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Brand Experts

Can your brand bend like bamboo

A successful brand needs to be like bamboo – strong, flexible and resilient. But many brands are like broken branches – weak, inflexible and certain to wither and die. A strong brand is an evolving story, not an unchanging visual stamp, and it’s certainly more than just a logo. Your logo helps people identify your brand, but it’s not the whole story. In our ever-changing world, a logo is just one of the many elements a brand needs to be able to connect and interact with people.

We’re much more excited about how a brand inspires people to think about – and contribute to – its story. There are many different ways of doing this; you could use a sound, shape, gesture, image, material or phrase – or virtually anything else that grabs people’s interest and attention (think about Apple’s ‘pinch’ or ‘swipe’; think about Intel’s sonic mnemonic). A brand’s lifeline is how its different elements combine over time, and logos only die when they become so fixed that they can’t respond to our changing world. The enormous array of media now available to us – from film to social media, music, environments, graphics an more – brings a huge opportunity for designers to create and express a great brand story and give businesses living, breathing identities, not just flat, lifeless logos.

How do you keep your brand alive?
It all begins with a good strategy that defines the value and personality of your business, product or service. Your strategy will ultimately create the essence of your brand, defining its look, feel and sound, but this is only part of the process. Your brand won’t come to life just because you have it outlined in a style manual or brand charter – you need to bring it to life, you need to tell its story, you need to let the world know that it’s yours.

Branding is usually the result of a collaborative process undertaken by strategists, graphic designers and writers. Each discipline – digital, advertising, public relations, identity design – combines to position the aspirations, values and benefits of your offering. Successful branding creates positive associations and establishes consistent expectations for you to fulfil for your consumers. And yes, successful branding also generates revenue.

Do you have ingredients you can own?
For your brand to be memorable and engaging it needs visual ingredients that it can own. If your brand has a specific colour, you need to own it and tell your customers that it’s yours. Do you have a specific shape? Then you need to own that too – and for your fonts, graphic systems, language and image style. Your goal is to produce a visual system that makes your product, service or business easily identifiable. You need to create visual clues that work in conjunction with your logo, because this unison will strengthen your brand and make it memorable.

Engage in strategic flexibility
When you develop a flexible identity scheme you need to consider how and why your brand’s identity should change, and even if it needs to change at all. This consideration should be as important as your choice of colour palette and typeface – it’s a design decision in its own right and, like colour and typography, its choice is loaded with meaning.

So what’s the key message?
Define the core ingredients that make up your brand and use them to tell your brand story. Then get your message out there consistently. But, remember that consistency doesn’t mean not changing – it means changing strategically, while being consistent about getting your message out in the marketplace. You need to be able to ‘bend like the bamboo’ and have the flexibility to keep your brand fresh so that it can evolve as your customers do.

Katie Selby