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Mental branding for memorable business

When there are about a million competitors in your marketplace, it’s hard to stand out and be recognised as different. 
mental rental branding
“A mental rate for your rental mate” — its perhaps a tad unexpected for a van rental business, but hey, why not! 
Made me chuckle and remember…

brand message, Funny

Brand basics - Food sign Brand basics - Food sign Brand basics - Food sign

From Marking Cattle to Marking Expertise – Branding Benefits

branding-sheep
I love walking in Derbyshire and the Lake District, experiencing unspoilt nature, raw countryside and the feeling of going back to basics – and I always get a bit of a shock when I see red, pink and green patched sheep skip around fields. My kids are now asking why someone painted them so funny and I have to explain that they are marking which sheep belong to which farmer. Make that a bit more sophisticated and you have the origins of branding – marking products or livestock with a branding iron.

branding iron - history of the word branding
“The word “brand” is derived from the Old Norse brandr meaning “to burn.” It refers to the practice of producers burning their mark (or brand) onto their products.” – Wikepedia

We’ve come a bit of a way since then, but perhaps more in evolving the meaning and using it to define our lives and cultures than in the actual act of differentiating one product or service from another.
Brand basics - Food sign
Back to basics. Though we all have a feeling that this type of ‘food’ is not necessarily winning health food awards…

It used to be enough to simply name the product. With competition, the market share decreases and suddenly it is no longer enough to ‘bake the bread’ in the village, you have to ensure people understand that your bread is better than that of the bakery down the road, and you have to try to sell their product as more than just a price-driven commodity that is worth paying a premium for.

Marketing has shifted from communicating FEATURES ‘what it has’ (1900) to BENEFITS ‘what it does’ (1925) to EXPERIENCE ‘what you will feel’ (1950) to IDENTIFICATION ‘who you are’ (2000) – Marty Neumeyer

brand basics - shopping isle
Where is your brand and how can your customer pick you out from the mass of competitive items?

Today’s overwhelming offers and information on products and services at our fingertips makes it ever more important for businesses to break out of the low margin – high competition cycle and to create a name for themselves that goes beyond packaging.
Brand basics - what sticks if the label comes off
“Branding is about everything.” – Tom Peters

Once people seek out your brand in overcrowded supermarket shelves or in business directories because they trust you, they relate to you or they are proud to be associated with you, that’s when brand strategy comes to fruition. When more than the label sticks, you know your brand message is being received and working for your business.
Of course not every business is built on a product that can be packaged and marketed in the ‘traditional’ sense. Much is being discussed about personal branding and reputation building for experts – and the benefits of branding are obvious even for writers, speakers or trainers that are consultancy based or have more intangible products and services.

  • More brand awareness = more opportunities
  • Commercial success from increased exposure
  • Personal development, confidence and motivation
  • Sense of achievement

The magic of it all is that even if you are developing a personal brand (hello Jamie Oliver), it won’t stop you from transferring those brand values on a business or range of products you endorse. With all the complicated layers of shopping offers and packaging, ultimately you mark your brand in the mind of your clients as the synonym for the one category they are shopping for so they know if they think FOOD, they think YOU (if that is what you are selling of course)…

brand experience, brand management, Brand Managment, brand message, Brand Strategy

What brands do – when they get it right…

What-do-brands-do
“A brand that captures your mind gains behavior. A brand that captures your heart gains commitment.”
– Kent Huffman

We are creatures of habit with some basic instincts subconsciously dictating every day actions and decisions. Even in our oh so cultural society, it often feels that we are just a very thin layer away from our ‘uneducated’ ancestors we would now call wild. We remain  territorial and most of us seem to have an underlying desire to find a partner with certain attributes (depending on male or female preference), to have children, to gain a position within social and work circles. (It seems to me that ultimately pretty much all of our behaviour can be tracked back to the innate desire to find the best partner and pass on our genes).

Homo sapiens has remained a naked ape nevertheless; in acquiring lofty new motives, he has lost none of the earthy old ones. This is frequently a cause of some embarrassment to him, but his old impulses have been with him for millions of years, his new ones only a few thousand at the most—and there is no hope of quickly shrugging off the accumulated genetic legacy of his whole evolutionary past.’ – Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape

Businesses can tap into this unshakeable heritage of emotions and rational/irrational behaviour and build their brands to answer the basic needs of their clients.
In a nutshell, brands are about:

  1. BRAND AWARENESS – Most people don’t like  making choices. Brands add familiarity and a sense of comfort when picking a product. Our memory is selective and limited. Standing out and being in the mind of the consumer at the time of purchasing or decision-making is paramount.
  2. BRAND EXPERIENCE – Giving consumers confidence into their choice of product or service. Get it right, and you have won half the battle to get point 3. Better still, a happy customer will probably recommend you – but beware, there is the thought that people experience loss about ten times as much as gain, so better they see interaction with your brand as a benefit, not a disaster!
  3. BRAND LOYALTY – Evoke aspirations – inspire consumers to want to become part of the brand’s ‘tribe’. Would someone buy a t-shirt with your slogan on even though you have nothing to do with fashion? Is it ‘cool’ to be associated with your business? Are your products status symbols or attract a certain audience? People don’t like to be proved wrong, they don’t like to regret their buying decisions. Brand loyalty is a difficult one to get especially if your product is seen as a commodity, but if you can break into the world of being seen as a brand with added reputation and values instead, loyalty is a key factor to evolve and adapt to changing markets or consumer needs.

Perhaps, if a brand can create comfort, confidence and connections, it is doing so by being less of a manufactured product and more of an expression of human personalities. Bring on passion brands!

attitude, brand loyalty, brand management, Brand Managment, brand message

Oneustonsquaredomainname

Nice brand name execution, shame about the brand domain name execution…

Oneustonsquarebranding
Clever use of colour to highlight the location name

The jury is out on this one… What looks like a really slick and simple branding concept for One Euston Square (which forms part of a pedestrianised southern approach to Euston station) has been flawed by an in my mind over keen design of the small print. Whilst the logo works beautifully with the detail in the letter ‘q’ featuring a square, this is lost in the domain name oneustonsq.com perhaps for legibility reasons.
However, because of the colouring going hand in hand with the brand logo itself, the missing square somewhat weakens the brand concept and leaves the thought in my mind that they may have been better off leaving the web address as a ‘normal’ piece of information that is not treated as another interpretation of the brand identity concept.
This very ‘square’ element has been nicely reflected on the website where information is displayed in square shapes adding consistency and continuity to the brand logo.
Oneustonsquaredomainname
Perhaps better left alone and simply displayed as a domain name
since they didn’t show the detail of the square in the letter q.

It’s hard as a brand manager to always know where to draw the line between graphic interpretation and sheer practicality and it’s by no means easily definable.
Lumejet S2000 product name typography
The product logo is a sans serif type, but for this brochure spread it was
vital that the name fitted into the concept with both the colour and typography.

Looking at it the other way, a client I am working with at the moment was really concerned about using their product name in a playful manner on a ‘fashion spread’ advertising their product because the typography is designed to go with the content of the pages rather than be an advert for the brand per se.
We did explore the subject and came to the conclusion that the brand should have the confidence to use the name of their product in different styles since there is good reason to do so (rather than compromise the message) – but it really is one of those things where you have to assess on a case by case basis using both gut feeling and common sense.

Brand Managment, brand message, Design, graphic design, Logos, typography

We Fuel Progress – Just Not at This Petrol Station…

I mused about this strap line from petrol brand Esso not long ago in this post and when I filled up at the very same station where I first came across the slogan, I had to smile when I saw this new info sheet hung on each petrol pump, advising that advanced fuels are not sold at this station. It’s just one confused brand message in my mind. What do they sell now? Normal fuels? Advanced fuels? And what does the strap line have to do with it all if not the obvious?

Esso-Brand-Advertising
All that progress, just don’t expect to see any of it where you fill up…

I wonder who made them clarify – and I wonder how long they will stick with this in my mind saying a lot without saying anything really tag line of Esso.
Perhaps the tiger will be back in our tanks sooner or later – or perhaps these days animal rights campaigners will have to say a thing or two about this as well…

advertising, brand management, brand message

SME Branding Lesson #22 – Turning a Negative into a Positive

I’ve just had a weekend in York and had lunch at a restaurant / bar with a Latin theme. It was spacious in itself but there was no toilet on the ground floor. You had to climb five flights of stairs and there was no lift – lots of accessibility issues spring to mind, even ignoring wheelchairs (try carrying a child up all those stairs…).
I could have left the place with a dampened feeling and not just tired legs, but they did something clever with their unfortunate toilet situation – they made it a feature!
All it took was some entertainment on the way up. Instead of emphasising the somewhat arduous trip, it made me walk up twice (second time iPhone in hand to capture the trail).
No business is perfect – and I feel that this is a really simple and nice example for how to deal with situations that have to be managed before they can eventually be altered.
I for one will be remembering this bar for the positive brand experience their innovative dealing with a negative situation has created.
clever-brand-management-02
















brand loyalty, brand management, brand message, Brand Strategy, Branding, Funny

A Logo is a Logo is a Logo…

They famously sparked the usual rebranding debate in 2010 when Waterstones changed their logo from the traditional serif W to a rounded sans serif. It was linked to a campaign ‘feel every word’ – and the typography that ensued always struck me as uncomfortably familiar to Unilever, rebranded by Wolff Olins.

Waterstones rebrand 2010
Feel every word… I feel the world ‘familiarity’

Waterstones Logo 2010
Familiar concept? Compare it to the Unilever brand…

Unilever branding
Plagiarism is a form of flattery…

Early this year they have undergone a backward revolution, I suppose, by abandoning the sans serif FS Alberta Pro back to Baskerville and by dropping the apostrophe. Perhaps it got a bit crowded in the logo marketplace when even Tesco adopted that visual type style.
Tesco welcome typography
Another Unilever inspired brand visual…

It’s an interesting decision by the brand owners, and a somewhat brave step to go ‘back to the roots’.
Waterstones brand evolution
From brand evolution to brand revolution – and back again…

They did however still keep that very Unilever style, now on the new old type.
VentureThree rebrand of Waterstones
VentureThree sticks to the Unilever branding approach…

With all this happening, one can excuse the shop owner of the bookstore chain for struggling to keep up with the latest brand guidelines! This Birmingham outlet seems to believe that if in doubt, stick them all on the shop front – something for everyone…
Waterstones-brand-confusion
Brand confusion? If in doubt, stick them all on!

Perhaps the brand guidelines never made it up to Birmingham, or perhaps there is a hidden message here – but it makes me smile in disbelief that such an established brand can allow a clash of identities…

brand guidelines, brand management, Brand Managment, brand message, Brand Strategy, Brand Vision, typography

Form over Function – Is Being Fashionable Really Enough to Innovate a Brand?

It has taken me a few days to digest a press release I received relating to Filofax, a brand I have been following for a while now. Here is the bit that that is almost too bad to be true when relating it to those brand followers that have been loyal and dedicated to the brand throughout its turbulent history.

Filofax press mention
Working the media… enough to reposition the brand?

The Filofax personal organiser is an iconic product with a strong heritage but as a brand they’ve found it challenging to stay relevant in the current digital age. We were challenged to re-position the brand to make it culturally relevant again and re-capture the imagination of ‘lapsed users’ who once used a Filofax but now rely on their smartphones to keep their diaries.
Following a usage and attitudes study, we identified that lapsed users and current Filofax users share the same common ground – they like to write notes and are very interested in fashion / stylish accessories. With this in mind we needed to make Filofax fashionable again to recapture this audience’s attention, so we set up a fashion-focused press office targeting key fashion and style journalists in aspirational and mainstream media, as well as influential bloggers with style focused tactics to change their perception of the brand.
From creating monthly trend reports that tied Filofax designs into leading catwalk looks, celebrity seeding, to implementing a series of style led blogger challenges, over the course of six months Filofax was starting to become recognised as a style accessory. This was all supported with a design partnership with iconic British fashion designer Alice Temperley who created a limited edition collection designed to showcase Filofax’s design capabilities but ultimately raise their profile amongst a high fashion crowd.
Helena Bloomer, MD of SLAM PR

Especially the ‘usage and attitudes study’ must have felt like a slap in the face of those users who are more keen on what’s in it than who made its cover. Some vented their frustration and published an open letter addressing the issue.
Dave Popely wrote a lovely reply to the PRs strange conclusion based on focus groups or other research which, if anything besides missing the point of the brand and its followers, puts our industry in a bad light. It made me cringe reading the buzzword loaded marketing speech and I am going to try doubly hard not to jump to marketing conclusions that are short sighted and biased.
Even though I am not a Filofax user, having just had a few encounters with those passionate about the product on sites like Philofaxy (hello Steve), I believe the very core of the ongoing success of the brand lies in the provision of a tool helping people organise their lives. Those people don’t want to rely on fancy gadgets, they appreciate the versatility, flexibility and reliability of paper and Filofax’s different systems for keeping notes is at the heart of their social and business organisation – day in, day out. To be pigeonholed as “people who like to write notes and are very interested in fashion/stylish accessories” is not only patronising, but alienates exactly the core of brand followers that seem to be keeping the company alive amidst the mass of digital alternatives.

Winchester and Malden
Kindly provided by Steve Morton from Philofaxy, throughout the decades Filofax has excelled as a brand of quality and function

I had a read of a PDF published on Philofaxy in which Kevin Hall lists the chronology of the company since the 1920s and if anything it highlights once again the lack of understanding that the true magic of the personal organiser lies in its functionality rather than its form.
There are so many possibilities of rejuvenating a brand without attempting to use the glittery but fickle and  shallow fashion direction. The best brand ambassadors are those who believe in the product and I just can’t understand why they are not being included in the development of the brand be it for a social campaign or at least for an in-depth forum or brainstorm. They meet up regularly as a group of enthusiasts sharing ideas, ways to file information, laughs no doubt. Why can the Filofax marketing department not see and capture some of that social magic and break through this strange notion that style will rescue them all.
Cat137_page9
An old system based on functionality

Just like Apple used to create extra special hardware and software for the design community, there is an opportunity to develop an extra special functional paper organiser that looks good as well – and if, as it has been with Apple (excluding SIRI and Maps to date) the design is just as amazing as the product itself, people will happily pay a premium.
Scotsman article about the filofax brand on sale again
Up for grabs – will the French know how to take the brand in the 21st Century?

It remains to be seen what’s next on the cards – with a new edition of the Alice Temperley range announced for the 2013 London fashion week and all those “style led blogger challenges and celebrity seedings” – or perhaps with the possibility of a takeover by French firm Exacompta Clairefontaine. Possibly the future ‘Le Filofax’ will be naturally confident of their French style such that the focus of the brand managers will shift towards the deeper appeal of the product for those using it as an integral part of their life.

brand loyalty, brand management, Brand Managment, brand message, Brand Strategy, Brand Vision

SME Branding Lesson #21 – Strap Lines, Brand Promises and Does it All Matter?

It took me a while to realise what was bothering me about the new campaign for Esso. Something just didn’t feel right – which I guess is what branding is all about. The chemistry seems wrong between me and their new slogan ‘We fuel progress.’
But what’s not to like? Straplines and slogans have been with us forever, they are a great, simple way to get the brand essence across and gives the company the opportunity to show some attitude, its own language, its mentality and gives a glimpse of what the brand stands for.
Nike’s ‘Just do it.’ inspired a whole nation of fitness lovers without olympic ambition. Apple’s ‘Think different’ struck a cord not only with creatives, but more and more with consumers of home entertainment and technology. Even Esso’s ‘Put a tiger in your tank’ seems more exciting and personable than the extension of last year’s ‘We fuel creativity’ with Lego promotion. It seems the line lacks meaning for the consumer. In a time where fuel prices are ever increasing and profits soaring, there is something patronising about this statement. ‘We fuel progress’, don’t you know? Aren’t we clever! You just keep paying us and we keep paying our marketing department to come up with yet another clever line that tells you how well we are doing because naturally this is all you are interested in!
Oh, they mean the long term benefit of their fuel and are ‘making fuel work harder for you’. It just does not engage me.
There are plenty of great slogans that have stood the test of criticism and time.

Andrex Toilet Paper

Around since the 70s, the Andrex® Puppy is one of the UK’s most recognisable brand icons.

Andrex brand slogan
It’s the little things… and that little bit of consistency that adds to the success of this brand.

Tommee Tippee

This household baby brand is probably far more known for their sub brand ‘closer to nature’ than its slogan ‘simply intuitive’… but it’s a nice line nonetheless.
Tommee Tippee Logo and Slogan

Closer to nature sub brand
The power of a sub brand. Often used interchangeable among mothers, the sub brand has become a brand name and slogan in itself.

BT – British Telecom

BT slogan
I had to look it up – when BT dropped its “It’s good to talk” slogan, it didn’t quite capture the imagination with ‘bringing it all together’…

Dulux

It’s another household name and the slogan ‘let’s colour’ sums it up just nicely.

Dulux brand slogan
Another famous dog – dulux has made a brand name for itself and I wonder if the dulux dog is now part of the dog breeders index…

BBC
A brilliant brand and institution (in my mind anyway) and one with such an amazing history. I can’t imagine they will ever change their old motto “Nation shall speak peace unto Nation” – but who knows!
BBC motto
What they all have in common (and there are many more) is a story, a sense of something relating to the product or service, and not just words without much human interest.
Where Esso fails to convince, other brands have managed to capture the imagination of their stakeholders and are good to bear in mind when developing slogans or straplines for less well-known businesses. Not everyone will make it into a household name cited on wikipedia, but having a memorable and imaginative strapline can lighten up marketing banter and provide a step in the direction of brand advertising without having to explain in many words.
Once a slogan becomes synonymous with the meaning and essence a company tries to communicate, it becomes part of a brand and will be a useful tool for marketing and communications.
How to come up with a good strapline? Here are just some thoughts:

  1. KISS – Keep it simple stupid – as mentioned before, it’s a great rule for straplines. Anything complicated, long winded or hard to pronounce will be forgettable.
  2. Be real – don’t make promises you can’t keep. Emphasising strengths is one thing. Blatantly boasting or exaggerating usually won’t work long-term.
  3. Be human – use words we understand. Add some empathy, some feeling. It will go a long way.
  4. Be creative – don’t shy away from trying something new. Just avoid emblazoning it in the brickwork of your building until you are sure it is working for your brand!
  5. Be consistent – don’t have a new strapline every couple of months. Develop one and stick with it at least for the duration of a campaign or something you can measure the success of. There is no point keep changing a strapline if the issue is lying elsewhere.
  6. Be proud – don’t go for cheap laughs. Have a slogan you are happy to share and shout about. If it works, it will work wonders…

 

brand management, brand message, brand slogans, Brand Strategy, Branding

Saw this and it made me smile…

Brand Advert for Virgin Mobile
Speaking a brand’s language – visually and in the copy. Nice one.

Here is  just one of those nice ads that don’t try too hard and don’t try to be too clever, either.
I love the typography and the feeling they don’t take themselves too seriously, either. The Virgin brand at its best. Talks the language and has a light feel around it. Shame they still send me unsolicited mail every week which is irrelevant to myself and puts the brand values down a notch in my own mind.
 

advertising, brand language, brand message, Branding, typography

SME Branding Lesson #16 – Business Cards – Your Brand Message Exposed

I am working on quite a few corporate identity projects at the moment and the question keeps coming up as to what should be on a business card and how vital a good design is these days for a small business.
So here are some thoughts on the origin, relevancy and importance of the business card.

A brief history of the name card

With a history pointing back to the 17th Century, business cards, or ‘name card’ as they were first called, have been a consistent part of communications. Originally used to introduce the owner as a ‘calling’ visitor, the cards were designed to be just big enough to fit in the palm of a hand and to announce the arrival of its owner ‘in all his glory’.
Whilst name cards were tailored for the individual, businesses used trade cards to advertise where their shops could be found in cities such as London (where at the time there was no formal street numbering system available.
The arrival of printing methods also meant the change of the card design from woodcut or letterpress to lithography and subsequently to include tints and colours. Whilst very popular in those days, come the 19th Century (with new technologies and a wide-spread distribution of newspapers that allowed businesses to display their services more lavishly and prominently) businesses preferred to place adverts, leading to the decline of the trade card industry.
Especially in the US, a distinction was made between calling cards and business cards, one serving social etiquette, the other trade and the promotion of products and services.
Today, we are probably still most familiar with business cards promoting brands – though individualised for the representative – though the availability of off-the-shelf printing solutions such as Moo or printed.com allow greater accessibility of affordable custom print services for those who want to promote their own personal brand.

So how do you start?

If you are looking to promote yourself or your brand, there are a few vital pieces of information that should be found on any card. But whilst you may be tempted to stick everything on there, and possibly everything on one side, it is one of the biggest design challenges to create a clean, clear and legible layout on 85mm x 54mm or thereabouts.

  • Who are you?

This is easy – kind of. You want your brand identity clearly displayed as well as your name and professional title, should you brand use titles. Sometimes the use of lengthy acronyms is more off-putting than useful. It all depends on who you are trying to reach with the business cards. If you are a doctor, surgeon, lawyer or any professional where titles signify the level of experience and the specialism and you are targeting people who understand and value the expertise these titles imply, then by all means include them.
Sometimes however, a brand will benefit from steering clear of the use of titles to create a more accessible, friendly, non-differentiating culture amongst its staff and brand ambassadors.

  • What do you do?

Business cards offer the opportunity to visualise an ‘elevator pitch’. As such, the ‘what do you do’ part needs to be concise and memorable, avoiding endless lists of buzz words relating to your industry.
Also beware that once you write down certain areas of your business, people tend to assume that this is all you do so you may miss out on inquiries relating to those areas you did not mention.
A clearly defined brand essence and core brand message will help to get people interested enough in your brand to engage and find out the details on a website.

  • Where do you do it?

Depending on how you operate, you may or may not include a physical address here. These days, every business should have a thought-through and well-designed web presence that contains these details for those who need them.
However, it depends on whether you are operating from multiple sites, whether you are a local consultancy looking to attract visitors to your offices, whether you are selling a product and really only want web traffic.
Think about what you want to ideally happen when someone picks up your card and is interested. That should dictate how much you disclose about your whereabouts and also how you would like to be contacted.
If online and social media is your aim as a communication platform for engaging with your clients, this would mean the inclusion of relevant icons and perhaps a QR-code. These are constantly evolving and you can now include little brand icons within them to make them more your own.
These are probably the most important pieces of information to include on a car. What will make your card different from others and thus more memorable and valuable for your brand is the consideration of the following:
Format (Size)
Whilst the common size of the business card is practically dictated by wallet and business card holder sizes, there is some flexibility in width and height you can play with. I would never suggest to go too crazy as it may backfire – unless of course you are making a statement and have a solution in mind so the size becomes an asset to your brand.

Unusual size Business Card Sample by Catalyst Studios
This elongated format still fits in a wallet but stands out not just by the material used, but by the size as well.

Shape
As mentioned above, there are certainly restrictions to the shape of a business card which needs to remain practical or may just end up in the bin with all the other uninteresting print material. However, even subtle elements that make the shape special and relevant to the brand can really make your business stand out.
One or more rounded edges, a cut-out bit, a rough boarder – look at your brand essence to see if there is some element that can be visualised by an alteration in the shape of your business card.
Shape Business Card Example from Couldbe Studios
Who says round edges are all you can do? If it works for the brand, an unusual shape can greatly enhance the brand message.

The use of type
There are cases, where you want a lot of information in a small space. That does not mean it has to look busy or cluttered. The challenge of the designer is to find the right balance, the right size and the right fonts (which is why business cards are usually part of the brand identity design development, where type faces and colour palettes are defined).
Luxury Vacations Business Card Design by Essence Design
Even if you have quite a lot of information to display on a card, using clean typography and leaving plenty of ‘white space’ will ensure legibility and that the type does not take away, but adds to the brand identity.

Use of colours
Colour greatly affects how people perceive your business. They are of course part of your brand identity and but a business card gives the opportunity to make bold statements and to use colour in an innovative way. Double sided cards come to life with one side displaying a contrasting colour. Sometimes, less is more and the subtlest shades create an amazing effect that supports your brand message.
CathyPhillips Business Card Design by Essence Design
Here is a sample of a brand ID for an interior designer. Keeping the colour scheme cool and contemporary and printing two coloured business cards at a time reflects the nature of the business as much as the hand crafted logo design and paper choice.

Variations
When working with a printer who either accommodates variations of colours or designs or sets up a job bespoke for you, there is always the option to include different colours, patterns, backgrounds or content on a business card set to create a versatile, collectible feel. It’s something worth considering especially for B2C customers.
Fish Restaurant Business Card Design by Essence Design
This restaurant has a quirky, colourful interior and the business card set reflects this by coming in two distinct variations.

Brand essence
It always creates some magic when you can visualise the brand essence of your business. A tire company with a tire profile across their card. A nitting shop with a needle effect. A visual on the name, such as this example with ‘Hidden’. Once you know who you are, you can play with it to great effect.
Brand Essence Business Card Design Sample by Hidden Design
In this example, the company played with their name ‘hidden’ and created a fun and memorable design.

Paper and material
The material a card is printed on can be as simple as plain paper or as crazy as a bit of wood – if it fits the brand, innovative materials can really bring out the brand message.
There are thousands of specialist papers out there, and companies such as Fedrigioni, GFSmith and Robert Horne work closely with designers to achieve the best creative solution. When it comes to the ‘printability’ of the stock, I would always recommend to work closely with a printer to ensure the design will translate well into print. Sometimes, a ‘wet proof’ is the best option where by the actual paper, inks and print finishes are used on the actual press to create a proof. It’s expensive, but especially if you are using experimental papers and printing methods, it can save hundreds of pounds later if something does not go quite as expected.
Other materials, such as rough card board, Priplak (polypropylene), soft plastics or even wood can be utilised to create a unique feel and special effect for the brand.
Meethalfway Business Card Design by Essence Design
On this example, we simply used a matt laminated card that avoids fingerprints and is sturdy enough to give the card longevity as it is meant to be kept in the wallet for future reference.

Printing methods and print finishing
Two colour Pantone, full colour CMYK, screen print, blind emboss, thermography, UV spot varnish, silk or matt laminate, gloss UV, emboss, die cutting, foiling – the list is extensive when it comes to available printing methods and print finishes. Some simpler print finishes, such as laminates, are now often part of the printing press setup and thus available even on the cheap printing websites. For everything else it is good to find a knowledgable, passionate print partner
Anam Cara Business Card Design and Folder by Essence Design
In this sample, we used copper foil to enhance the visual of this alternative therapy brand.

What else is there to think about?

You could say that that’s enough – but I wouldn’t stop there. Think about how you will hand out the business cards. How does the container look that you pull them out of? Which side would you ideally present first? How do they fit with the other brand collateral? Are you proud to hand them out? What does their appearance say about your business? Do they look cheap? And if so, is that ok for what you do? (A charity has to take a different approach to a luxury good retailer.)
Business cards are one of the smallest print materials every brand should call their own – but they are also one of the biggest opportunities every brand should make their own.

brand message, business cards, graphic design, print finishes, printing

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