A while ago I realized that there are only two kinds of brand names: unsuitable names and good-enough names. There is no such thing as a perfect name. While unsuitable names can ruin a brand’s chance of success, no name can guarantee a brand’s success. In fact, when you start looking at the most successful brands, their names were often created almost accidentally.
That’s why I liked this graphic I stumbled across recently. It tells the story of how some of the biggest brand names came about. Not one of them was a thoroughly designed name, that branding experts considered perfect.
Once again, Pentagram rolls out some really strong branding work. It’s a fantastic example of what I think of as really great brand identity design: a elegant mark, impeccably applied to the collateral.
It’s exactly what I was thinking about when I asked if logos are important. The logo doesn’t aspire tell the whole story of the brand. It’s “just” a very nice wordmark. Instead, William Russell and John Rushworth (and their teams) build the brand’s visual vocabulary in the collateral.
I’ve given KFC some flack before–for the mixed messaging of their Mega Jug of Pepsi for juvenille diabetes research–but this ad is spot-on. This TV spot does a great job of focusing less on the product, and more on the emotions it promises to deliver. It’s hard to believe that the same company produced these two bits of communication (though technically, they weren’t).
While advertisers like Skittles have employed the method (successfully) for years, I think Old Spice kicked off a fad amongst ad agency creatives: they all seem to love the idea of the bizarre storyline in their ads. The worst offender, I think, is Dairy Queen, who doesn’t seem to understand the how or why of this method of storytelling, but instead comes off like a 4 year old kid try to tell a dirty joke they don’t quite get.
Vivident does a good job of tying the concept back into their brand promise to make the whole effort worthwhile.
Terry O’Reilly talks often about the implicit agreement that exists in advertising: viewing an ad is payment for entertainment. Put another way, advertisers are responsible for entertaining the audience they advertise to.
H2Oh! shows that they understand this reciprocation in this ad. This is the kind of work that the audience will actively seeks out. It’s unfortunate that we rarely see this much effort put into entertainment outside of the Superbowl.
One last thought: notice that you’re not hit over the head with the product placement. The soda makes subtle appearances throughout the spot, and each one feels natural.
Here’s a clever way to show that you’re in-touch with your audience. The best part of this is that there’s no explanation or instruction: you either know exactly what that means or you don’t.
What is it that makes a corporate brand identity? I used to think that this meant the logo, but the more I see and the more I practice the design of brands, the more I realize the logo enjoys exaggerated importance in the design of the brand identity.
Bad logos are either aesthetically unsuitable for the brand, or are simply unsuitable for technical reasons (e.g.: reproduction difficulties).
But if the logo isn’t outright bad, it can probably work well in the hands of a skilled designer. I’ve noticed that it’s novice designers who rely the most on a great logo to design good materials, where great designers can make mediocre marks work wonders for the brand.
This is because it’s the overall aesthetic that is created for the brand that really matters. In the end, the logo is really just a tiny aspect of the overall identity. I think it’s easy to see how this works when you start looking for it: have a look at your favourite brand design, how often does the logo really matter? While there will always be exceptions to the rule, you’ll often find that the logo itself has very little to do with the aesthetic given to the brand identity.
In fact, some of my favourite personal work has been done when I hastily applied the client’s logo as a last measure, because I hated the mark so much. I simply designed around it, and everyone was much happier for it.
K-Swiss has produced a fantastic video designed to go “viral”, and it will. This foul-mouthed bit hits a lot of perfect notes, and does a great job shifting the perceptions of the brand. Like the old Rebook Terry Tate Office Linebacker campaign, it’s tone is spot on with the audience and works hard to provide genuine entertainment.
Bryan MacNeill has done some tremendous design work in the time I’ve known him. I’ve never seen another designer that could so easily turn out such strong layouts so easily. His work with the Sofitel Americas chain, and the Los Angeles location in particular, is especially good. Be sure to have a look at the full profile of this project in his portfolio.
Recently my MacBook started acting up, so I took it in to the Apple store to have it looked at. While there, I realized that there’s a big difference in how different companies brand tech support.
Typically, companies take a kind of tongue-in-cheek approach to their tech-support departments. Best Buy has the Geek Squad. A private Canadian mobile tech support company is called Nerds on Site. Nerds, geeks, and dweebs all make frequent appearances in the names of tech support brands. While the derogatory names are intended in an endearing way, I can’t help but wonder what the effects of this branding is on the way customers relate to the brands.
At Apple, the tech support is called the Genius Bar. It’s a name that achieves similar messaging as the Geek Squad–that these people know their stuff, stuff that you don’t–but without the backhanded insult applied to the people that work there. I also think that this more positive branding prepares everyone, staff and customers alike, for a successful relationship. As a customer, your time with the Apple “Genius” is a little less antagonistic than your time with a “Geek” might be. There’s a more healthy respect in the relationship.