An interview with Russell Volckmann on Branding in Motion
Ashley: What sort of “due diligence” should brands do when conceptualizing their name/logo/etc?
“Due diligence” is an apt term, and not performing due diligence can be very costly to a company. A company needs to perform a great deal of proper positioning and planning before getting to the point of expressing the brand in terms of a company name, product name, visual identity (logos, word marks, supporting graphical devices), or other brand expressions. Spending the time and effort performing this initial due diligence will reap great rewards. The positioning and planning leads to vital platforming on which all brand expressions are built. Conversely, skipping important brand development steps leads to uninformed choices. Uniformed choices in brand will lead to mistakes in developing brand expressions such as logo or name, for example. As a building with no foundation will topple over, so will a brand without its proper platform or foundation.
Typically companies should not attempt to perform brand development in-house, and rather hire an outside professional branding agency or professional consultancy. Why? A high expertise level of respected and expert branding professionals is one reason. Another reason is that it is nearly impossible to be objective with one’s own brand. Companies tend to overlook or are unaware or vital questions concerning their brands. And a great deal of challenges await brand development internally, externally, and in the interaction between both. A simple metaphor is looking in the mirror and not seeing what everyone else is seeing.
Since the logo is something everyone recognizes as one brand expression, let’s continue to use the logo as an example.
One symptom of not performing due diligence is the common mistake of hiring graphic designers for a logo. Companies often choose designers simply because they can design, and without looking at key market, business, brand landscape (brandscape)–plus other objectives and challenges that need to drive the visual expression of that brand identity. Successful logos are not designed in a vacuum, nor are they the result of ‘liking’ or ‘not liking’ the design. And this is where so many visual identities fail.
Rather, a successful visual identity is driven by numerous factors and objectives that a logo, for example, needs to accomplish. Does it differentiate? Does it resonate with key customers? Is it flexible enough to work in a near infinite variety of environments? On products? Online? Is it immediately recognizable? Does it communicate the key drivers uncovered early on during a comprehensive brand discovery and platforming process? Will it outlast fads? Is there potential for lawsuits due to similar aspects causing intellectual property infringement? Is it meaningful? Does it resonate with company internal stakeholders after a proper gestation period? People gravitate toward the familiar because they feel comfortable with it. However, feeling familiar means doing things the same as everyone else, which does not differentiate, and therefore offers no unique value to stakeholders (internally or externally). Otherwise, no reason for anyone to buy. So, now you see why ‘liking’ or ‘not liking’ really has nothing to do with how a successful logo or visual identity is developed. Yes, a logo should work aesthetically. But like so many other brand expressions, a logo needs to create a meaningful brand experience. And thankfully, expert brand agencies have processes for getting brands there.
Next time > What’s the first thing an (online) brand should do if they have a #prfail (they really mess up online)?