Branding Q&A: I-AM Brand Creative Director 5th April 2018
“I’ve spent the last 30 years helping to create and build brands for some of the biggest names out there, but I’m not a fan of the word ‘brand’ and the term ‘branding’. I think both are overused whilst remaining often misunderstood, undervalued and open to numerous interpretations. Many people think that branding is only about the logo and visual identity. When in fact, it has grown beyond that, becoming one of the most important features of any modern organisation or business – as a way of connecting with people. An effective brand strategy can give an organisation, small or large, a major edge in an increasingly competitive global or localised market. I think successful branding is essentially as a simple form of story telling.”
“I believe in interesting brand stories that have an ability to stir up emotions, get people excited and connect on a personal and human level. That is the aspect of branding that i love.”
What is important to remember when developing a brand?
No.1 – A brand is simply a set of associations that a person makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation. In the old days branding was mostly associated with the creation of a company logo and corresponding visual identity (which was then applied across various brand assets like letter heads, signage and livery amongst other things.) Nowadays, the focus has switched to a more experiential marketing approach driven by branded experiences and more emotive human connections. Much less about the visual identity and more focused on meaningful storytelling.
No.2 – Branding is not art but a creative marketing resource. It should support and inform your overall business objectives and goals whilst helping to differentiate and distinguish your products and services from those of your competitors. Successful branding should add to a brand’s wider appeal, giving it visual consistency, helping in its instant recognition and giving its products/services stronger prominence and ownership.
“Businesses can no longer rely solely on the communications they issue about themselves, consumer voices and messages are now just as influential if not more so. The consumer is king and their point of view prevails.”
How has branding changed over the years to become what it is today?
Today, we bear witness to the monumental power that brands have in the world, and the pivotal role they play in our lives, whether we like it or not. The advancement of global brand awareness due to the digital communications revolution has transformed the control brands have. The consumer’s voice is especially powerful as we are now able to broadcast our own opinions and compare it with the experiences and thoughts shared by others. We are bombarded by various messages from both brand owners as well as its audiences. Businesses can no longer rely solely on the communications they issue about themselves, consumer voices and messages are now just as influential if not more so. The consumer is king and their point of view prevails.
“The key mistake, is to assume that branding can be successful by only approaching it in the traditional way… in truth, the logo is now just the icing on the cake!”
What types of mistakes do companies make when implementing their brand strategies?
Businesses that are not clear about who they are, what they do or what they have to offer is always a problem. Getting the brand story right should be the first step. It is crucial for you to assess what makes your brand different before you develop or implement a long-term strategy. Believe it or not – Not having a strategy and not seeing the importance of having one, is also a very common error that many companies still make.
The key mistake, is to assume that branding can be successful by only approaching it in the traditional way (logo & visual identity)… in truth, the logo is now just the icing on the cake! Some companies still cut corners, not seeing the essential value in solidifying their brand story. Yet, to successfully create a brand, you need an engaging story – based on specific values which feeds into its personality and is stimulated by an encouraging vision. Once you are able to answer these various subjects clearly and consistently, you have a concrete platform from which to build a brand and begin thinking about a long-term strategy.
“To successfully create a brand, you need an engaging story – based on specific values which feeds into its personality and is stimulated by an encouraging vision.”
How is the approach different when branding for a small business compared to a big business?
Both have challenges, even if the methodology we use is often similar. From my personal experience, although I believe smaller businesses are more demanding, they are generally fresh in their thinking and far more agile when it comes to the implementation process. Yet, having smaller budgets to work with, they require us to be even smarter when suggesting creative solutions, allowing them to compete against established brands. Working with smaller business owners, is also more challenging as they aren’t as familiar with the creative process, which means they need more guidance, attention and interaction.
For bigger companies, the funny thing is how they are now trying to behave, look and act like smaller businesses and less recognisable brands. Big name brands are now leaning towards what small establishments and businesses are advocating. The reason behind this, is that consumers demand more exclusivity through innovative and personalised services. People are looking for authenticity, a sense of individuality, convincing values and overall, brands that stand for something. They want to buy into brands with a story to tell, something original, unique and meaningful.
What are some of your favorite brands?
There are quite a few… big and small – though I’d say one of the companies I still admire most is Virgin. It’s amazing to think that a single organisation has managed to survive, grow, diversify and expand their offer across so many sectors and businesses under the same name, identity and set of values. Richard Branson even today manages to retain his people’s champion-like status; and you can’t help but admire what he has achieved and built over the years. From the beginning, Virgin was always out to challenge the big boys and shake up the status quo. They continue to be innovative in whatever they do and take into consideration people’s needs and desires. I respect the way they strive to give their customers enhanced experiences whenever they come into contact with the Virgin brand.
More recently, I have really appreciated Red Bull and their approach to brand building through the embodiment of dynamic, super active, dare devil lifestyles. By promoting, sponsoring and associating themselves with extreme sports they connect with their audience in a non-traditional way by including them in their communications. This approach allows their audience to organically tell the Red Bull story for them – through social Media and shared story telling.
“I would describe I-AM as a strategic experiential design agency with a multi-faceted, integrated approach to brand building…”
How would you describe I-AM’s approach to Branding?
Apart from best in the world – I would describe I-AM as a strategic experiential design agency with a multi-faceted, integrated approach to brand building; focused on creating amazing branded experiences with the power to change the way people think, feel and behave. Simple as that really. We are left brain thinkers in our ability to strategically understand a client’s concerns and needs – as well as highly creative and innovative right brain doers when it comes to answering a client’s desires and solving their problems.
What makes I-AM’s method of Branding so successful?
I think we have pretty much mastered the art of telling great brand stories – all based on our ‘people inspired experiences’ approach to what we do. We always begin by asking the right questions to gain understanding and insight. We do our homework first before we let our creative juices flow. We listen to what people have to say. We try to best understand what they want from a brand and how they would like to be treated. It’s not rocket science.
“Ask the people what they want and give them more than they ever expected.”- Pero Trivunovic.