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What is branding? What does ‘having a rebrand’ mean? Why is so hard to define?
These are often quite tricky questions to answer. The term “brand” came from cattle ranchers over 50 years ago and in the late 80’s companies like Coca-cola starting to brand their packaged goods in a way that differentiated them from the bland competition.
As time went on and marketeers got savvy, they realised that there was more to ‘a brand’ than just a company name and a pretty box! Branding has evolved and with time it has become more subjective. Branding has become more about a person’s feelings (or perception) for a product, service or business.
Let’s explain what branding is not.
Branding is not limited to a logo or a colour scheme. It is not simply to make people aware of your business or service. These are critical elements of the brand building process but these only scratch the surface.
It’s also important to acknowledge the difference between branding and marketing.
Marketing is the activity designed to promote your business; it will compliment branding but it doesn’t replace it.
Here is our take on what branding is.
- Brands mean different things to different people, it can play a different role depending on who it interacts with and when. Some people will connect meaningfully with an aspect of a brand while others won’t. Quite often a person’s relationship with a brand can develop, increasing trust, loyalty and engagement. Smart and successful brands work hard to reach different audiences who matter to their business to cement the relationship with the brand.
- It helps to think of branding as an ever-evolving experience rather than a structured set of rules. It can grow, develop, respond and shift with the times. A brand can be the sum of interactions with infinite possibilities and every touch point makes a difference.
- Brands are about feelings. When you ask people why they love certain brands, they might provide a list of logical reasons but in the end it often comes down to a feeling. How does that brand really make them feel? Successful brands hold great emotional meaning for people and that’s what can make a brand loved and respected.
- Discussing the impact of a brand is easier than defining what a brand is. When we talk about defining a brand we often talk about what makes a brand impactful for a business. It might be better ROI or an aligned leadership. Impact from a brand refresh or a new positioning, a great campaign or just more brand engagement is where you really see a brand doing it’s job well. E.g. The impact of an engaged workplace can create increased innovation, productivity, creativity and loyalty amongst employees and new recruits.
Establishing an understanding about how you and your business defines your brand and what it means can help guide your brand and business forward. But remember it doesn’t matter if you think your brand has the potential to be the next Apple or Nike—what really matters is what your target audience thinks of your brand.
“Ultimately, your brand is what the marketplace says it is”
Brian Woyt, founder of the branding agency Wolf & Missile.
10 steps to help build a brand:
- Establish the purpose
- Identify the Target Audience
- Create a unique voice for your brand
- Tell your brands story
- Design the brands visual elements
- Establish a differentiation
- Build out your brand
- Promote, promote, promote
- Get advocates for your brand
- Evolve as you grow
As we find ourselves explaining on a fairly regular basis, a logo may only form one element of a brand but it’s the centrepiece that gives it visual identity and sets the first impression to your target audience. It is used throughout your entire marketing campaigns and will be pivotal in deciding whether someone decides to use your products or services. In its lifetime, think about how many times it is seen and then you’ll fully understand why its power should never be under estimated.
Every business is different. Everything is unique to you; history, values, target client, process… that’s why with every one of our projects, we approach them with a comprehensively structured process that gets right under the skin of the business to determine how all of these things would be visually represented accurately. Branding is personal and sensitive. It should be treated with respect. So it would be fair to say, from our point of view, a logo should at least be bespoke and well researched.
Sadly, and it breaks my heart to say it, it’s all too easy nowadays to download logo templates or find automated logo builders online that certainly get the job done quickly and cheaply. But as far as we’re concerned, these quick fixes are for the ill-educated.
One such site we discovered is called Logaster. It offers a series of no-frills price plans that range between £20 for a single web use logo file up to £90 for the full works including stationery and a brand book. There’s no doubting it’s incredibly easy to use. You basically follow these steps for your logo design process:
1) Type in your business name.
2) Click the ‘Create’ button.
That’s it. At this point, I don’t really know what to say. There is no process whatsoever to understand who you are, what you do, the demographic of your ideal client, your business beliefs and company values. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. So we thought we’d have a bit of fun and put it to the test by experimenting with the world’s current top 4 biggest brands to see what Logaster could come up with. Now, I will point out that you are given plenty of options, albeit disturbingly random so we decided to keep it simple and pull out a handful of our favourites to demonstrate just how much thought goes into this automated process. Meanwhile, to give you some context, we’ve placed the genuine logo for the corresponding brand on the same page – it shouldn’t be too challenging to figure out which one that is!
First up we have Amazon. In reality, the logo was created to represent the message that it sells everything from A to Z and also reflects the smile that customer would experience by shopping through Amazon. No shortage of thought or development has gone into it, I’m sure you’ll agree and to date, it is still one of our favourites. If we compare this to the other five imposters, it begins to hit home just how alarmingly neglectful this process is. They are void of any personality and any hint of creativity is grossly misaligned to what the brand actually is. There is some variety in type style but nothing that comes anywhere near competing with the real version. It feels more like a case of “we don’t know what this business is so we’ll try to cover all bases”.
Now we move onto Apple. It symbolises knowledge and the symbol os one of the oldest and most potent in Western Mythology. The name and corresponding icon are synonymous and it has become one of the most powerful brands in the world. You try and find one person who doesn’t recognise that apple symbol. In stark contrast, the auto-generated examples we have pulled out are either nondescript, confusing or just downright nasty. Firstly, why do we have what appears to be a contemporary icon of a rose paired with the apple wording and secondly what in God’s name is going on with the letter spacing on the top right example. We can only assume this is a developmental bug. There are again some questionable typefaces, notably bottom left which wouldn’t look out of place on a halloween poster.
The word Google is an adaptation of the word Googol which quite frankly is an unfathomable number. The logo has been coloured in such a way to incorporate the primary colours of blue, red and yellow. However you’ll notice the inclusion of green which is to show that Google don’t always follow the rules. In comparison, the alternatives we’ve had produced have no such meaning. Interestingly, some of the fonts aren’t too dis-similar to the one used for the real logo but the iconography is far from appropriate. On one hand we have some cases where, the line work is far to fine to be legible for print and at the opposite end of the scale we have others that have a severe lack of detail all together. I am somewhat perplexed as to why the letter M is being used in the top left example which features geometry suspiciously familiar to the rose on the Apple logo above.
The Microsoft logo stands for innovation and technology that brought the computer to the everyday person by way of its Windows operating system. It’s the perpetual symbol of quality. Unfortunately it’s a familiar story with the automated examples we’ve highlighted. The bizarre exaggeration of constricted letter spacing makes another appearance and in the bottom left example, the typeface is almost unreadable. The iconography just seems to be an afterthought in all cases. They don’t really lend anything to the designs and mean little more than just being the thirteenth letter of the alphabet.
Through further experimentation, one of the most shocking discoveries was that it actually gives you the same result, no matter what name you search for. This just further reinforces the suggestion that the process is completely random and has no consideration for the fine details that make a brand what it is. I’ve no idea what algorithms have been used in the development of this site or how many possible combinations there are but one thing that is clear is this method will fail to provide you with a design solution that will successfully attract and engage with your target market.
A brand should provide an emotive experience and your logo is centric to making that happen. Think about the demographic of who it is being directed at. Look into what you clients want to feel when they see it. Consider how it relates to the services you offer. Do all of these things and you’ll then be able to justify the extra investment because you’ll end up with an identity that has a long shelf life through delivering on its promises. The cost of design isn’t about how cheaply you can get it done, it’s about the return on investment. There’s no doubt that in these cases, Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft would have paid up to get the visual identities they now have. A huge amount of time would have been invested into each but when you consider the value they now each hold, was it money well spent? In the bogus examples we’ve generated, can you honestly say that you’d expect the same result?
Your brand deserves respect. Never underestimate the power it holds.
Everything has a price. Imagine you’re on the look out for a new car. You can have a Ford or you can have a Ferrari. The Ferrari is considerably more expensive than a Ford but its build quality, performance and user experience is superior to the Ford. Its design is also timeless and will be worshipped for years to come. The Ford offers practicality and is much more affordable but it’s unlikely to wow you. In reality, out of the two, if we had to buy one with our own money, the majority of us would choose the Ford. But in terms of preference, who isn’t going to want the Ferrari?
Ok, so not everyone is a petrol head but the point is, we’re not going to turn our noses up at quality; meticulous design and built with the customer’s experience as the centric consideration. If you buy a budget car, you know the finished article is going to be sizeably more basic.
Something which has performance and tactile components to gauge instantly is relatively straightforward to value. But when it comes to raw graphic design for business branding and marketing purposes, it is much more challenging to pin down a definitive price.
In today’s world, particularly with rapidly evolving digital communication, there is undeniably no shortage of creatives making themselves available to businesses looking for design solutions. Perform a quick search on Facebook and you will be inundated with offers. Unfortunately, as the creative industry is largely un-regulated, every man and his dog can pose themselves as a designer whilst those of us who have worked tirelessly for decades, find that the skills we have honed and experience we have developed over decades are undermined by novices. But as professionals, we learn to accept that we can’t be all things to all people. A £40 budget for a logo design does not necessarily mean a business owner wants to cut corners, particularly if they are a startup. If that’s all they have available, you simply can’t argue with that. But more often than not, coin is king and cost is the utmost priority. Quality, impact and longevity becomes a mere afterthought.
One of our favourite Venn diagrams illustrates the compromise needed when a product or service is provided to you.
You want it fast and cheap? It’s not going to be great.
You want it fast and great? It’s not going to be cheap.
You want it cheap and great? It’s not going to be fast.
It’s as simple as that. However, measuring what ‘great’ is, is not so straightforward. Design is subjective. One man’s trash can often be another man’s treasure. So how do you justify charging a premium for design? In the creative industry, you’ll pretty much be able to get hold of anything for any price. We’ve even found people on Facebook offering their services for free. But for a £40 branding exercise, what are you going to get? Well, what you’re not going to get is market research, competitor analysis, asset exploration and multiple bespoke concepts. At this stage, we would expect a number of people to respond with “I just want a logo”. At which point, we would explain the importance behind all of these added considerations. As a design agency ourselves, we take immense pride in delivering value for money but our primary goal is to provide creative solutions that will perform and operate as a catalyst in generating new custom for your business.
If we hark back to the car analogy, you’re also going to need a periodic MOT. The same applies to your business brand and the material you use to communicate it. Markets change and develop. Allowing your brand to stand still for too long and you risk being left behind by your competition. Emerging trends can also influence us differently and how your customers perceive your brand now, may not be the same a year later. As you would conduct an oil change in your car to keep it running smoothly, you would do the same with your brand to ensure its ongoing functionality. However, this is about development, not transformation. Make too many sudden changes to your brand and you risk disconnecting yourself from your existing clientele.
Ultimately, when marketing your business, it is crucial to consider not what appeals to you, but what appeals to your target customer. You may love the colour pink but if you are a funeral director, your business will end up going the same way as your clients. You may be a big fan of the Comic Sans font but if you’re trying to make you mark as a financial advisor, it’s not going to set a great first impression. How you determine your market’s needs can only be done with research and detailed exploration. Fail to do so and you are shooting in the dark.
Business exhibitions have long been a great opportunity to showcase your brand and provide prospective new clients an insight into what you offer and how your services can potentially be of benefit to them.
The scope for exhibiting can range from purpose built venues of many thousands of square feet such as London Excel, Olympia and Birmingham’s NEC, right down to your local village hall. Whilst the larger venues are generally aimed at national and international scale businesses, the smaller alternatives give local businesses an opportunity to generate some exposure at a fraction of the price. It’s no surprise that the user experience you get from a top-end trade show is far superior. Afterall, stands are fully bespoke and often cost tens of thousands of pounds to design, hire and install. It can often feel more like you’re walking through an art gallery than a business showcase.
The added cost provides an unfair advantage but does budget restriction excuse the fact that the low-end, local alternatives lack originality and aesthetic appeal? For as long as I can remember, they have always followed the same monotonous format. Each exhibitor with a dirty old fold-down table, laden with merchandise gifts and a static roller banners positioned to one side. Now, I have no problem with roller banners per say, they certainly have their place in business marketing but when you take a step back and observe the whole room, you find that everyone is exhibiting in exactly the same way. Substitute the roller banners for a car and you’ve got yourself a car boot sale. Suddenly that banner that you’ve invested time and money into getting designed and printed has lost its impact amongst a sea of others, fighting for your attention. The regimented layout just causes each stand to blend into the next. There is no originality, and little attempt to make a statement with something different. They all just play it safe with a tried and tested albeit tired method. With all the roller banners standing side by side, it’s more reminiscent of an identity parade.
So what is the answer? Well, customer interaction has room for improvement. Besides, the tangible flyers and brochures that are regularly found on display and the friendly faced, employee poised with a hand shake to explain more and attempt to dig out a lead from you, the stands do not provide a great deal of inspiration. The forward movement of digital technology has improved this as exhibitors sporadically utilise tablets and laptops to display looping videos. But what else can be implemented to set you apart from everyone else in the room?
Firstly, display banners have come a long way since the printed format became a thing. It astounds me that LED displays have seemingly slipped under the radar since their introduction. Purchase is expectedly beyond the budget of a small business owner but rental is a whole different matter and are typically not a great deal more expensive than a couple of the printed alternative. Furthermore, the video content you invest in can be reused, edited or changed altogether to suit the market you are showcasing to. It’s no secret that video is the fastest growing and most effective method of marketing out there so why not go for something that is more likely to get people to stop and take a minute to really absorb themselves into what you offer?
Consider also the floorplan. Naturally, organisers, are looking for the greatest possible profit margin. So it is no surprise that they maximise their return by shoehorning in as many stands as they can. But you don’t often find the car bootsale layout at the top-end expos. How about positioning stands in blocks of four; quadrants that often prove popular for the mid-range pitch? Still conforming to a grid format, it would not require any more floor area than lining them side by side. What one has to consider is the journey visitors take from the moment they set foot in the exhibition hall to the point they leave.
I’ve come away from these smaller scale events many a time hearing exhibitors stating how quiet or slow it has been and deep down, they feel that after all their efforts to prepare and setup, they haven’t got the value for money they were hoping for. Sure, they can’t control the footfall but they are able to influence engagement. I am not expecting a sudden revolution to overhaul the small expo model but whether you are a future exhibitor or exhibition organiser, the next time you’re planning an event, maybe consider thinking outside of the box. You might surprise yourself with the results.
Whether you refer to them as typefaces (the correct term for a family of fonts) or fonts (the individual members of a typeface), everywhere you look, type is around us. Billboards, road signs, car registration plates, restaurant menus, newspapers…. it influences us significantly in our day to day lives. Ever since Johann Guttenberg invented movable type in the 15th century to give the world a cheaper way to obtain the written word, the variations available to us have exploded and today there are at least 60,000 professional font families obtainable for commercial use. Since the birth of the digital age and the internet, the emergence and growth of available free fonts is only increasing the possibilities of use.
So what is the benefit of having so much choice? Well as with colour in branding (see The Psychological Effects of Colour in Design) where colour usage can provoke different emotional responses, typefaces also express a mood and give words personality. They help to create a face for your brand, leading to consumer response and enabling better audience communication. Take a look at the examples below and think about the way each of them make you feel. You can instantly recognise that they are all specifically suited for a certain purpose.
Why Pair Fonts?
Think of a font like a person. Individually it is functional and communicative. But as a pair, just like in marriage, combined correctly they bring chemistry and compliment each other. Their individual personalities can be used to represent an emotion you want to provoke that you relate to your brand. So it is important to choose wisely; if your message isn’t aligned to your target audience, then they’re just no that into you.
The Primary Font Categories
A serif is a typeface with a small projection at the end of the letter strikes
A sans serif is a typeface without any stroke embellishments or detail.
A slab serif is a typeface that’s identified by its thick, clock-like serifs.
A script typeface links together letter-to-letter, they are best saved for headings and display.
A handwritten typeface is one which resembles the freeform of handwriting.
What Makes a Good Font Pairing?
Finding font parings that set each other off, don’t fight each other for attention and harmonise without becoming dull is no small task but it’s what will help to ensure longevity of your brand. Two fonts that can grow old gracefully together, still standing strong whilst the brand they were build upon evolves and grows… is a match made in heaven. But with so many available to choose from, what should you be looking for in the search for the perfect marriage?
Many fonts have distinct personalities so you want to make sure the moods of your font choices match the purpose of your design. Ensure they share the same relationship. If the uniting appears random, it’s going to evoke a feeling of discord.
In the world of typefaces, contrast tends to be homogenous. As can be the case with our own personalities, blending the introverted with the extroverted can generate balance. So finding one with a big personality can actually create chemistry with another that is simple, understated and reserved. It is also important to define a hierarchy with your fonts as a fight over supremacy is only going to have negative consequences. Whilst you may only be looking at a two tier hierarchy, define your alpha font that is complimented by the second font instead of being in competition with it.
What to Avoid
Whilst using the same font in different emphasis, weights and sizes is a recommended approach, this is not the same as using two different fonts from the same style. For example, using Garamond Bold and Garamond Regular works well as they are complimentary to each other but using script fonts from completely different font families is going to break up the harmony. You also needs to carefully consider what it is you are branding to determine what typeface is appropriate. In order to make good font choices for your brand, you must have a clear idea of the message you want to deliver to its audience. For example, a slab serif may not be the best choice for an elegant jewellers and you may have better options than a script for a children’s entertainer. Fonts are not just about the copy you write but the culture, ideas and values that you are directing it at.
10 Examples of Good Font Pairings
A Summary of Things to Consider
• Establish a visual hierarchy
• Consider context
• Create contrast
• Steer clear of conflict
• Limit your number of fonts
• Avoid pairing fonts that are too similar
• Don’t be afraid to use one typeface across your entire brand
The Increasing Accessibility of Font Pairing
Websites such as https://fontjoy.com have helped to make it easier than ever before for us to play matchmaker with typefaces. Featuring pre-loaded libraries of fully editable text, they are paired up for their compatibility, which you could say is a little like Tinder for fonts! The formula devised to make this process automatous is quite simply fantastic. By identifying that good font combinations tend to be ones that share certain characteristics, but contrast in a specific way, they have been able to build a vast 3D font map. That may not get pulses racing quite as much as their human equivalent but will at the very least set you on your way to fusing a partnership of fonts that you are able to love and to cherish for many years to come.
At some point in our lives, it’s highly likely we’ve all experienced brands through engagement or observation that we take one look at and question their credibility. Its an all too common sight witnessing one slowly stagnating that has become a victim of neglect, suffering a spiralling decline; you don’t need to be a creative professional to know what makes for a brand you feel you can trust and connect with. If you’re blessed with an understanding for the importance of effective branding, alarm bells triggered by sub-standard business performance can often signify that the face of your business isn’t connecting with your target audience quite in the way it should. Rebrands typically occur when you’re struggling to create new business leads or you’ve noticed a dip in turnover and want to inject new life to provoke fresh interest. But when a business is established to the point it is one of the most successful and universally identifiable across the globe, why would it feel the need to refresh its image?
A company such as Google is a great example of a business that understood the importance of ‘growing up’. Back in 1998 when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were Ph.D students at Stanford University, they would’ve been conscious of their age, considering a rebellious approach to make a statement with, providing the most impact. Parallels can be drawn from the disruptive relationship a teenager can typically have with their parents at some stage during their transition of maturity. But in a different environment with their peers, sharing space with each other, there is a desire to be taken more seriously. The same applies to a brand; there comes a time where its playful nature no longer resonates with its target audience and it needs to mature. By using it to communicate a more serious tone, a business can reinforce its changing approach and extend the longevity of the brand.
Sure, when Larry and Sergey started out at the very beginning of Google’s creation, all they had was a logo. After all, ambitious startups need to say an awful lot through the limited channels they begin with. The logo has to work hard and as the nucleus of the brand, will continue to do so indefinitely. But as a brand grows and matures, its reputation develops and experiences begin to influence a brand’s personality. With continued growth, and increased resources, there become more ways in which this personality can be conveyed which in turn, lightens the burden of responsibility of the logo and so this opportunity to mature becomes apparent. If we expand that context and review the transformation of other pinnacle brands that have a worldwide presence, we can see how apparent a rebrand becomes a necessity. Take a look at the logos below. Through brand recognition on the right, its clear who each of the companies are. But now compare this to the left hand column containing their original identities before they made their mark of domination. Which column of logos do you feel you are more likely to form a connection with in today’s world? Which do you feel you is more trustworthy to deliver its products or services? The simple fact is, they have all understood the power of branding and how changes in society, trends and the growing awareness of their identity. Can you imagine them reaching the same heights of success they have experienced if they had kept faith in their original logos?
Some have even gone a step further and there are now many high profile examples of brands that have recently opted to evolve through the simplification of their image. Whilst there are clear demonstrations of development and no questioning on the advances in maturity, consumer feedback has been sketchy to put it lightly, drawing criticism that this notable over simplicity eradicates the emotional response it should trigger. There is a risk that there is too much reliance on loyalty and brand recognition and not enough investment in future-proofing. Differentiation is what gives a brand its distinct personality and character, so are these examples taking the notion of ‘growing up’ too far? Do we still feel that emotional connection in the same way we did before? Or does simplification mean diversification and enhanced versatility?
The jury is still out on that particular debate but one that can not be argued is that brands naturally evolve. Whether they a borne from a hastily put together scribble or an intricately crafted masterpiece, it is important to understand that sooner or later, change will be a requirement to enhance future success. Sadly, there will always be business owners who struggle to see the value in committing time and financial investment into such a thing but it is up to us, as brand advocates to educate the value in conveying the company’s character and personality through unique brand identity.
The human eye can see millions of colours. They are all around us and influence us constantly, playing a pivotal part in triggering our actions and on a daily basis, responsible for various behaviours and decisions we make.
The use of colour, is not just about making something look pretty, it’s about the reaction it evokes. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram of colours in 1666. Whilst it has evolved and been adapted over time, the colours within this spectrum have always resonated with us on different levels.
In the world of brand identity, colour psychology is involved in everything. The key to success is not only to understand what each colour means from a psychological perspective but learning how to inspire, invigorate and engage your target market. Colour plays an essential role in creating a strong first impression for your customers. But crucially it’s not a case of one size fits all; colour psychology isn’t an exact science. Individuals will emotionally respond in different ways depending on diversities in culture, taste and association so perception can vary.
Image credit: Huffington Post
Passion, youthfulness, energy, power, strength, excitement, desire, boldness
Red offers diversity and can take on a variety of meanings though the unifying factor is the sense of importance. It is a colour best used cautiously. Due to its attention-grabbing properties, it’s a priceless tool in the world of promotion but used excessively it will inhibit relaxation.
Courage, confidence, friendliness, success, innovation, cheerfulness, creative, enthusiasm
Orange is a colour that doesn’t hold back. Used correctly, it can stand out in a crowd. It focuses our minds on issues of physical comfort and sensuality. As its intermediate positioning between red and yellow, orange combines the reaction between the physical and the emotional.
Brightness, optimism, friendliness, joyfulness, warmth, energy, clarity, creativity
As the colour of the sun, yellow creates an energetic vibe. It is able to stimulate and revitalise and it’s therefore easy to understand why it evokes feelings of optimism and clarity, lifting our spirts and self-esteem. Whilst lighter shades play on the happiness aspects associated with summer and sun, darker shades add more weight giving a sense of antiquity. Used incorrectly through and it can represent warning and raise levels of anxiety.
Freshness, environment, health, healing, peacefulness, growth, renewal, harmony
Being the centre of the spectrum, green is the colour of balance. It is the bridge between the stimulating, warmer colours such as red and orange and the calming, cool colours of blue, offering reassurance and an air of stability. It provides a serene and peaceful tone, conveying the idea of growth but used in the wrong way it can indicate stagnation and blandness.
Tranquillity, security, integrity, strength, trust, intelligence, masculinity, dependence
Blue offers much versatility, suggesting trust, evoking calmness and safety as well as being socially friendly and inviting. With its ability to offer more range than other colours, there are contrasts in what it can represent at opposing ends of the scale. Light blues generally have a refreshing and energising personality, calming the mind and aiding concentration. Whereas dark blues are much more sombre, pointing towards security and trust stimulating clear thought.
Spirituality, luxury, creativity, wealth, vision, imagination, truth, wiseful
With its historical association with royalty, purple represents luxury and is an effective way to create the sense of elegance and high-end appeal. It conjures images of grandeur and opulence, activating the imagination to provide an experience beyond the ordinary. It carries with it a sense of wisdom and takes awareness to a higher level of thought. Lighter shades bring to mind a spiritual and sensual essence whilst darker shades can suggest mystery and intrigue.
Healthy, nurture, happiness, femininity, sweet, compassion, playfulness, sexuality
Pink is stereotypically targeted towards the female market but if its use is over accentuated, it can become emasculating, losing its intended effect. Whilst the neighbouring red stimulates, pink meanwhile offers a sense of soothing and nurturing. It can also link towards innocence and works well both visually and psychologically with red and purple.
Earthy, outdoors, longevity, conservative, comfort, stability, seriousness, nature
Under the right circumstances, brown can be an effective branding colour. It is a primarily organic natured colour associated with earth and trees. When utilised in muted tones, it can produce a classier, more human emphasis. In addition, with its hues of red and yellow as well as its inclusion of black, it can offer similar yet more forgiving and less suppressive elements of seriousness. It is a solid, reliable colour that is found to be quietly supportive.
Elegance, class, protection, mystery, sophistication, substance, glamour, safety
Black adds an air of sophistication and elegance with a very bold confidence. Creating protective barriers, it absorbs energy, enshrouding personality. It is another example that offers diversity; on one hand can appear menacing and even instilling fear but on the other it provides absolute clarity and uncompromising excellence.
Goodness, innocence, purity, freshness, ease, clean, sterility, simplicity
While black is the absence of light, white is the literal opposite and the two polar contrasts often work perfectly in unison together. By reflecting light, psychologically it can create barriers but also provides purity and cleanliness. Visually it creates a heightened perception of space.
Security, reliability, intelligence, solid, neutrality, balance, calm, stability
Intermediately positioned between black and white, grey exudes neutrality. It therefore lacks sensation and often doesn’t excel as a primary colour in branding. It is the only colour that has no direct psychological properties and unless it is used right it can compromise other colours it is used with. However, alone it can exude traditionalism and professionalism, suggesting intelligence and reliability.
Key considerations for colour usage in branding
Consider the market you are targeting and understand their preferences. Genders, cultures and ethical diversities can make a considerable difference. Also evaluate your product or service and identify the links between them and your target audience.
Look at your brand history, it’s positioning and personality. How do you want your customers to perceive you? Look at relevance within your industry and understand what is appropriate and what isn’t.
Use colour that matches the emotions and characteristics that your brand is trying to portray. Look at your value proposition and see if it resonates with any specific colours. Think about the associations that people are most likely to make.
Research your competition and see how they position their branding. It can be tempting to roll with the clichés but it is better to stand out than blend in. But instead of just selecting the brightest shade, examine what works best between your customers and your products.
Think about how you can portray yourself in an authentic way using colour in your branding. It is important to remain authentic as customers often act with intuition when they see a brand and if the colours don’t connect effectively, they may go elsewhere.
In order to solidify the image of your brand in your customers’ minds, it is crucial that colour usage in your brand remains consistent over time. This can be ensured through development of brand guidelines.
To summarise, colour usage in branding can have a significant impact on how well you are able to convey your branding message and connect with your target audience. Underestimating the psychology of colour in branding can have a devastating impact. There’s much more to consider than just personal preference so before you launch your brand, take a step back and evaluate the implications of your options. By investing time in the consideration of your options, you’re much more likely to end up with something that resonates with the audience you are aiming it towards and will pay dividends in the long run for your business.
When it comes to deciding on who you’re going to approach to design and produce the branding and marketing material that you inevitably require to help give your business its best chance for growth and success, where do you start?
Nowadays, through the evolution of technology, there is a saturated presence of design agencies all competing with one another and it can often become somewhat overwhelming to know where to begin. They all have their own value proposition, promoting why they think their offering is superior to the competition. But there is one factor in particular that we’d like to highlight in this article; size.
Tall oaks from little acorns grow… it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to grow a business, that goes without saying. Within the creative industry, the larger design agencies will have a workforce possessing just about every relevant job title you can imagine. They will have specialists in each department with intricately honed skills that make them highly proficient in a range of key areas for their role. But does this setup necessarily make it a better proposition than a smaller agency which regularly sees its staff multitasking and stepping outside their standard remit of responsibilities?
With over 35 years of industry experience between them, Creative Fire’s two founding partners have had the fortune of experiencing first hand the operations at both ends of the spectrum. Whilst a studio with 100+ staff can give a design agency status and help to give an indication on its success as a thriving business, with so many links in the chain to take a project from brief through to realisation, communication can suffer breakdowns which can in turn compromise the delivery of the end product. From experience of working at some of the leading branding agencies in the UK, we have identified that information fed through from a client can be interpreted differently and specific key criteria can be neglected depending on the knowledge and understanding that a particular individual has. Whilst we must not ‘tar everyone with the same brush’, a pedigree project manager, being the front of house, face of the company may typically prioritise in ensuring that requested deadlines are met and they may overlook the technical limitations and implications to what a client has requested. Such a drawback can delay and inconvenience proceedings, damaging long standing reputations and in the worse case scenario cost a client financially. At the same token, a designer may not possess the polished manner that a project manager would have spent years perfecting in how they present themselves to the client which doesn’t cast the company’s image in the best light.
Granted you can’t be a master of all trades; if it were that easy we’d all be sipping Dom Perignon from the top deck of a yacht in Monte Carlo but that’s not to say that we can’t identify and utilise the top line, key skills that are required to ensure that a client always receives their product on time, on brief and with minimal fuss. They’re not interested in the square footage of your office space or how you’re just about to open your fifth office in Europe. The sole fundamental factor to them is simplicity and that you can deliver on your promises in the most straightforward and painless way possible.
At Creative Fire, we created an agency that focuses on putting our customers first through streamlining the design journey by amalgamating stages and refining processes. In doing so, our designers are on hand to guide them through this journey from the very beginning to the very end. Furthermore, our clients have often stated that by dealing solely with the creative through the duration of their project, it provides clarity and confidence, safe in the knowledge that they know there is no risk of information getting lost in translation as it gets fed through from one department to the next.
We are not defined by departments. Our designers are hybrids, skilled on a multi-disciplinary level. By keeping our overheads tight through streamlining and avoiding these phases that we consider to be obsolete, it also means that we can strip back our costs therefore offering a much more cost effective service to our customers. Larger agencies often use their status to justify inflated fees. We simply do not do that.
The one remaining aspect that determines the efficiency of an agency is how quickly they can act to deliver. By removing links in the metaphoric chain that is required to ensure your vision to be realised, we are able to deliver our projects to our customers faster. Rather than a brief being passed from one department to the next, there is just one handover; from the customer to the designer. In turn, we have managed to perfect a blend between quality, value and speed.
We’re not just another small time, local provider of design solutions. The market is inundated with young pretenders claiming to have the answer to your branding or marketing needs, often with poorly considered strategies. We may be small but what we lack in size, we make up for with our big agency mentality and have the experience to cover that. It’s a little bit like panning for gold; by sieving out all the stones and dirt, you’re left with (if lucky) a golden nugget – and that’s what we’ve done with Creative Fire.
The success of business is fundamentally built on the foundations of brand awareness. The ability for us to mentally note a brand and lock that snapshot away in the memory bank to be able to identify it indefinitely is what enables it to thrive; through marketing campaigns we develop a familiarisation with brands and providing we are able to connect with them, we learn to trust them.
But even with the most established of worldwide brands, how accurately are we able to remember them from memory? You would imagine with such high profile, blue-chip examples, there is so much opportunity to see them each day meaning that remembering the simplest of details would be a foregone conclusion. But it is not as straightforward as you may think. Based on the results below, it’s more challenging than you would imagine to memorise these ubiquitous emblems.
Through research undertaken by Signs.com, we take a look at six international brands that can be considered as household names in the UK; Apple, Ikea, Adidas, Burger King, Dominos and Starbucks. These are prime examples of businesses who through growing reputation and success, continue to maintain a solid marketing drive, consistently ensuring that their brand is universally never far from the forefront of our minds.
When it comes to the manifestation of a brand, there are many factors to consider; shape, colour, typeface and all the unique little touches that are used to give it personality. It’s unsurprising to see that the brandmarks with the most accurate recreations are the ones with the simpler appearances. But in the more complex examples used,
recalling all of this information is not as straightforward as you would expect. As Sherlock Holmes once said, we “see but do not observe.” In the context of this article, we remember just enough of a brand’s appearance to be aware of its presence but recalling the finest of details is not necessary for us to be brand aware. But why aren’t we able to do this? Despite seeing something many times, we fail to create a lasting memory of it; this is something that has been dubbed “inattentional amnesia”. It is evident that one of the stronger areas we are able to recall is colour. Even with an example like Burger King with its trio colour palette, an added complexity like this doesn’t cloud our memory quite as much as you would expect. In contrast, we are weaker at retaining memory on a brandmark’s shape; in the case of Starbucks, remembering the intricate details of the iconic mermaid are a step to far for many.
Ultimately, the goal with branding is to find the sweet spot between something that can be easily remembered whilst being distinctive enough to ensure that it doesn’t just blend in with the competition. With the experiment that Signs.com conducted, it proves that even with the most established of brands, human biology stands in the way of us having the ability to create a photographic memory of them so limitations will always exist.
After seven years of honourable service, BenBen Design relinquished its position as the brand that has supported us through so many projects; it has been with us on a journey and has largely remained unchanged in it’s lifespan. But with aspiration and growth, we felt a new image was required; one that could grow with us, and so Creative Fire was born. We wanted a brand that could offer diversity, accommodating small startups through to established blue-chip corporations but could demonstrate that we are totally confident in our delivery. Whilst the name Creative Fire reflects the service we offer, we didn’t want to use a meaningless noun just for the sake of having one because it sounds good. By partnering the two elements in this way, we are able express our passion as creatives and the tenacity we have to consistently deliver to our clients.
If we cast ourselves back to the birth of our brand development, the true origin of the word fire within our brand derives from an experimentation with acronyms. Basing our company name solely on a combination of our surnames (as so many choose to do) felt far too corporate for us. But by incorporating them to form a generically identifiable word, particularly one which serves relevance, it helps to provide an extra dimension to our brand. So whilst F and R represent the names of the two company partners, I and E represent two key areas of our process; ideas and execution.
We were conscious of steering clear of the clichés. Flames and sparks were deemed too colloquial, diverting attention from the true message we wanted to convey whilst also risking confusion as to what services we were providing. So instead of emphasising graphic symbolism to the visual aspect of the logo, we decided to develop the science behind it.
As we (should) all know, fire requires three elements in order to manifest; fuel, oxygen and heat. This provided us with a platform to develop our services and value proposition. In devising that our offering focuses on the three key disciplines of brand, print and digital, it was only natural that our tagline would follow suit, communicating three key values that accurately represent us. We Listen. We Create. We Deliver.
Through experience of working for a number of established, relatively large scale design agencies, our partners have taken the opportunities that a rebrand provides to identify where the flaws in their systems exist, thus what requires refinement in order to make a good agency a great one. By harnessing the near 40 years of industry experience between us, we came to the conclusion that providing a rigid departmental system that includes multiple points of contact in order to deliver a message throughout a project’s entirety opens up the very real possibility for error. For example, communication can be mis-interpreted as the baton is passed from one department to the next and some disciplines are more technically versed than others. By dealing directly with the creative individual from brief to sign-off, we eradicate any possibility for error. Then there is the small matter of timings; by taking out links in the chain, we effectively streamline the process to aid assurance that projects are always completed on time and never overrun deadlines. Direct communication means quicker, clearer delivery.
Marketing material comes in many different forms and with the continuous evolution of digital media platforms, it’s easy to feel bombarded with the options available. Operations Director, Greg Rawles of Colchester based marketing agency Creative Fire helps to explain the fundamental check points when considering your next marketing campaign.
1. Consider Your Audience
It is imperative to think about your audience when it comes to designing your marketing materials. Identifying your target market can help to determine the correct strategy to employ. What you are looking for is an emotional connection. Always design your materials with your audience in mind.
2. Tell Your Story Clearly
First impressions are everything. The information you provide and how you display it is paramount when a customer is first introduced to your business and what you’re offering. It is important to hook them into your visual design. High-quality graphics, appealing headlines and short paragraphs will have much more impact than flooding a page with a comprehensive list of all you can offer. It is no secret that a picture speaks louder than words. So, adding the right balance of graphics and text is more likely to attract a wider audience.
3. Stand out from the Crowd
When marketing your business, consider how it will look alongside your competition. It is important to find ways of giving yourself some space to avoid over-saturating the market with repetitive branding techniques. Think about your niche if you offer one and focus on that. It’s about staying one step ahead.
4. Show Clear Direction
It is important to provide customers with a pleasant user experience. If they find your marketing material to be concise with clear direction, they are more likely to engage with your product or service. Ask yourself what you want it to do for you and your business. It will be much more effective if you provide a call-to-action that encourages customers to proactively engage.
5. Consider the Thought Process
It is important to understand the thought process of how your bespoke marketing materials will be viewed. By conducting research to find out how your content is viewed by readers, it will eliminate any speculation. From the research conducted, you can then develop a clear and meaningful strategy to ensure that your intentions are conveyed correctly.
6. Cover All Bases
Although digital marketing is now seen to supersede many printed equivalents, it is advised that you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Every industry will differ depending on the market you are reaching out to but it is recommended that both digital and printed forms are integrated to maximise your exposure.
7. Add Value
So you have a bespoke, attractive design, a catchy headline, and a call to action. Why stop there? Add even more value to your material by providing helpful information for your audience. It will help to engage the reader and is another method of providing them with a positive user experience which in turn will develop trust in your brand.
8. Give Evidence of Success
Utilise positive feedback you have previously received to show to prospective clients that you have a proven track record. By revealing genuine testimonials from previous clients, you are providing highly convincing evidence that your business is one of quality that can deliver with a promise that you’ll meet expectations.
9. Invest in brand guidelines
To give your audience confidence in your brand, consistency is something that cannot be overlooked. A set of guidelines is an intuitive way of guaranteeing this consistency, ensuring that each piece of marketing material coordinates with the next forming one unified company brand. This allows you to dissect all the intricate elements that form the brand, informing users on any limitations that may be in place.
10. Call In The Professionals
A business is financially dependent and particularly in its infancy, funds are tight. So it’s all too easy to put your trust in a discount, off the shelf package or even be tempted into designing the material yourself. But future-proofing your brand is key to ensuring its success and you’re only going to achieve that by using a trusted professional design service with experience and a proven track record. They will ensure your branding is consistent throughout whilst maintaining a clean and professional look.
Whether you are designing a new logo or a fully responsive e-commerce website, it is advised that the creative journey with your client begins with a brief to help establish how the project should be approached. It acts as a blueprint to provide all the intricate details for the creative agency to grow ideas from, helping to shape the overall strategy and goals for the project.
One other significant benefit for the brief is that it contributes towards ensuring there is consistency through collaboration. With a team of strategists, researchers and designers, it’s crucial that everyone is on the same page in terms of the deliverables.
Here are 10 pointers to factor in that’ll give you the information you’ll need to get started:
1. Who they are and what they do
Working from the ground up and establishing the company’s foundations is always going to be the best place to start a creative brief. Find out the size of their company and how long have they been in business. Ask how the business was formed. Establish their product or service offering. What are they most proud of within the company and what aspirations to they have for its future? Obtaining all of this information will enable you to see the business through the customer’s eyes whilst helping to you to visualise a professional solution for their needs.
2. The scope of the project
The next step is to hone in on the requirements of the project. The devil is in the detail here; leave no stone unturned because the customer is going to appreciate you a lot more if you’re able to acquire all the information you need up front rather than querying again later down the line. By knowing the extent of the campaign, you’ll be able to pinpoint the level of collateral needed, how each element is intended to work and will ultimately allow you to calculate the time-frame for the project and how that collates to the customer’s intended deadline.
3. The target market
By getting the customer to describe their typical client, you will be able to form an accurate impression for how your project should be directed. Consider criteria such as age, ethnicity and gender. The best method is to generate profiles of how you interpret this client to be. Identify how this person would live their day to day life, what their habits are, what excites them. With all of this information you’ll be able find the connections between audience and product and ultimately determine how it should be marketed.
4. The competition
Establishing who your customer is up against in their market is critical, for this will give you guidance on how to position their product. Whilst they’ll want to avoid blending in, equally they’ll want to stand out for the right reasons. Consider that although you may sell the same product as someone else, your audiences can be worlds apart. The key is to to find the gaps which are yet to be conquered. Find ways to be unique, yet appealing.
5. The tone and image they need to portray
One thing to avoid is to try being everything to everyone. Find their niche and focus 100% on it. Their audience may be techy, earthy, old or young. The key is to determine what they associate their audience with. Will they be more drawn to a serif font and an organic colour palette or would something more modern and punchy work better? Consider creating mood boards comprising of magazine cuttings, postcards, colour swatches and fabrics…. anything that you find inspiring and relevant to the project. From here you can introduce the various elements of the design to each other and suddenly, you have your first concept.
6. Their ultimate goal and how it will be measured
If you ask this question, it’s more than likely the response will be that your customer wants to generate more business. There are a number of different ways in which this can be done though and the strategy you employ will be partially governed by this.
In addition, measuring the success of the campaign will help to establish how effective the design has been. If results aren’t measurable, find out how the collateral will be used and how it fits in to their new business plan. One way to maximise the potential of a successful campaign is to provide a clear call to action. Inform the customer how they can fully utilise this.
7. The budget
Agreeing a fee for the project prior to its commencement will enable you to gauge the time and complexity you can allow. It’s also worth considering itemising the costs so that they can assess a breakdown of each segment for the project which will allow them to appreciate the length of time factored in. Providing all of this information in advance will serve to protect the relationship with the customer and ensure the whole process runs smoothly and all deadlines are met on time.
8. The handling of approvals
Effective communication throughout the project is essential in order for all deliverables to be met on time and in accordance to the brief. Establish who your main point of contact will be and whether there are any other individuals involved in the approval process. If anyone else is to be included on approvals, make sure to get all points of contact; their name, email address and phone number. It’s also a good idea is to list all deadlines and duplicate these into your calendar.
9. Any previous marketing materials that has been used
This will provide you with a benchmark for where to start. You can ask the customer what they like and what works for them, what they dislike and what is failing to have an impact. Include links to their current website if they have one along with any social media pages they manage.
In addition, if their brand is currently void of guidelines, there may be an opportunity to expand the project by suggesting that a set are built. Alternatively, if they have specific fonts or colourways that are to be used, ensure that these are shared in advance – but do remember to consider licenses for usage rights.
10. Other people responsible for other pieces of this project
Depending on the work entailed, you may find that you need to rely on others for certain information in order for you to deliver to the customer on time. Consider the fact that they may not always to be able to provide everything you need before you begin in which case ensure you agree to dates when this information will be supplied.
The information you require will vary from project to project but the more you ask, the more you get and the more clarity you’ll have about what your client needs. It’s all too easy to file the creative brief away somewhere, thinking you’ll remember everything that was noted so always keep it within view whilst the project is live. Review it again before you begin to design and again before you’re ready to present to the customer to confirm you’ve met the goals.