A brand is like a wardrobe…

Having been involved in the development/management of a few brands, when I saw this quote from Michael Hendrix from IDEO, I just had to share:

Hendrix put the challenge to me metaphorically, with the firm represented by a person with a wardrobe full of outfits. “There’s you, the person, and you have your full identity in yourself,” he says. “But you know contextually when to wear certain things. You might wear one thing to a funeral, you might wear one thing for a Saturday night. You understand those contexts. And those never change your identity, so to speak, but they do start to communicate some kind of intent. And that’s what we’re trying to figure out right now. How do you create some kind of contextual mirror to create intent.”

This is so fitting (’scuse the pun) and deeply reflects my thinking and approach to branding. A brand is not just about the visual identity. It’s a system of values that are applied in a variety of contexts. This applies to tone of voice for copy as well, just as strongly (which, of course, is also a reflection of the brand). It’s great to have such a nice succinct analogy to call upon in explaining the concept…

I also love this idea of a “responsive identity”:

Imagine it’s 15 years in the future, and you’re wearing Google Glass 3.0. The spectacles have matured far beyond their awkward picture-in-picture beginnings, now offering something much closer to true augmented reality. It’s a strange new hybrid world. You glance at a subway station and see an overlay of how long until the next train arrives. You look at a dog, wonder what type it is, and a voice in your ear identifies it as a Thai Ridgeback. Of course, commerce has kept apace. A window display at Macy’s comes to life when you look in its direction; a virtual billboard on top of the Starbucks facade rotates through a half dozen drink specials.

This future, or one like it, isn’t hard to fathom. But here’s something that’s a bit harder to pin down: What does the logo on that Starbucks look like?

That’s one of the things Hendrix hopes this project will get his designers to start considering. “We haven’t had to think about responsive identities,” he says. “We haven’t had to think about time or space. And I think those will all become more important dimensions.”

Business 2.0

Values-based branding

A lot of the work we do at Zumio focuses on achieving clarity of brand and business objectives. One of the phrases that’s popping up in my conversations is “values-based branding” and I wanted to just drop a short note here expanding a little more about what I mean by that.

To me, this phrase has a dual meaning. The first: in order to deliver a great experience to the people you are serving, you need to be clear about the type of experience you are are trying to create – not just in terms of the detail (i.e. what you do), but the overall feeling that you are intending people to experience when they interact with your organisation.

The second aspect can be summarised by this cartoon by Hugh Macleod (inspired the Hughtrain manifesto):

The market for something to believe in is infinite (Hugh Macleod)

Instilling a deeper purpose and mission when conceiving the brand (and I’m talking about more than lip service here – I mean truly engendering the values across an organisation through action, and not just “tacked on” as an afterthought) can have a big impact. First inside, then outside an organisation.

This is related to the concept of “thick” value that I mentioned the other day in reference to Umair Haque’s post.

I’m not saying you have to have a “save the world” clause in your brand values (although if you can authentically embed such a mission, all power to you). Just some sense of a deeper purpose that people can draw on and rally around when they need that extra inspiration to deliver a great experience.

Business 2.0

Brand as reputation vs. look & feel

Untangling brand and customer experience, in 10 minutes or less from Brandon Schauer on Vimeo. A bit of background over at the Adaptive Path blog.

I dig this infographic+voiceover explanation of two different approaches to brand. I think it highlights the need to focus on people as opposed to message, which of course gels with my line of thinking…

The only thing that I’d add is that perhaps there’s more to the “designed brand” than just “look & feel” – organisations still need to understand what they are aiming for in order to engage their people around those ideals.

In this sense I think the design of a brand is still a little bit “inside out”, although I think this should be informed by the people outside the organisation to ensure that it’s aligned with their expectations and motivations.

I don’t think Josh or Brandon are suggesting otherwise, just pointing this out as it’s not made clear in the video itself.

Social media & networking

Brand building on the web

Jax has an enthusiastic post entitled “Building brands on the web“. There’s some great points in there, worth a read (it’s pretty snappy – so won’t take long).

In relation to point 1: “Web users are an active audience” – I would heartily recommend checking out Clay Shirky’s talk at Web 2.0 – it’s a goldmine.

And extending point 5: “Easy and cost effective device to gain customer insights” – make sure you have permission! I know Jax knows this, but didn’t state it explicitly :)

And as Seth Godin and the folks at Campaign Monitor often point out, permission isn’t just “can I email you?” – it means providing timely and relevant communications.

In other words, just because you have an email address and an “opt-in” checkbox doesn’t mean that people won’t consider you spam.