So after 30 days of anticipation, parading out a different logo every day to generate excitement, Yahoo had the “big reveal” of their new logo. We are not only uninspired, we are yawning. And stunned. Stunned that another major company could take such an embarrassingly amateurish approach to their rebranding.
Now let me be clear, I’m not one for logo bashing — I think that’s way too easy to do and it becomes a kind of blood sport for a lot of people whenever a new logo is announced. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon to rip something apart rather than build it up. I much prefer the latter, when it’s warranted.
I held out hope for Yahoo, even during the 30 days of bad logos that they decided to roll out. I did harbor serious reservations about that strategy which in my opinion, created more brand confusion than it did excitement. Skeptical, yes, but I kept an open mind to see where they would take us.
Well, the logo would have had to be pretty damned impressive after all that buildup for it to have any hope of working. It was worse than I imagined. Not only is it uninspiring, it is technically bad in that there are just so many design no-no’s that scream “amateur hour” to any professional designer worth their salt.
Unfortunately, the video demonstrating the “science” behind its creation left me unimpressed and unpersuaded — in fact, it feels like a lot of smoke and mirrors to convince us in mathematical terms why it works and why we should like it. Such BS. In the end, it still looks terrible! Check your pockets folks, you’re being swindled.
But the clincher was CEO Marissa Mayer’s Tumblr post, where she explains the design process in her own words. After the first few lines, I honestly thought I was tricked into reading a satirical piece from The Onion or something. But no… here are some tidbits: Pin it now!
“Our brand, as represented by the logo, has been valued at as much as — $10 billion dollars. So, while it was time for a change, it’s not something we could do lightly.”
OK, fine so far.
“On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)”
Wait, what? Uh oh, not liking where this is going. Why is the CEO of a $10 billion dollar company talking about Adobe Illustrator? The tools of design creation are so far down the pipeline from what she should be discussing… I am… well, let’s wait and read some more…
“So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma. We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish…”
Holy crap — now she really lost me.
So the logo for this $10 billion dollar company was created over a weekend with a team that included the CEO and an intern? Perhaps Saturday was also spent with a tutorial of how to achieve bad kerning in Adobe Illustrator?
Nope. That was real, folks. It really was Yahoo’s CEO discussing in her own blog post how they went about rebranding a $10 billion dollar company.
I’m sure she thinks this was a radical move, with a take-charge CEO working down in the trenches on creating something in an inspired fit to reinvigorate the masses. But as CEO, you would think she would spend more time explaining the strategy and rationale behind the new branding — perhaps there just wasn’t too much more to say there. Instead, she chose to discuss the actual design.
Now, I know Ms. Mayer has an MS in computer science and was a software engineer, but as far as I know, she never had any design training or professional experience, other than playing with various shades of blue at Google. She fails to see why the new logo is so insipid and does nothing to inspire the feeling of “whimsical, yet sophisticated; modern and fresh” that she portends in her post. She explains the playfulness of the big “O,” fine — but any professional designer sees that there is no balance to the spacing between the letters. The kerning between the “Y” and the “a” is downright horrible. Close up that space! And then the spacing between the “o’s” is too tight. The exclamation point doesn’t look right either — it’s too wimpy and looks like it should be pulled down a bit. The whole thing just looks disjointed and unbalanced — which in the right hands could work — but here, just looks like something that a CEO with no design experience and a summer intern helped create.
Other companies have had similar branding fails in recent history, one of the biggest being the GAP logo fiasco. What has happened to branding? Why is it now treated so lightly that people just toss around junk in such a trivial, jovial manner, with all those contest-driven and crowdsourced activities that come with it? Logo design is not a beauty competition, but in the end, it is the professional designers and design agencies that will make it beautiful! And relevant. And on target. And effective.
For my money, rebranding a business, let alone a $10 billion dollar global corporation deserves more. What say you?
And if you need a logo or rebranding for your own business, contact me and let’s discuss how we’ll get it done the right way.
The return to the visual was inevitable, really. Modern media demands it.
Communication as pictograms means we have come full circle — a return to a day when images provide the best way to satisfy the insatiable “need to know” while on the fly. We don’t catch our info while fleeing from woolly mammoths anymore. Instead, our big, hairy, audacious stressor is modern culture itself.
Words are important, but pictures say so much more when skimming the social streams and checking in with the myriad of digital devices at our fingertips. Coupled with the need to “tell a story” in order to engage and capture the imagination of our audiences, you can see why the visual has risen to such prominence in today’s business communications, digital platforms and overall marketing efforts.
“90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text.” ~ Source: 3M
More than ever, communications need to be crisp and clear — quickly and effectively repurposing themselves across an almost infinite array of media and digital devices, all with different screen sizes and technical requirements — changing on an almost daily basis. Even getting just a few words working in all these different contexts can be a challenge, but a simple visual or icon will work for them all.
Restroom symbols are what they are because "ya gotta go when ya gotta go” and nothing will get you where you gotta go quicker. Same with modern media.
Yet, with all this simplification of ideas down to visuals, are we compromising depth of understanding for practical convenience? Are we forever stuck in a type of Plato's cave where all we ever see are shadows rather than true meaning? Can we stop for just a second and contemplate this notion? Please?
Thoughts as visuals. Every social media redesign makes the pictures bigger. Every logo redesign seems to bring us closer to the purity of a basic circle, square or triangle. It is part of the natural progression from complexity to simplicity. Our modern culture demands it, our overloaded brains require it, and science proves it.
You can choose to resist this reality or accept it, but you can’t deny that our world has changed and our communications have changed with it. We interact with content differently now. Or is it really just a return to the way things used to be?
If you don’t adapt and move your communications strategy towards the visual, you run the real risk of going unnoticed and unheard. You and your business will basically be rendered invisible.
The choice is yours. Fight or flight.
Photo of cave drawing from the Lascauex Cave, France.
This interview first appeared on Rebel Brown’s Rebelations blog at RebelBrown.com
Integrated media is one of the hot new buzzwords in everything from marketing websites to sales presentations to customer engagement. There's no doubt that media is changing the face of communications in B2B and B2C markets alike. That's a great thing for our buyers and vendors alike. Why? Because our human brains grasp and remember visual information much better than we do textual content. How do we best take advantage of this Big Change? I chatted with Paul Biederman, design expert and social media friend about his take on visual and our content strategies.
Paul shares his expertise in his interview and in the Slideshare he prepared to add even more value to his comments. 1) Research has proven that people remember far more from images than words. How does that play into today's media-focused marketing?
If you look across the web and especially on the social platforms, you will see that people love sharing pictures and meme-style images! More and more, the platforms are catering to this and the way people like to engage. Platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram are built around visuals, but Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even LinkedIn are also becoming increasingly more visual! It would be wise for companies to pay attention to this and develop a visual content strategy
that capitalizes on it. 2) If a picture tells a thousand words — how does that impact storytelling today?
Telling your brand story, whether you are a company or an independent professional, is key to capturing the hearts and minds of your market, your audience and your online communities. It is a busy, distracted world and people are spending less and less time reading lengthy explanations — they’d rather skim. So if you want to tell your story with impact, you better be using strong visuals! Videos play a part too, of course, but I still think that still visuals together with a powerful, well-designed brand work even better in this world where no one seems to have any time to spare anymore. Videos take time — pictures are a quick grab and there is endless power in a story told through a strong, consistent brand image that is pervasive through all communications and media touchpoints. 3) What is the biggest misconception about design you encounter in the business world?
I still come across people who seem to think that design is merely a decorative add-on or unnecessary fluff. Nothing could be further from the truth — in fact, I would say that design is the critical component missing from many businesses. Good design is that which serves a business purpose. It clarifies, communicates, unifies, engages and influences to name a few examples. Of course, doing these things well improves the bottom line
, but good designers also save money by streamlining communications and processes, as well as preventing unnecessary waste. This is why design should also be considered at the very earliest stages of a project and by the highest levels. From a well-designed brand strategy that communicates clearly and succinctly everything that a business is about to a cohesive marketing program that powerfully accomplishes its business objectives to visual content that helps a business stand out and stimulate engagement on the social web — good design and a strong visual strategy have never been more important. 4) What are the greatest challenges companies need to overcome in order to adopt successful creative strategies that achieve their business goals?
Too many times, a potentially sound business strategy isn’t supported by an equally good creative strategy, allowing the plan to die on the vine. And if a business recognizes how critical the role of good design is to execute the strategy and enable its success, the budget dollars need to be placed there as well, not relegated to another day as something “nice to have” once other expenditures are made. 5) We all know buyers are distracted and overwhelmed with too much information and too many interruptions. How can we use visuals to rise above the noise?
Well-designed communications in this day and age need to get to the meat of the message really quickly. Messaging must be distilled down into “sound-bytes” that even skimmers will catch the meaning of. Visuals transport those messages and drive them through the noise out so they stand apart from the busy streams, enabling the messages to be seen. It amazes me how few companies seem to understand this and do it well — but that presents amazing opportunities for the smart companies that “get it.” 6) What’s the best balance between content and visuals in today's world?
Visuals are also content, but if you mean text, less is more. Just as the most nicely crafted ads have always achieved a fine balance and interplay between text and visual, the same holds true now. Since we are increasingly becoming a visually-oriented society as things constantly zip by us in today’s media from all directions, coming up with strategies that allow the visual to dominate would be prudent. Once someone is hooked, they can then be directed somewhere else where the broader story can be told — but they need to be hooked first. 7) What do you think are the perfect elements of an engaging story?
I like to keep it simple, since again, a complex story will only cause befuddlement and people will move on. At best, you want your single main message to get across. I encourage people not to rush this part of the process — it means introspection and not settling on the obvious. Everyone else is doing the obvious — you or your company needs to set itself apart
. A simple example: If you’re a dry cleaner, do you only clean clothes or do you keep people looking great so they can go out into the world and be the best they can be? Or perhaps, a dry cleaner simply makes people’s lives easier, giving them more time to do the things they love. Or maybe they use safe chemicals for a better, healthier, greener environment. Those are all better stories than just cleaning clothes. Marry a simple, compelling story to a strong visual campaign
and you’re golden!
Getting the most from your investment in good design requires a clear understanding of the roles of both the client and that of the designer or creative agency. Everyone has the same goal of doing what is best for the project at hand, but things can go awry when there is confusion and unclear expectations about each other’s roles.
Contrary to common belief, design is not as subjective as one may think. While everyone may have an opinion and even experts often disagree (don’t they always?), there IS such a thing as good and bad design. There are also rights and wrongs for how to best move the creative process forward.
Good design can be measured against several different benchmarks: how well it solves the marketing problem, how well it communicates the message, how well it functions, clarifies, and sells, not to mention the fundamental aesthetic value of the completed design — and how well the designer uses all the components in their creative toolbox: concept, shape, form, color, texture, scale, and typography all play a part.
Designers don't leave anything to chance. The way the right side of a paragraph looks (rag), the space between lines of text (leading), as well as the spaces between letters (kerning) is deliberated over — always looking for a pleasing look and balance between positive and negative space. Maybe you can see why I cringe when a client says I can just "dump in the text." Designers never just "dump" in anything, even something as basic as body text in a document.
Along with all the other considerations designers make during the creative process, the art of design takes time, resulting in an end result that looks and functions as well as it does. A good designer never leaves anything to chance, and will always be able to explain the rationale behind a particular design decision when necessary or if challenged — both aesthetically and businesswise.
The designer anomaly
True design pros are a mix of many different skill sets — they are smart communicators with a keen understanding of marketing strategy, psychology, client relations, technology, project management and the ability to stay focused on the overall goals without getting sidetracked by the many distractions and inevitable hiccups along the way. Successful outcomes are a testament to how well these factors are juggled — and making it all come out on time and
Designers make order out of chaos. Like chewing gum, rubbing your tummy and walking all at the same time, and still somehow making it all look beautiful, this is no easy feat.
On top of this, good design is often design that goes unnoticed — too much adornment or obtrusive design would get in the way of the communication or functionality. No wonder there is so much confusion about what design is and what designers bring to the table! But let it be known that if something looks simple, fluid and easy, you can be sure it wasn’t easy getting it that way. In the same way that a ballet dancer jumps and moves with incredible beauty and grace on stage, misleading one into thinking it is in someway “easy,” we know it only takes a few seconds of trying it yourself to know that is certainly not the case. Today’s software and endless tools may make it appear that design can be done by anybody, but the results usually speak for themselves
.Is there a design quotient?
Just as people have certain aptitudes for anything — I do think there is such a thing as a DQ, or design quotient — similar to an IQ or an EQ (emotional intelligence). Yet I don’t believe possessing a high DQ is necessary to benefit from good design or to work successfully with designers.
Good designers, through talent, training, practice, experience and instinct, know how to make things communicate better, sell better, work better, conserve better, and yes, look better too. The end result, however, is effective without anyone really needing to know why. The best designers and creative pros have dedicated their lives to mastering visual rhetoric.
While personal tastes will be taken into account when relevant, such as a personal branding project, designers do not need a lot of creative input. Clients do not need to conceive what they want — they don’t need to develop rough sketches and they certainly don’t need to supply the designer with ideas or preconceived notions. In fact, this is where the designer/client relationship can sometimes get strained, because as important as the client role is in successful outcomes, they sometimes unwittingly overstep their bounds during the creative process into areas for which they do not have an "aptitude." My younger son may like a certain meal after it is served but can't stand the sight of it being made — if he had his way and changed six of the eight ingredients, he wouldn't like the end result and neither would anyone else.The critical role of the client
What a designer requires from the client, and indeed, what the project needs
to be successful — is the client focusing on fulfilling their very important role in the client/designer relationship. These things are crucial if the project is going to meet its goals and justify the investment. The most important things a client needs to provide their creative agency in order for them to do their jobs effectively are:
1) Defining what needs to be accomplished from a strategic perspective (marketing/communications goals, audience, objectives, etc.)
2) Outlining any specific project requirements and parameters (including who will be involved, what the timeframe is, the budget, etc.)
3) Supplying timely input and feedback throughout the process in order to keep the project on track.
Please note that a client’s favorite color is not
one of these top priorities. Let the designer you chose to trust with your work do their thing — they will select the colors and other things that best solve the problem at hand. Again, color choice is not purely subjective, and the color you recently used to repaint your kitchen may not necessarily be the best choice for your branding/marketing/communications project. If it is a personal branding project or the like, a client’s personal preferences should always be accounted for. But for most other projects, it is the target market that needs to be appealed to and influenced, not the client.The client/designer partnership
The client/designer relationship is a partnership with clearly defined roles, working together throughout the development process. Both roles are necessary to arrive at a successful solution — and the better this partnership, the better the result for both parties. One without the other won’t get the job done, at least not as effectively as it could be done.
Mutual respect for each other’s roles always leads to the best collaborations. In fact, out of all the creative success I’ve had and awards I have won, I have always seen the client as an integral component of those outcomes:
A) They hired me in the first place
B) They provided me the input I needed to do my job
C) They trusted me and ultimately approved the work, letting good work flourish
I couldn’t have done any of this without a good client.
Yet the basic client responsibilities I outlined are often overlooked while other extraneous things are brought into the equation instead, which can lead to less than desirable results — or at least the project won’t be what it could have been. Everyone wants the same thing — a healthy process that achieves the desired goals, yet a lack of understanding of who is responsible for what so often derails the process, sabotaging the result that everyone is seeking.
Again, clients should not feel pressured to solve the problem for the designer — in fact, that is exactly what is NOT needed. “Make it bigger,” “make the font bolder,” and “make it red” are also examples of clients dictating the solution rather than establishing the communications problem that needs solving. In these examples, the issue is really that something needs to be highlighted in some way — let the designer use their talent, training, experience and intuition to come up with the best answer. Give the professional who was hired the space to create and do their thing. They are the experts.
Client feedback is welcomed and always taken into consideration. Likewise, good ideas can come from anywhere. But preconceived notions and demands are impositions that prevent a healthy creative process.
Designers have their fingers on the pulse and are in the best position to know what will most likely get the reaction you are looking for, and then convert it into that pesky little ROI
everyone is looking to achieve. Pigeonholing your designer and dictating design won’t get you there.It’s a trust thing
The most important thing that clients can do is hire a designer
or agency they trust. Based on their previous work, recommendations and familiarity with the people being hired — designers need to be trusted with delivering the results desired. The work they do may not look like what they have done for other clients — that would be defeating the entire purpose of hiring an agency to deliver a custom solution in the first place. Remember: in today’s competitive business climate, companies need to stand out, not blend in with the rest. So it stands to reason that a successful visual presence should not look like what everybody else is doing.
For this reason, the best creative work can make clients feel uncomfortable, because it may be different from what they have seen before. But trust and good communication will create the climate in which breakout creative can flourish — and there’s a good chance it will do the same for your
business.Looking to maximize your own investment in design?
If you think good design could make a difference in your next project, please contact me
— I’d love to speak with you and see how we may partner together and get the most bang for your
We believe a big key to winning in today’s business world is a smart, integrated approach to marketing and communications. In order to make an impression in these busy, distracted times, design can be the differentiator. Sure, your image will be leaps ahead of the others — but your messages will also be fine-tuned and cohesive; your communications will be clear and user-friendly; but most importantly, they will be powerfully integrated together!
re:DESIGN is excited to share a few exciting projects that we believe do just that, as well as earning us three awards in a national design competition, The American Graphic Design Awards sponsored by Graphic Design USA.
What is re:DESIGN?
re:DESIGN is a boutique agency that specializes in strategic design, branding, social media, and communications — bringing standout design to our clients so their businesses rise above the competition.
We excel at helping companies and professionals achieve special things through smart strategies and sharp, award-winning design that gets noticed while delivering a clear, convincing message. From custom logos to comprehensive branding and cohesive communications strategies, re:DESIGN reenergizes businesses by creating integrated programs throughout all of today’s media touchpoints: from digital to print to experiential.
What are the American Graphic Design Awards?
The American Graphic Design Awards is the biggest and broadest of the three national design competitions sponsored by Graphic Design USA for nearly five decades. It honors outstanding creative work of all kinds and across all media, and is open to advertising agencies, graphic design firms, corporations, institutions, publishers and more. There were more than 8,000 entries and of these, only a highly selective 15% are recognized as winners with an Awards Certificate of Excellence.
We are proud to share a little peak into these three unique award-winning projects, representing three completely different types of projects and media: logo/branding design, website/mobile design and an exquisitely designed print brochure.
Logo/Branding — My Book Club
This is a classic example of a logo that is deceptively simple yet complex in its execution. The witty design effectively sums up the brand at a quick glance, conveying its personality — and all through the use of type. It was designed to work as well online as it does offline, and even at the smallest of sizes.
“Your logo symbolizes all that is your company, product, service or event. It is also the ‘handshake’ for when you can’t be there in person, so it is vital for a business to get the logo right from the very beginning.” ~ Paul Biedermann
, 12 Most Essential Ingredients for an Exceptional Logo
Website/Mobile — The Dorsey Group
A comprehensive redesign of a corporate web and mobile presence that was also bound up with a brand refresh that infused energy and new life into this company. With smart, strategic design and focused attention to detail, the site is engaging and easy to navigate while the custom mobile landing pages offer easy access while on-the-go.
QR codes were also utilized, linking print communications to these other digital communications, creating a cohesive, integrated brand experience no matter the touch point: viewing a website at work, checking a mobile device at a conference, or reading a print piece at home.
Print — McGraw-Hill Construction Outlook
This is a flagship publication for this business and the most highly respected economic forecast in the construction industry which includes detailed analysis, market research and industry trends. This exquisitely designed and printed communication is a valued resource that analysts and industry professionals depend on for timely information every year, culminating in an annual conference in Washington D.C.
Distilling complex information down into engaging, user-friendly experiences that communicate clearly and powerfully is something we excel at. re:DESIGN is proud to have consistently won awards for this report’s design and communications excellence, year after year for over a decade.Looking ahead
While it is an honor to receive such accolades, we are not ones to rest on our laurels — it’s literally back to the virtual drawing board as we continue looking forward. These are exciting times, but we believe the key is not to focus only on digital, social media, or any other flavor of the month — but rather to bring them all together in a powerful, integrated way that surrounds your particular market at every touch point, including print.
To our online community as well as our families and friends: thank you for the support — you are appreciated. We are excited for the future and all that it brings for re:DESIGN! What can we do for you?Read the Press Release Like us on Facebook!
Take a look at more of the logos we’ve designed
And here are more of our branding and websites
All images copyright © 2012 Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN.
What is a personal brand
It is you. Your story. This intimate story is portrayed via an overall message that weaves throughout your communications and social media platforms.
Just as major consumer brands have well-known, universally recognized images, individuals can have them too. But more than just a mere surface image, it is important to have a deeper story
too. This serves as the backbone for all you are about, who you are and why you do what you do. How successful you are in telling your story will determine how deeply it resonates with your audience and will ultimately determine the success of your brand. When you are first learning about social media, you are usually unaware that you are creating an online persona for yourself with each post, status update and tweet. It is all experimental at this point as you learn how to navigate the various mediums.
The essential element in creating your personal brand is to be authentic
. ee cummings said, “it takes courage to grow up and be who you are.” Don’t copy someone else’s style: be yourself! Being an imitation of the most fabulous thing imaginable is still just an imitation, and people catch on to this behavior very quickly. Consider your avatar to be your logo: keep it fresh and real.Be outstanding
Each person has unique qualities and gifts
that make them special. Find yours and amplify them. If you are hesitant about what image you are projecting, find interesting blogs or links to share that fit within your strategy and build up your confidence as you go. Pay attention to what people “like” or retweet; figure out where you are connecting with your followers and build on that. Above all, please be interesting! You may start with a little kindling and end up with a big bonfire if you create the proper base.Consistency is key
If your goal is to be viewed as a professional
, this needs to be seen across the board throughout all of your social media efforts. The language that you use is the currency and relevancy to your message. Make wise choices and remember that the internet is permanent. Linking your social media channels together makes it seamless for a follower to travel from your Twitter bio or other social media page over to your blog. This does not mean that you should show all your tweets on LinkedIn and tweet your Facebook statuses. A separate, similar message is fine — no need to be redundant.
Your personal brand will evolve over time but you start projecting your brand from your very first tweet or post. You might not think you have a personal brand yet, but you do. Consider what this might be and polish it up if necessary. It is not just your avatar but all your interactions woven together to create a personal story: your personal brand
. Make it a good one!
Whether you like it or not, people DO judge a book by its cover. Fact of life.
Just as you wouldn’t apologize for brushing your hair or brushing your teeth in the morning (in fact, it would be embarrassing if you didn’t!), one also shouldn’t need to apologize for wanting to present themselves or their business in the best possible light.
If you are the face of your company or the passion you wish to share with the world, making a good impression is that much more important. And it better be an effective one!
Professionals with poor brand images suffer the consequences or at best, are simply ignored. Just like companies and products. One could have the most impressive list of experiences and talents in the land; a company could provide the best services and products ever seen but with poor branding the perception will be less than the reality. And no matter how successful they may already be, they will be penalized. Perhaps in ways not readily seen, but they will be penalized nonetheless.
People can always be more successful; businesses can always have a larger following. There can always be “higher quality” clients that are more aligned with your passions; your unique talents can always be shared with more people; your beliefs can always have a greater impact.
This is important because it is part of the human condition: we want to do better. It is innate.
Is “personal branding” becoming a dirty word?
“Personal branding” is the buzz word tossed around these days for creating a palpable presence that gets noticed in a busy, distracted world. Important stuff for those who, just like any business or product, have a desire to let the world know “what they’ve got”.
Over time, popular buzz words (as in “buzz word” itself) always seem to create a backlash. It happens to media stars who rise to the top only to crash and burn later, becoming the next fallen star. Naysayers of personal branding seem to focus on those who build false images where real substance is lacking. True, there are many. But I believe there are many more who are looking for the best, most honest representation of themselves that will simply get them noticed.
It is quaint to think that a good reputation and doing good work is in itself enough to get noticed. I have been guilty of that myself only to see the “talkers” get more recognition. The same is true of those who know how to self promote, including branding and other tactics to get noticed. As a sales executive revealed to me early in my career, bullshit sells. I think those with substance also deserve a fighting chance.
When it comes to an individual whose name is the same as their business name or who’s product or passion is closely associated with them, it only makes sense to make their personal name visible and recognizable. It is the only way to get attention for whatever it is you desire the world to know and increasingly so in such a competitive, noisy world. Being good is not enough.
Rebranding personal branding
Maybe it is simply the talk about people as “brands” that gets some people’s underwear in a knot. Personally, I preferred the term “corporate identity” a lot more before everything became called “branding.” Before then, brands were things like “Tide” and “MARS Bars.” But at some point in the 90’s, it was all suddenly called “branding.” Fine.
Admittedly, the word “branding” itself can have as many negative connotations as it does positive ones. We have learned to live with the term as it is applied to big consumer companies and products. But when we apply the term to a person things tend to get muddied.
Done correctly, what we call personal and business branding should get to the essence
of who and what you are, embodied in all the ways one engages with your customers, audiences and communities while encapsulated in a simple but powerful brand image
that resonates with people. Nothing more, nothing less.
In fact, this process should be one of the most honest things a person and/or business will ever do. It takes self analysis and uncommon self awareness
. Possibly even a gut check
. Then it takes more guts to lay it all out there for all the world to see. One’s “brand” should say “this is who I am” and “this is what I stand for.” Clearly, compellingly, powerfully.
But maybe a new name is needed since the word “branding” can imply, among other things, a false image like so many of those created by legions of ad agencies, merchandisers and downright hucksters that advertise and sell products through crass commercialization and manipulation. We are in a new era of social engagement where people have a voice and reject any sign of being sold to. Perhaps “personal branding” just doesn’t cut it anymore.
If personal branding were instead called “one’s true self, encapsulated so others understand what you’re about in a quick glance” or “ your earned reputation, honestly represented and packaged in a well-defined, simple, recognizable identity,” maybe it wouldn’t be vilified the way “personal branding” is starting to be by some people. But those names suck. Perhaps personal branding itself
needs a rebranding. “Self-potential declaration.”
I’m sticking with it.So what do you think about “personal branding”? Do you think it needs a new term or is it just fine the way it is? I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments below.
This post was inspired by a Twitter conversation and friendly debate I had with Olivier Blanchard
, author of Social Media ROI. My partner, Peggy Fitzpatrick
, created this Storify which captures much of that discussion and I think you will find it very interesting: Personal Branding.
Images courtesy of tj scenes licensed via Creative Commons and stock.xchng
Many brands are caterpillars
, lounging and crawling along without a clear message and without direction. But realizing this is just the first step to progress, next comes the cocoon stage
in which dreams begin to be shaped into something palpable — a dynamic brand that commands attention.
The planning phase sets the stage for your brand, supporting its evolution into a butterfly. Once your brand’s core message is in place and your unique story is defined; once you determine exactly whom you want to engage and what you want to accomplish: it’s time to spread those wings and fly!
Many brands fall short and fail to execute properly. Don’t skimp on these final steps — refine your image and turn it into a dynamic brand force! A carefully-executed, smart design will polish your brand and give your message the professionalism and oomph it needs to make one clear, powerful statement. A well-crafted brand takes everything you are and distills it into one succinct, compelling message that is packaged in a way that slices right through today’s busy, noisy world.
Consistently used throughout all of your media touch points, both online and offline, your fully-evolved brand will speak with the same, unified voice no matter where it appears. The hard work of your brand evolution pays off in its authenticity, it’s clarity of message, its focused strategy and its intelligent design that is both appropriate for your audience and packs a punch.
But remember: your brand cannot forego visual impact! So much more than trite decoration, it is what delivers your message and gets your brand noticed. Strategy and message alone won’t cut it — a strong brand will unify both for an effective, integrated program in both traditional and new media.
Just like the most wonderful of butterflies, your brand needs to soar and captivate its audience. The wind beneath its wings is your carefully crafted brand message that comes only from determining who you truly are and what you really want.
Design built upon strategy: the secret sauce to becoming a beautiful butterfly and for realizing your full business potential. Now fly!
Once your brand has passed the caterpillar stage
of being stuck and it’s not sure of the best way forward, it is time for some serious evolution! This begins by defining your core values.
Take the time to assess, evaluate and examine the unique elements of your brand that will transform it into a beautiful butterfly. There is no rushing and skipping the cocoon phase. Think and reflect — what makes you and your business special? Try to go beyond the obvious to get to “a new obvious”. Ask others what they think and listen to what they have to say. The answers may surprise and even enlighten you.
Perhaps using self-evaluation tools will help get to the root of who you are and what you do. No doubt, this is not always an easy process. We become so used to who we think we are and what we think we do, that it can be difficult to see past these preconceived notions. But soar beyond the obvious you must, because that is where the sizzle is that will set your brand apart from the rest.
Shape a dream into a reality by defining clear goals. After allowing the proper time for self-reflection and determining the best, unique you, make sure that your goals are realistic and sustainable. Be clear and defined. Don’t let things just happen anymore and don’t be fuzzy — that’s for caterpillars! Let the spark and sizzle of your ideas inspire and invigorate your brand. Take charge now and make it happen!
Honing your core values and unique story into a sharp, clear, concise message will take you to that next level of brand evolution and growth. No more waiting on a branch searching for that next leaf to eat! Plan your metamorphosis into a dynamic brand by:•
Defining your core values•
Finessing a dream•
Creating your message
Next? Become a butterfly
Image courtesy of borman818 licensed via Creative Commons.
There certainly seems to be a lot of interest in logos these days! As evidenced by Pepsi, GAP, Starbucks and others — people love to shoot down logos.
I find this phenomenon fascinating. I always thought logos, as important and visible as they are, were mostly ignored by the public at large. Vying and wrestling for our attention, they are just there, in all their crass glory — contributing to so much of the visual clutter we see every day. People generally tend to program themselves to tune out distractions — as a kind of coping mechanism.
It’s no secret that social media has given voice to the legions of people looking to express themselves. But where is this passion for logos coming from? Is it new or has it always been there? We know how much brands can mean to people, but logos? Has our capitalistic society so consumed our consciousness that we are now “one” with our consumerism, and logos really are like old buddies?
Or is it something else? Is it simply a herd mentality that mobilizes and propels us to start throwing darts? It’s all in good fun, right? Logos are easy targets — simple, little defenseless visuals that they are. If we know and relate to a brand, perhaps we feel it’s our god-given right to criticize. After all, it’s our hard-earned dollars that made them who they are, right?
I’m guilty too
When it comes to logos, I’m as critical as anyone. With the GAP debacle, I was right in the thick of it and spewing my opinions. As a professional designer/creative director, there were real concerns — not just about the logo per se, but also about the process itself and how a major corporation was going about its rebranding while devaluing the design profession.
Recently, Starbucks has also raised passionate discussions about their plans for a logo change. Again, the comments have been overwhelmingly negative and harsh.
But I find something here very telling: with Starbucks, those in the professions of design and branding seem much more measured in their criticisms. The broader public, though, seems just as angry and snarky as they were of GAP. It’s open season on logos again — no distinction is made between the two experiences although both are somewhat different. I have witnessed this same behavior on several of my own logo projects over the years.
Pros and cons(umers)
As professionals, we tend to be analytical in our assessments — exploring the rationales behind the solutions; paying attention to the overall objectives and strategies. But for casual observers, the reaction is just a natural response. They either like it or they don’t. Are these the opinions then, that are “more real” in a way? Aren’t these the same people who will be reacting in the marketplace and making purchasing decisions? They certainly won’t be giving logos very much thought when buying their jeans and Grande Lattes.
Do the experts really know something more?
I think what it comes down to is this: When a logo and new identity program is rolled-out, it is usually done in a strategically deliberate fashion — planned just as carefully as the design phase. Logos usually aren’t just foisted on the public who are then asked what they think. At least that’s not how it used to happen.
Recently though, and partially enabled by Facebook and Twitter, some companies seem compelled to let the cat out of the bag early, before the logo has been given a proper introduction. Surely, companies know this will invite criticism, especially in this climate of logo-bashing. Maybe all they want is early buzz, even if it’s negative. They probably see no harm in crowdsourcing opinions in order to head off any problems early on. But does this in itself invite problems? At the very least, it is likely to produce inaccurate feedback.
Give change a chance
Whatever the case may be, it is clear that people have fun shooting down logos. But if people were given the opportunity to let them breathe, the result might be different. People don’t like change, so abruptly foisting a new logo on someone cold welcomes a negative reaction.
It is common for logos to grow on people with time. As they gain familiarity, good logos fit naturally with the rest of the branding strategy and then all the rest starts to make sense, propelling the brand to new successes. When executed well, the change is noticed but not obtrusive. Hopefully, it’s never off-putting.
Many companies, especially larger ones, are notorious for possessing insecurities, particularly around identity change time. They like to test the waters. Understood. They also like publicity.
But perhaps these branding changes would meet with less resistance if companies stopped jumping the gun. And for those who just like taking aim at logos, maybe they’d be a little less trigger-happy if the poor little things were given more room to live.