Friday, April 11, 2008

Mystified by branding? It's all in the cup of tea

Are you mystified by branding? Fed up of people talking about how their logos talk about their "core values"? Don't know a logotype from a logomark? Well, to be honest you don't really need to know about these things to give a good impression of your company. It's all about the cup of tea...

A brand isn't your logo. The amount of times I've had clients call me in for meetings and let me know in a very matter of fact way that they'd like me to design a brand for them. I get excited. An enlightened client! But it soon transpires that what they want is a 'logo' redesign. Usually in isolation to all other communications in their arsenal. Well that's no brand I'm afraid. The brand can be found in the gut reaction your key stakeholders have about you and your company. It goes way beyond the logo. Sure the logo needs to toe the line and reflect your company's values but it's more than this. It's about getting all the visual language correct, right across the board. You get it right and you can get the brand to work for you- to achieve results for you as it reinforces this gut feel.

And yes, it starts with the cup of tea...

When I visit a client's company (or a suppliers) I'm greeted at the reception and perhaps offered a cup of tea. All of your questions about this company can be found in this cup of tea. But I'm not talking about tasseomancy!

If I were given a chipped mug, or a posh china tea cup and saucer, or an Elvis mug-I (or you, I'm guessing) would immediately start to make judgments about this company. Is it rich, poor, flippant, conservative, young and dynamic.... We may be WRONG about these assumptions, but we can't help making them. When we meet people for the first time we make judgements about what type of person they are based on their face, their voice, their accent, their clothes, their hair, their movements, their body language. All in an instance. And we usually stick with these ideas, rightly or wrongly! That's why first impressions last and why, if you work at it, you can help get some ideas quickly into the head of the client/key partner/supplier.

As humans we know about body language and in a similar way we are quite sensitive to the visual language used in communications design: which type is used, the colour, the tone of voice in literature. All of these things add up in our minds and create an impression of a company. We just can't help it!

Check out this company's website and compare it with this one and this one. Three very different approaches to the same problem: "flogging plumbing stuff" (I use this language deliberately-none of the companies did, right? Because using those particular words give an instant feel. This effect works similarly in a visual way too.) Each may be 'right' in its own way- it really depends on how they've done their homework and if each site gives the right type of client for them a nice warm fuzzy feeling. Try it with your friends' company sites...!

And this doesn't stop at the logo or corporate stationery, it should permeate the whole organisation: how the building is lit, the colour of the walls, the carpet, how the phone is answered, which hold music is used. These all build to make an impression and cerate an idea of the sort of company it is. And most importantly is the first impression: it's the way the receptionist greets you, how they treat you, if they are friendly or not, and of course, how that cuppa looks.

Got it?

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