Jason Little is Creative Director at Landor Associates.
Branding is changing, and it’s about time. It’s increasingly less about restyling a company, and more about re-engineering. It’s not just the ‘what’ but ‘how’.
There has been a radical shift in the last decade in the way people interact with brands and consume information. The consumer of today has a voice, is having multiple brand conversations across multiple platforms, and their user-generated content is playing an increasingly significant role. All this means the consumer is wielding an unprecedented level of power. With this in mind, of course branding has to adapt and change. The playing field hasn’t necessarily changed, but the rules have.
If there was any confusion during or post Branding 2.0 discussion, it was about what the practice of branding actually encompassed. Branding is not just graphic design with a different name that resonates better with clients. Branding involves a whole plethora of activities, some of which involve identity design and some of which don’t.
As it stands, the industry is fluent in delivering for the most part, a visual manifestation of identity. What many organisations and agencies deliver on however, is a rulebook approach, a kit of parts of design principles that will see many a company sweet in its external expression: logo, colour palette, imagery style, layout principles and so on.
The guideline discussion was a little blown out of proportions at the Branding 2.0 event. It’s not that they aren’t important in managing a succinct brand image, but guidelines certainly shouldn’t dictate or limit our thinking in how brands express themselves…If you hang on to the edge of the pool, you won’t be able to swim.
These days brand guidelines have to be more flexible now as ‘co-creation’ and customer interface are greatly increased, and brands need to be appropriately responsive. We’re also seeing that ’tone of voice’ is playing an increasingly important role as opposed to logo alone, as in today’s world of enhanced multi communication channel platforms, how the brand speaks (and acts) is now more important than how it looks.
So to put it simply, the risk is that our clients and ourselves put too much emphasis on the basic tools we use to implement a consistent brand, rather than understanding that these very tools must change and adapt.
The future of branding needs to put greater importance on how to take the client beyond surface value and superficial thinking. To get to the value of branding, you really have to look more broadly than the visual. It’s about actions, behaviour and personality. The key is crafting every experience and interaction so it adds up to something worthwhile.
We work in a field of global impact, with the power to create change and make a better place. Graphic design has grown up, and is more relevant than ever. With a greater understanding of a client’s business, positive change is possible. Actual business transformation versus surface value.
There will always be barriers to real change. By dismantling uncertainty for our clients we can break the paradigm of over-cautiousness, and really push things forward. ‘New’ is different, it’s difficult to grasp and it’s uncomfortable. All too often progressive branding programmes that aren’t embedded in organisational strategy, or that don’t have buy-in at the highest level, struggle to eventuate as anything but lipstick on a gorilla.
Branding, now more than ever, is about owning the idea, putting it at the heart of the organisation, and enabling it to spread across all touch-points and channels, no matter how much the media landscape changes. It’s not simply a copy-paste of graphic principles. It’s experiential. The logo isn’t dead, it’s just irrelevant.