. 

When all you have is a hammer, everything does start to look like a nail. It’s good to have style. But if, as a creative agency, you’ve boxed yourself into a certain style, you’ve limited the growth of your work. Not only do your current clients start looking elsewhere for the work that needs to be done in a separate style, your future clients don’t even consider you as an option. 

Because guess what? Brands aren’t really paying for art. Brands have problems which need solutions. And our job as a creative agency is to provide solutions for their particular problems. The more specific our solution is to the client’s needs, the better.  And those solutions can only be arrived at by working with clients as partners, not blank canvases. That’s where growth happens, both for you and your Brands.

2) It gets boring, for everyone including you

Say you’re a great illustrator with a fun, quirky, pop aesthetic. Did you start out as that? Or is it something that you’ve only recently been exploring and you’re really proud of the results? Is it a style you’re committed to, for the rest of your life? 

Chances are, no. As an artist, you probably want to do a lot of different things. You want to leave your mark on all the things. You want to explore every possibility you have the time and resources to explore. If you’re a filmmaker, your medium is the moving image. And you want to tell all sorts of stories within that medium. Everything from music videos to TV shows to cinema to YouTube videos to TikTok. Why not? Why not show everyone the stories that you, as a filmmaker, would tell using TikTok? 

Think about your favourite artists. None of them got to the place they’re at, by doing the same thing over and over again. They experimented and evolved their way of looking at the world. They gained, and lost, styles over time depending on the needs of their current project. Sure, Quentin Tarantino has a recognisable writing style, but is Reservoir Dogs shot in the same way as Inglourious Basterds? Do they even share similar visual compositions? You could argue yes, and no. Yes, the visual compositions and the dialogue share a similar sense of hyper-characterisation. No, Reservoir Dogs is much more focussed on a rough-and-tumble guerrilla style of shooting because that style is a reflection of the characters’ lives, whereas Inglourious Basterds is treated as a classy period drama because Tarantino wants to associate that image of classiness with the idea of killing Nazis. 

It’s a political statement that he makes using a particular style. Which brings us to our last point.

3) Style finds you; you don’t find it

If you, as a creative agency, are approaching every brief with a style in mind before even having read it, you need to take a second to reassess your way of doing things. The style you want to use is fundamentally dependent on what the brand strategy requires. 

It’s a decision that needs to be taken after understanding how brand has to be perceived. Because only then can you know what is the visual style that suits their brand and product. No two brands are the same. We’ve been running the Bold for a good 5 years so take this on good authority: the vision behind every brand is unique. 

A brand that encourages sportsmanship and community, is different from a legacy jewellery brand. Their values are different, the things they want to achieve are different, the people they’re talking to are different; so how can their styles be the same? 

Think of style as a flower. It emerges from the plant that is your Brand Strategy. And once it’s grown, it seems obvious in hindsight. Of course a startup that encourages people to both play a sport and learn about it would be called “Game Theory”! Of course! It seems silly now to not call it that. But did we have that in mind before even reading the brief? Before striking a relationship with the person building it? We couldn’t have. 

And that’s what we’re gonna close with, for today: style isn’t something you inherently have or find, and then bring to your clients. It’s built from Brand Strategy.

Is Your Campaign Worth The Risk?

No seriously, is it? 

As a creative agency, this is one of the hallmark questions that defines which ideas should even be pitched. You never know if your ideas will be dismissed out of hand for being too edgy or progressive or bold. You never know exactly how much the client is willing to risk to generate a buzz. You never know whether an idea is even good. 

Except, you almost always know.

1. Know The Brand

Every brand or industry has a history. If you’re working on an established brand, look at what they have done in the past. Not only that, look at how people have viewed them historically. What have their values been, and are those values still relevant to their primary audience? Once you ask this question, every other answer starts falling in place.

Take for example, one of the brands we recently did a lot of work for: CKC Jewellers. As a jewellery brand, their primary audience has been women for the longest time. One of the core philosophies that the brand holds dear is that of “Ethics”. Their legacy is associated with jewellery of the best quality, ethically sourced diamonds, fair trade and contributing back to society. So that’s one part of the homework sorted.

The other is understanding why there seems to be a disconnect between the current generation of women and the brand. The product hasn’t changed and neither has the brand’s core value of “Ethics” that was instrumental in growing their audience. Here, we gain an understanding that the audience themselves have changed. They didn’t associate themselves with the women in the CKC ads because they didn’t see themselves reflected in them. 

So, simple. We change the image of women we use in the ads. Right? Not yet.

2. What’s The Insight?

In the previous point, we solved the problem of what needs to change. Now comes the harder part of deciding how to go about implementing that change and why our current answer is the only one that makes sense. Simply put, all we know is that we need to update the imagery and visual style of the brand to suit the more modern aesthetics of our time. But what should that imagery be? Should it be a Bauhaus style deconstruction of the idea of femininity? Or should it be more playful, toying with the idea of jewellery as accessories itself?

Here, we encounter our second insight: women have changed and so has their relationship with jewellery. Women today are strong, fierce and and are empowered to embrace their quirks.

This insight leads to the idea of embracing body positivity in the campaign. We use images of real and influential women, instead of models, embracing confidence and showcase how jewellery adapts to modernity. 

Is this enough to believe in this idea? Almost.

3. The Message

“Themes are for eighth grade book reports” – The writers of Game of Thrones, Season 8

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the last season of Game of Thrones was…. controversial, to say the least. The writers knew what they had to do, they knew how to do it but somewhere along the journey, they forgot to think about why they were doing it. So the most hotly anticipated final season of this decade unanimously turned into the most hated final season of this decade. 

If you are trying to build a case for your controversial, path-breaking, boundary-pushing campaign, you need to think about the core message of your campaign and how it relates to the brand. This part is arguably the most important. If you mess up one of the things in the previous couple of points, all you’ve messed up is the execution. But if your campaign doesn’t tie in with the core message of the brand, you’re going to have another Gillette on your hands. 

They knew what they wanted to say and they knew how they wanted to see it. The most damning criticism, though, wasn’t related to what they were saying. The most damning criticism agreed with their core message that toxic masculinity is harming society but pointed out that Gillette still charges more for women’s razors than men’s. Gillette uses the “feminine” pink colour for women’s razors and the more “masculine” blue/grey for men’s. The most damning criticism isn’t that the campaign itself was wrong, it was that Gillette itself doesn’t believe in the values it is espousing. That’s what happens when you and your client are not on the same page. You can create the best, most amazing campaign for healthy drinks, but if the message is coming from a brand like Coca Cola, people are gonna drag you for it.

For CKC, we decided on the messaging to be representative of everything we had been talking about: empowering women. 

We broke the template of regular jewellery ads by featuring real women, embracing who they are but never lost sight of the brand. The campaign shows how modern women may not conform to standards of the olden days, but they still embrace their heritage, culture and stand up for what they believe in, in their own way. The hashtag #MyWayMyStyle was paired with stories of real women who were accessorising their outfits with CKC jewellery. 

So while our campaign changed the visual aesthetics of CKC alongwith our message of embracing empowerment, it wasn’t controversial in the slightest. 

Before
After

Coming back to our original question, is your campaign worth the risk?

If you’ve done the work we did above, you should be able to answer that for yourself.

What is branding?

What is branding?

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We all know what it’s like to curate our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok etc feeds to reflect certain sides of our personalities. 

But for most of the general public, all of those accounts are rolled into one big display of our personality. Truth be told, most of us don’t even know we’re building personal brands. Our posts are just what we happen to think about stuff but that in itself becomes a brand because our followers and friends start associating our names with food pictures or cat memes or revolutionary leftist commentary.

And because all of us have experience of playing up certain sides of our personalities and playing down others, we have a somewhat intuitive understanding of branding. We can tell when someone’s being genuine versus when someone’s being performative. We’ve developed a sixth sense almost that tells us “x post by Burger King makes sense for their brand” but “y post by McDonald’s is a blatant cash-grab”. That intuitive understanding is going to come in handy when we discuss how branding works in this post so hold on to that thought while we discuss how we got here to begin with.

A Brief History

You know how the word “brand” can also mean to stamp your name on something? Yeah, that’s basically how this whole thing started. Farmers used to brand their cattle with the names of their farms so they could keep track of which cows were theirs. That evolved into more forms of branding. Early cave painting artists would have a symbol to tell others that “yo Klarrggg made this one cheggit”. Think of cave-people as early versions of Banksy, but interesting and with a more cohesive viewpoint on the world.

In advertising, “branding” didn’t really become important until the 50s or the “Mad Men” era, where creatives started associating values with brands. Up until that point, you would have three or four companies making cornflakes and you’d choose the one that you liked. Packaging wasn’t flashy and colourful. They were boxes and tins that just had the name of the company on them. With the advent of more and more companies, it became important to set your product apart from the crowd. So you had the Coca Cola ads that spread the message of friendship and companionship. You had Campbell’s Soup which associated itself with wholesome meals. The values of a company became arguably as important as the product itself. 

Today, it’s almost revolutionary for a brand to not have flashy packaging. When a brand chooses to be minimal, like say Muji or Brandless, they’re making a statement about what their values are. Muji prides itself on simple, well-designed products that are tied together by a philosophy of an uncomplicated life. Brandless’ whole schtick is that their products promise nothing but simple, good functionality. The Brandless soap doesn’t promise to make you happy by making your skin glow; it’s just a pretty darn good soap.

Which brings us to our current dilemma. 

What exactly is a brand? If a brand is all packaging and copy and colours, Brandless and Muji consistently prove us wrong. But if a brand is nothing but the product, then why do we only know the names of two or three types of soda? Maybe there’s a great soda out there with no consistent design language that no one drinks because no one knows it exists. Where does the balance exist? How does one break into an already crowded market and have any hope of success? 

The Answer

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of brands in our lives. So let’s go back to the basics. We know what it’s like to build our own personal brands. We do it everyday without even knowing we’re doing it. 

Remember the intro? This is what it boils down to: your personal brand is you. 

Everything that makes you unique goes into your brand. You’re a passionate designer who enjoys the spectacle of Marvel movies but is known to dabble in arthouse cinema. You love electronic music and are always looking for new artists to follow because there are so many wonderful musicians in the world. You’re a vegetarian by choice and don’t identify with any particular religion, though you do believe that you’re spiritual. You enjoy yoga as much as you enjoy krav maga. I could go on but you see the point, right? Your personal brand is just a collection of the things you enjoy, love, think and post about. Your friends identify all of those things with you so when they throw you a surprise birthday party, they take care to make the menu exclusively vegetarian and get you a Mubi subscription as a birthday present. 

Building a brand’s personality works the same way. Your personality seems authentic because you authentically enjoy everything you post about. It’s necessary for your brand to feel authentic, too. So you associate it with things that fundamentally influence it. Building a brand isn’t about creating a personality for your company. Building a brand is about finding the personality that’s already hiding in there. If your products are organic and cruelty-free, then congratulations your brand believes in protecting the environment. Your brand believes in lessening the suffering that animals face in scientific trials. Your brand can proudly associate itself with those things. 

It’s all about finding the truth of your brand.

Here are some questions that you can ask your brand to get to know it better, and each of these questions is linked to an essential part of branding:

#1. Brand Identity

How does your brand look? 

What’s in a logo? 

What can be the one image that ties all of your values together?

Which colours best suit the personality of your brand?

#2. Brand Positioning

How is your brand placed in the market?

Who are your competitors?

What does your brand do differently than those competitors?

#3. Brand Image

What does the public think about your brand?

Do they know you exist? If not, why?

Do they know what your brand believes in?

How can you let them get to know your brand better?

#4. Brand Personality

Does your brand have a sense of humour?

Is your brand more real and down-to-earth?

If your brand was a person, how would you describe that person?

#5. Brand Messaging

What does your brand want to say?

What is the one thing that it really wants to communicate?

What are your brand’s views on your industry, in general?

#6. Brand Values

What does your brand believe?

How does it show people that it believes in those values?

Are there hidden values that the brand has, but the public doesn’t know about?

#7. Brand Story

Where did your brand come from?

Why this brand and not any other?

Why this personality and not any other?

#8. Brand Equity

What is the emotional/financial value of your brand? 

Has it made itself indispensable in its audience’s lives?

What more could your brand do to connect with its audience better?

A combination of all the above is what’ll help you start building a brand.

Once you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to start your journey.

Brands aren’t built in a day, they’re built over time as you keep on consistently showing the world who this brand is, and why this brand exists. These aren’t the only questions you’ll have to answer either. You’ll find more questions as time goes by, but soon enough you will be able to look back and see that you’ve built a relationship with your brand. 

Just like your audience.

And if you’re having trouble with some of these questions, well, that’s what we’re here for.

The definitive guide to building a brand

The definitive guide to building a brand

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“A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”

– ancient human wisdom as found on wikipedia.com

There are a lot of fancy ways to define branding, but we’re here to make it easy to understand. As branding consultants in Bangalore and Singapore, trust us when we tell you that putting your mark on something is known as branding. It’s as simple as that. 

What started, 4000 years ago, as an a simple exercise of farmers branding their cows, is now grown to a large industry that has the ability to change perceptions of companies. 

Today, brands are built on it’s values, personality, and visual design elements like typography, logo design, colour theory, etc. These tools are used to help the brand build positive associations. 

Let's look at some brands we LOOVE.

Apple : 'think different'

For Apple, that association is an assurance of premium quality, innovation and ease of use. But from an emotional side, when you see an Apple logo on a product, you think of innovators, creatives and people that are unapologetic about their goals and ambition.

That’s what Apple really sells. It’s an attitude, not just a computer or a phone. 

Coca-cola : 'open happiness'

For Coke, that “thought” is friendship. Since the iconic 1971 “I want to buy the world a Coke” campaign, Coke’s brand has been associated with the feelings of happiness and warmth.

Now that you see the thought, you gain an understanding of why they use such an iconic shade of Red. That colour is the colour of warmth, friendship, happiness and, in Chinese culture, good luck. It’s a colour that, on a very primal level, enhances human metabolism, making you hungrier and thirstier. Arguably a great thing for a company that sells soda.

"So what sets my Brand apart?"

These are questions we solve for in brand discovery meetings. 

A branding discovery or strategy session is a brainstorming session, where everyone the stakeholders of the brand, gather to focus and consolidate the brand’s values, business aspirations and vision for the future.

We need to understand who our target customers are, what are their worries and inconveniences, and how our brand can associate to them.

This is how we start building a brand strategy. The strategy stage sets the tone of your communication, and provides a rallying point for the team in terms of brand values and business direction.

How is your Brand placed in the market?

Apple positioned themselves as thought leaders in technology that also happened to be easy to use. They knew their market. Their market wasn’t limited to just people who know about technology, like IBM and Microsoft who positioned themselves for business-oriented use, but focused on people who didn’t really waste much time thinking about technology.

This allowed them to capture the public’s imagination in a way that no technology company was doing at the time. Apple became “hip” all of a sudden because they made people feel like they didn’t need engineering degrees to buy their products. So Apple Stores started popping up in retail spaces that were traditionally dedicated to, for a lack of a better term, “geeks”. And this positioning carried on into the world of smartphones.

As a counterpoint to Apple, OnePlus and Xiaomi have absolutely dominated the tech enthusiast market by positioning themselves as the “best-bang-for-your-buck” phones.

The idea here is to figure out what positioning is right for your brand. If strategy is about what cannons to buy for your warship, positioning is literally about where you want those cannons to point.

Building your Brand Personality

Great brands come with great personalities. That’s because brand personalities are what makes them more relatable to their audience and help build brand affinity.

In this stage we identify key characteristics and insights from our discovery session and define the way the brand should speak, it’s beliefs and characteristics.

Once you have your strategy and positioning figured out, it’s time to think about how your brand communicates. You’ve solved the “What am I saying?” “When am I saying it” and “Who am I saying it to?” questions. Your brand’s voice is “How am I saying it?”

How does your Brand represent itself?

If logos are the face of your brand, the visual language is like your clothes, and we always make sure our brands are well dressed. In this stage we finalise the typography, colour, logo design and other branding elements.

Your logo, colour palette and font choices are the gateway for someone to get to know you better. Think of it in terms of how you dress yourself for a social gathering. For an interview at a corporate, you groom yourself and make sure your hair looks perfect. You choose a blazer from your closet and a tie that matches it. On the flip-side, if you’re getting ready for a date, you might choose a more casual look that brings out a side of your personality that you would like your potential partners to see.

You are changing your visual identity depending on your audience. We already figured out who our audience is above, and we’ve figured what we’re trying to communicate and how. Take those answers and try to interpret them visually.

For your font, a sans serif might be an equivalent to building a more casual relationship with your audience. If your brand is built on a rich legacy, look at slab serifs. Just do a little exercise on your computer. Write your brand’s name and switch between fonts. See how each one makes you feel. That’s how your audiences might feel when they encounter your brand for the first time.

Similar process with logo design and colour theory. It’s all about building relationships. Your colour palette establishes a mood. Visit the websites of your favourite brands or your competitors and notice what colours they’re using and where. This’ll help you establish at least a baseline understanding of these concepts that you and your creative agency can further build upon.

Building a brand is a long term process that starts with Brand Strategy. If you want to learn more about Branding or looking to understand how it’s perceived, reach out and let’s talk brand!

What running a Creative and Branding Agency taught us

What running a Creative and Branding Agency taught us

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Running a creative agency in Bangalore for 5 years teaches you a lot of things. Most important being: never fix a client meeting in Yelahanka at 10 AM. You could leave your house at 6 and still be late.

Jokes apart though, looking back at all these years of design, advertising and branding, we now know a lot we wish we’d known when we were just starting out.

Size Matters, Until It Doesn’t

#1. brands need focused and flexible attention to create great work

When you’re building something of your own, it’s often hard to know where to stop. Limitless growth is always a possibility for any venture. For us, the early years were full of hectic days with the whole agency abuzz; each person on our 15-member team working on something brilliant and different. Each following through on their own ideas of what Brand X’s logo design needs or the characteristics that Brand Y’s typography could embody. It was chaotic, yes, but never full-on chaos.

However, gradually, there was a shift in how we perceived our work and our clients. When you have a huge agency working on dozens of clients, it becomes harder to cultivate meaningful relationships between them. This is how most traditional large-scale advertising agencies still do it, which is why brands feel the need to branch out and look for smaller teams where they wouldn’t get lost on a roster.

And this led us to change our approach; from a large team, we scaled down over time to just two creative directors working personally on every project.

Shop to Boutique

#2. brands need partners, not vendors

A vendor-client relationship is inherently transactional: you give us a brief and a briefcase full of money, we give you a beautiful website/logo/TVC. The problem is that in a vendor-client relationship, the first thing we forget is what the brand needs. Sure, the clients can fill out a brief with what they think the brand needs and we can interpret what we think the brand needs, but mostly it isn’t as easy as that.

Figuring out what a brand needs is a collaborative process where you usually need to put yourself in the client’s shoes. You need to integrate with their team to see what makes them click. It’s lengthy, cumbersome, messy and something that most branding agencies neglect.

“What’s the point in spending a day at the client’s office?,” you might ask, “How does that help me design a beautiful logo?”

Well, ask any creative and they’ll tell you: the best work is honest. The best work feels true and makes you want to believe in it. Those insights of “what feels true” can only be gained in collaboration with the people who created the brand to begin with. From a branding or a creative agency, we’ve become consultants and all the work we do is born out of a partnership with our clients.

The Meaning of Collaboration

#3. work with other experts and open up your heart to the people you’re collaborating with so everyone is proud of the work

Think of a piece of art that you love. It could be anything. A movie, a song, a play, a book. Chances are, more than one person worked on it. Even a prodigal Grammy-Tony-Emmy-Pulitzer-MacArthur Grant winning genius like Lin-Manuel Miranda needed the musical expertise of Alex Lacamoire to help him arrange the music of Hamilton.

That’s what a team does. Each person is immeasurably valuable because of the expertise they bring in. In the previous section, we discussed how important it is to look at clients as our equals and partners. This section is about valuing their inputs. 

Where our expertise lies in ideation and expression of creative thought, theirs lies in knowing their market, audience and product. When both of these worlds come together in harmony, that’s when we do great stuff. For example, in a short film we did for Wishberry, we were tasked with explaining how crowdfunding works to a general audience. Their expertise in knowing what they needed to communicate combined with our creative idea of treating the film as a cop questioning a young filmmaker led to this:

But most importantly, we learnt who WE are.

After countless projects across various industries, we realised what mattered to us, as a company. Doing focused and quality work with brands that understand the power of branding. 

Which is why we make sure that both creative directors, work on every project, that we have a focused and process driven approach to our work and that we work with the best when it comes to implementing our ideas/strategies. 

Stay small, but powerful. Pretty bold, isn’t it?