OPINION: The secret to nimble living brands

Vince Frost
By Vince Frost | 10 October 2012

Lately, I’ve been struck by the amount of visual branding that drones at its audience. ‘We are the number one (yawn) in (yawn) – see our super-consistent formatting’, it seems to say. ‘Look, here’s a (yawn) picture of someone (yawn) doing business with us’.

These brands have one thing in common. They’re straitjacketed by corporate style guides that revolve around precise grids and rules, such as what palette to use and how big the logo should be.

But an organisation’s core values can’t be conveyed just by placing logos and artwork a few millimetres here or there. And I believe this over-dependence on corporate style guides doesn’t just constrict visual branding. It chokes communication as a whole. You must understand your corporate DNA and know your organisation’s purpose, goals and language to properly communicate your business intent.

Times have changed. Style cycles used to last five to eight years, and were dominated by large organisations with a monopoly on a product and consumer – such as Coke or Levis. Change took longer and was expensive. Today there are a lot more passionate individuals and companies who truly want to connect. The digital environment lets these brands tailor their look and feel to each message, and consumers have come to expect this. Seek it out, even.

Madonna rebrands her look famously often (although I hear that her latest tour hasn’t gone down too well). So do the leading fashion houses. Nike, Gucci and others change their look and feel every three to six months, and big corporates should take a cue from this.

Which business doesn’t check its operational pulse on a near-daily basis? They measure everything from sales results to connectivity using real-time data. Yet many communicate in an outdated visual style that makes their brand look out of touch.

We work day-to-day to keep the plan fresh for our clients, no matter their field –finance, non-profits, airlines and many more. We never use a set of guidelines that someone else has done. The look has a core colour and a font, and that’s it.

There are some key steps companies can take to make sure their visual identity stays nimble.

First, they must seek top advice from a branding and communications group who understands that design is about business, not pretty pictures. Once you’ve found your team, stick with them.

Companies should ensure their identity is nimble, able to scale different media and social climates and deliver on all corporate priorities – from customer perception to stakeholder satisfaction. The logo must stay true, but be surrounded by bespoke art direction that embodies the brand proposition.

Brands are a living entity. Companies must support their brand with a visual identity that connects at every touch-point, showing just how unique they are, and maximising their potential to be truly great every day.

Vince Frost
Founder and CEO/Creative Director

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