Branding – and when you have to let go…

I am not sure that you really should have to, but once you have completed your part in the branding process, there inevitably comes the point when the new brand spills into an organisation and gets absorbed by their own marketing department – for better or worse. Guidelines, you say, yes, guidelines are there for exactly that reason, but, as I found out last week, no guidelines can prepare you for the pure shock and horror induced by the ‘creative’ approach from the budget saving ‘small man down the road’.
I’ve been lucky in the sense that our client discovered what was happening in one of his departments when they outsourced some new promotional item to be designed by a cheap local design firm. Every rule laid out in the brand identity guidelines had been not just stretched or slightly twisted but torn apart and broken in an unfixable manner. How whoever designed this (neglecting all the blatant inconsistencies in grammar and type) could look at their draft 1 and find it a good match to the client’s brief I do not know – but I really am appreciating that we had the chance to take this over and start from scratch.
Branding doesn’t just happen, well, it does, in a sense, but not necessarily how you want it to. It’s a slow, delicate process and it needs time, resources and money to re-brand an entire organisation that goes beyond the initial consultancy and creative process.
We never shut the door but think that an ongoing brand management relations ship is of most value to the client, but of course budget restraints cause situations out of our control. I am not sure yet what the solutions are – we can’t lower our rates paying for highly professional and creative talent to compete with those who don’t even deserve the title artworkers – so once again it seems to come down to educating the clients to realise a false economy.
On this occasion, our client had the insight and understanding of the importance of a consistent design approach even if only for the first of each publication to set a standard to be followed, but I despair at some others who ‘diy’ with our identity designs and do more harm than good. You have to just hope their brand is resilient to the apparent drop in quality of their communications material. A very similar problem happens when a client does the internal communications themselves but outsources the externals. The discrepancy is drastic and often you wonder how bad a customer must feel when they have been called in with great looking designs to receive forms and information on site that looks more like they just started their business with a comic sans flyer template and have no idea what they are doing.
There is the argument that ultimately it is the product and service that sells and not the presentation but if we think of brands as people, we are all very much relying on our judgement of the first impression a person gives us and we continue to observe if what they preach is what they do – only then do we start to trust someone.
Anyway, I could go on… but have to actually go back to the design of above mentioned piece… so I will let go – for now.

brand guidelines, brand management, graphic design

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