Branding – your future has already happened

Language can imprison and constrain human ideas and thinking. That’s the theme of Arrival, one of the most successful and thought-provoking movies in recent months. Understanding the language of an extraterrestrial race helps the main character played by Amy Adams realise she can break away from the constraints of traditional thinking and embrace her future. The future has already happened.

This idea resonates with my thinking on the total brand experience approach to design and business growth. Successful twenty-first century brands are not fixed. They’re not immutably encoded in fixed ideas and thinking. They move and grow. They evolve. They tell a fluid yet logical story that’s unique to the brand – unique to you. Your total brand experience includes the future as well as the past and present of your brand. It helps you create your future. It’s everything you do.

Your total brand experience includes the future as well as the past and present of your brand

Every great brand tells a great story and the future growth and development of your brand is already far from unknown. You can know where you want to go, know or have insight into what your future will be and plan for growth and revolution. Branding and design are an ongoing process that helps you grow your brand and build your future too.

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Our new work for Brooklyn’s Lifestyle magazine in New York

Brooklyn’s Lifestyle is a hyper-local digital magazine about all things Brooklyn NY and sometimes beyond. The site’s founder Nat Cleary asked us to help her rebrand and relaunch her site, having seen our work for Luger London featured on a global web design showcase.

The new brand identity echoes Massimo Vignelli’s pioneering design work for the New York transportation system. The Helvetica typeface gives the design a classic feel and we’ve reworked some iconic elements of Brooklyn and New York metro signage. We combined this with lifestyle imagery but given it a distinctive style that’s urban, engaging and works well on social media.

The new design has helped Nat bring some major new advertisers on board including Mercedes-Benz and the new site is already getting lots of extremely positive feedback. Have a look at the new site here.

It’s significant that although we’re based in Ireland and the UK we can work with a client In Brooklyn NY and help them grow their brand, grow their business and get the best results.  We already have lots of experience of working with clients in Silicon Valley, China, Japan and mainland Europe, so we’re very proud of our international reputation.

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Future Now – an introduction to Big Data

Google, LinkedIn and Amazon are essentially Big Data companies, so you’re probably using at least some of the tools they offer every day. Google search, for example, is a Big Data tool that everyone can use – the trick is to turn it into a tool that works for you and your business. But let’s look at Big Data and what it is. Essentially Big Data is about finding meaning in what you can measure about your business performance and you may have already come across data mining tools that measure specific business areas such as social media.

Essentially Big Data is about finding meaning in what you can measure about your business performance.

A Big Data approach allows business owners and managers to see the future before it happens, to see the meaning and the patterns in what they are doing now that can tell them what will happen to them and their business tomorrow.

In other words it gives you a better, more reliable view of your own performance and customer behaviour and takes a lot of the gut feeling out of business strategy by giving fast, reliable, real-time insights.

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Paul Smith and the power of a simple brand story

There will hardly be any Paul Smith customers unaware of the simple, yet powerful ‘origins’ story of the Paul Smith brand. A 17-year-old with a driving desire to become a professional racing cyclist, Smith had a serious accident and ended up in hospital for several months. While in hospital he made some new friends involved in the local art and design scene in Nottingham. So young Paul started to take an interest in their stories about the Bauhaus and contemporary design.

As the story goes ‘with the help of his then-girlfriend (now wife), Pauline Denyer, who was a Royal College of Art graduate, and a small amount of savings, he opened his first shop on 10 Byard Lane, Nottingham in 1970 named Paul Smith Vêtements pour Hommes.’ With no formal design training and having never gone to art school, Paul Smith still became one of the great English fashion designers, developing his own ‘classic with a twist’ style which has evolved for well over forty years.

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The Paul Smith brand story is simple, but compelling. It’s the story of the thwarted athlete who is still becomes a world beater. It’s the story of an outsider, not a fashionista, who makes interesting and enduring clothes and accessories with taste and quality. You don’t have to be one of the elite to be able to afford them. It’s the brand story of an everyman, which everyone can relate to.

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Design your future and get used to success

When you work with start-ups it’s soon clear which ones give themselves a greater chance of success. Companies that value design and value ideas and creativity in everything they do, always seem to do better than the rest.

If you don’t think creatively you’re not using the power design and inventive thinking give you to design your future and plan for success.

Design is important in everything you do. From the way you send emails, to the typeface and logotype you use and the signals your web site and social media accounts give your users. Good design helps you engage with, learn from and better understand your customers.

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Mulholland Drive and the lesson for startup brands

David Lynch’s 2001 neo-noir film Mulholland Drive left many viewers baffled and perplexed. But many were impressed by the audacity of the invention and creative vision and many critics consider it a masterpiece of modern cinema. It was even voted the best film of the 21st century.

Lynch had to take a massive change of direction to make the movie happen at all.

A TV production company backed Lynch to develop a new TV series to follow the success of Twin Peaks. So he developed a new idea, and shot an open-ended proof of concept pilot. Mulholland Drive was his new vision, his new creative plan.

Mulholland Drive is a good example of a creative pivot. You set out planning to reach a target, but end up finding something you didn’t expect to find.

But when his backers saw the pilot they pulled the funding and decided not to go ahead and produce the series. Lynch’s plan was in trouble.

But he didn’t stop there. Convinced of the idea and his concept he sought a new producer, a new backer to turn the TV pilot into a feature film. He dug deep and found a new way to reach a target he hadn’t set out to reach. Read more

Five lessons from the Uber brand experience

Many of my clients are exciting startups intent on changing their market and, in some cases, changing the world too. But in the post-‘Zero To One’ business landscape every company is a startup. Every business needs to keep learning and every brand needs to keep evolving otherwise you risk becoming irrelevant. A fascinating long read on the history, failings and ‘uberise’ of Uber in London (you can read it here) led me to an in-depth look at the rise and rise of the Uber brand experience. And of course ‘uberize’ has become a verb meaning to change a market or economic model by the introduction of a cheap and efficient alternative.

1. Your brand needs to evolve

If you live in a city, Uber makes it very easy to not own a car. In fact it makes it cool not to own one, as co-founder Travis Kalanick explains: ‘Uber started out as everyone’s private driver. Today we aspire to make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere and for everyone.’

Where it was once ‘everyone’s private driver’ now the essence of the Uber brand and the product that it sells is movement itself. As Kalanick told Wired, “The early app was an attempt at something luxury. That’s where we came from, but it’s not where we are today.”

The lesson for every business is that continuous brand evolution has played a huge part in Uber’s growth.

No one can accuse Uber of not thinking big: ‘Today we aspire to make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere and for everyone.’

The lesson for every business is that continuous brand evolution has played a huge part in Uber’s growth. If your brand is static you get overtaken. It you don’t move, you get run over. Read more

Total brand experience – use your brand to grow your business

It’s an often overlooked but self-evident principle, that seeing how your brand performs helps you build your brand and grow your business.

The biggest headache for any business, is finding new users and new customers. Having a stronger and more powerful brand can help you solve that problem.

Growing your brand means growing your business. It’s your most effective sales and marketing asset.

Total Brand Experience

Everything you say. Every update you post, or link you share. Everything you do is part of your total brand experience. That’s why everything that surrounds your business is important.

Your latest tweet isn’t just a part of your social media. In real and measurable ways your latest tweet is your brand and your product itself, no matter what you sell, or what sector you work in.

Your social media and marketing is your brand and your product. It’s how your users and your customers see and interact with you. Everything you do is part of your total brand experience. Read more

A little less conversation – the problem with social media

Social media channels are placing less value on conversation. Blue ticks, algorithms and interwoven adverts are killing Twitter. LinkedIn is often seen as a walled garden where users have to pay just to look over their neighbour’s fence. Facebook has always seemed less than the value of its parts. But Twitter has lost value since it became a revenue-chasing corporation.

There’s generally a lot less conversation since the early days of social media. This makes social platforms less valuable, not only for general users but for brands too. The average user is less likely to join a conversation started by a brand. They’re more likely to comment about things that touch their lives and their emotions.

Brands are more than logos. They’re groups of people who deliver a brand experience. To deliver that experience they need to be well-known and appreciated. If not they die.

Problems happen if a brand jumps into a conversation without thought and attention. And if they start their own conversation they risk indifference. Read more

Building a total brand experience for Nuvem 9

Nuvem 9 are a new type of financial and accounting consultancy service that specialises in working with companies and entrepreneurs with ambitions to take the profitability in their business to the next level.

‘We are not advisors with an MBA who have never actually worked in a business,’ says partner Niall McGinnity.

We developed a real ‘cloud 9’ experience for Nuvem 9 – a total brand experience that creates a unique tone of voice for their market.

The first thing we did was to sit down with the partners and fully understand their business and even more importantly help them understand what makes their business different from other brands and their competitors.

Only then did we start redesigning the logo to make the ‘nuvem’ or cloud part of their brand more legible and approachable, in keeping with their brand positioning. We developed a real ‘cloud 9’ experience for Nuvem 9 – a total brand experience that creates a unique tone of voice for their market.

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Every great brand tells a great story.

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