Five ideas for modern, better branding
Mark Andreeseen, in 2011, stated: software is eating the world.
Today this is truer than ever. Many of the big companies that rule the market are software developers, or they are playing their game following the rules of the software industry. Through technology, they have changed — and are still changing — the way human beings and brands communicate.
Technology has created new opportunities for everyone, enabling people to do things that weren’t possible before. In this era of infinite possibilities, we are looking for someone who helps us connect the dots. Someone with the power to see things not as they are, but as they could be. Someone who can redesign our world, to make it all it can be.
As consultants, designers and marketers we can have a huge impact on society, if we see the spark of potential in everything and everyone, and inspire others to see it too.
The brands we design can have a positive impact on our lives, our communities and the environment. But we need to design them differently.
Here are five ideas for modern, better branding.
01. Aspire → Be
What people ask brands today is to be real. A rather tricky request.
We can say that digital has put an end to the golden era of advertising, but that’s not entirely true. The truth is that in many ways we are communicating with technology the same way we used to do with advertising before (one super evident example? Testimonials have become influencers).
Social media platforms like Instagram have created their own language, made of curated, carefully staged, color-corrected pictures of avocado toasts, selfies and posts at the beach.
But today, the Instagram aesthetic is over. What are we going to do, 10 years from now, with dozens of social walls full of the same pictures? “It’s not cool anymore to be manufactured.”
Brands should show their most authentic side. Some understood this and started to change course.
One above all, Diesel.
02. Promise → Action
A friend of mine, Simon Coe, would describe this point as “branding by doing”. People (especially the youngsters) ask companies to do things, demonstrating with facts that the promises made for years are true and concrete. Regardless of their industry.
We are beginning to see the first signs of this trend.
The North Face, consistent with its positioning, on the World Earth Day suggested employees to Turn on Explore Mode, switch off social media and not to work to celebrate the occasion.
Lush UK caused a stir by announcing the abandonment of social media: tired of having to pay the platform managers to be able to talk to customers, they decided to bring the communication “back home”, on their own channels.
03. Global → Niche
Big global platforms keep telling us that it doesn’t matter if you are an Italian craftsman or a Brazilian chef: in fact, today, you compete on a global scale.
But today this global world has become too big for us. It’s something we can’t control, and this generates fear. And fear generates hate, racism, violence, walls.
Let’s be honest: there is a certain discomfort with social networking platforms, which seem to empower the worst behaviors of human beings. People begin to ask for more protected, less noisy contexts. Mark Zuckerberg himself claimed, during Facebook F8 in 2019, that “The future is private”.
In the future there will probably be less global platforms, and more small communities to which each of us can belong. A great opportunity for brands, which can connect closer with small groups, providing relevant content to each of them.
04. Match audience → Find purpose
For years companies have struggled to sell products and reach an audience. Today’s challenge is to be able to define the reason “why” behind every brand. Consumers — especially Millennials — are now used to choosing products and services also on the basis of ethical reasons, that is, based on the purpose of the brands that sell them.
It’s not true that brands don’t have to talk about politics. A striking example is that of the Nike campaign that involved Kaepernick (obtaining big benefits also in terms of sales). Another exceptional case is the rebranding of Mars, which has positioned itself as a company that thinks about the future. Also changing deeply its visual language.
05. Branding → Debranding
Debranding simply means divesting the brand of its distinctive features — typically a typographic trait or colors.
Many brands, for example, have conformed to each other at a stylistic level. And even the cafès and restaurants we attend, or the mobile apps we use have started to look very similar.
Debranding means that brands are trying to speak the language of people, rather than obliging them to adapt to their language.
The design world has already explored this concept in the past. We can find the same principles behind the Bauhaus «Form follows function» idea, or inside each poster and piece of design of the International Typographic Style, with the desire to convey messages clearly and in a universally straightforward manner.
Massimo Vignelli, one of the most famous Italian graphic designer of the past century, designed tons of brands and visual campaigns by using only a limited range of typefaces and colors. Isn’t that similar to the trend many fashion brands have embraced during the past years?
This article is an extract from a presentation I conducted at the Web Marketing Festival 2019, in Rimini. If you’re not afraid of spending 43 minutes of your time to watch it, here’s the full speech (in Italian).