Branding and design are fundamentally deadline-driven – although in a perfect world we would like to be able to all be so far ahead of the curve that the ticking clock wasn’t a driver, in reality there’s nothing like a deadline to motivate decision-making. Our work is also often looked at as subjective – as art, not science – which often precludes participants from believing that the rules of process-driven decision making apply. This is a fallacy – good brands are built around a discovery and research process that engages creativity at the core, and as a client, you should be engaged in that process at every turn.
To explain, let me take you through a recent project that we worked on at the Studio. A new client came to us seeking help on naming a core product, naming the parent business and developing the brand identity and values statement. The product is a significant software system that (we hope) will add interesting new dimensions to social networking worldwide in the year ahead. The creators of this new product are motivated, informed and expert. They were also stuck on the fundamental task of “what do we call this thing?”
Our engagement followed a linear, iterative path – as a first step we performed a market research and analysis study. That sounds like a fancy term for essentially googling their peers in the space, aggregating the results, analyzing the components of their brand, product and web identities, and summarizing against what we knew about the new company. From that process we were able to quickly understand what some of the fundamental rules in the marketspace were about, and quantify those into definitions.
I led the clients through a 3-hour brainstorming session – breaking down their core knowledge into silos that defined the different potential audiences and markets, and pulling out keywords, values and phrases that helped them express the idea. We then sought out synonyms, negative and positive attributes, and began to whittle down the results towards a core brand statement that we could all agree on. I left the session with some solid candidates for naming, as well as a clear and concise statement of purpose to define the product.
Turning back to our research component, we began developing frameworks for prototype webpages – not as graphic designs so much as information architecture – what actions do we want people to take to engage with the product, what questions do we want to resolve for customers immediately on the home page? We also began to develop typographic styles that were appropriate for the market sector against the proposed business names.
A follow-up review and research session with two of the principals brought more clarity to the short list of candidates. We were able to secure ideal domain names and variants on the spot, and did a trademark search that showed we were likely in the clear (a more thorough search would confirm our results using an expert trademark attorney).
One aspect of this last phase was identifying that we needed the name to be both a noun, a verb, and a modifier all in one – think about Twitter – it is both the entity and the action, and its variants (tweet, tweeting, twittering, etc) have become part of the modern lexicon. Identifying the root grammatical elements that the word needed to perform was a fundamental step in revealing the ultimate winner in the process.
We applied our graphic style development and earlier framework development to the final candidate and delivered a complete brand system, website design, collateral and messaging components to the client in the following week.
So what is the conclusion we draw from this? Good process creates good results. Good results create solid brands – and brands that can get out of committee and into the market – these brands WIN. There is art to the science – creativity and experience are fundamental to success – but as a client, it is good to understand that participating in the process, trusting in the decisions that you are a part of, and turning ideas into action are key to business success.
So what is this new product/business? Stay tuned – we’ll let you know in January 2012!