Tag: emotive branding

24
Feb

The Journey of Discovery

Design is never a fixed path. It twists and bends, branching off into different areas and adapting to its surroundings. In this sense, there is no ‘right or wrong’ within design, but a gut feeling that tells you that you’re heading in the right direction.

We met Stan, the founder of a company called Disruptancy. It was a very successful business; expanding it’s client base, continually working on new ideas. But something struck me as peculiar; it had lasted 10 years without any form of branding.

As we live in the information age, branding plays a crucial part to any successful business, yet Stan’s seemed to defy logic on this part. How could a company hold up against it’s competition for 10 years without any recognisable marks that are tied to the title?

Disruptancy works business to business. Organisations come to Disruptancy for a number of reasons — but usually to employ disruptive practises and methodologies to scale or turnaround.

We felt it was important to get to know Stan as a person for this exercise, because you could almost say that he was the current branding of Disruptancy. A lot of his clients came directly to his company not because of advertising, but through word of mouth and a trustworthy founder. The branding would be very personal to Stan and represent his idea of what the company stands for.

We began mind-mapping from a select list of words Stan had used to summarise the business. The mind mapping lead us to some interesting themes:

Integration / The journey / Creative pathways / Fluid movement / Turnaround / Expansion /  Adaptation / Evolution / Growth of a business / Personalised service / Company code

This section of the design process is always energetic; a lot of very initial thoughts with accompanying pathways. No idea has been anchored down to the ground so there’s always a feeling of continual momentum and fluidity.

These words lead us onto research, pulling inspiration from numerous sources; sculpture, architecture, art, print design.

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To convey to companies ideas and legacy, this key was crucial to the success of the branding. As long as the idea had potential, it was pinned up on the wall. As the wall began to fill, it was becoming more and more apparent that the team was all on the same track.

Themes began to naturally emerge, so it was time to categorise them. We collected the initial research in to piles based on their similarities. These similarities weren’t necessarily simply aesthetic, it was more conceptual ideas that tied them together.

After collecting and arranging, we discussed again in detail what the company stood for, what message they wanted to show the world. A good technique for this is summarising the companies themes in as few a words as possible. This then led us on to creating specific names for each concept our research had brought to us.

Conceptualisation was made a lot easier due to our initial research and theme building stages. Any form of sketch that was created was then pinned up (as rough as it may be). In many cases, if I drew a sketch that I wasn’t happy with, another team member may find some inspiration in it, leading us onto greater ideas. We’ve found that it’s always a good idea to put up every idea you have, as small as it may seem.

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The presentation is dependant on the brief; with this brief, we wanted to present our concepts in a way that highlighted particular traits of our clients company. We chose to recreate the ‘journey’ aspect, and pinned up our concept on the wall, linking them together with red string.

Now that the initial concepts had been created, we felt it was time to bring our client back in to the studio to show the journey so far. After a brief explanation of each concept, we asked and answered questions regarding the ideas. Keeping an open communication is key to a successful project, especially in the early stages.

There were a couple of concepts that really stood out to Stan, one of them being ‘The Möbius Strip’ concept. I explained to Stan that a Möbius Strip is a mathematical object that has one side and one edge, known as being non-orientable. It can be recreated by taking a thin piece of paper, writing it once in the middle, then gluing the ends together. If you take a pen and draw a line down the path, it will cover all faces of the strip, meaning it has one side.

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But how does this relate to Disruptancy? Well, there were multiple connections that I found between Stan’s company and the mathematical shape:

A strip winds and bends, yet only has one side and one edge
— Disruptancy adapts based on it’s clients, yet only has one objective

A literal 180 degree flip
— The company is flipped on it’s head, with a new outcome

Any object that travels down the strip will arrive at the starting point inverted
— Endless possibilities at the end of the process

Cutting the strip down the central axis results in a larger strip; the strip expands outward and has obtained extra twists
— By disrupting clients’ companies, a dramatic change has been made, only to result in the growth of the business

Stan could see potential in this concept, so we took it forward and began developing this idea. A very important part of this stage is not losing the core meaning of the concept by covering it in an aesthetic facade. Always ensure that the developed idea fits within the mould created by that spark that started the journey.

The comparison of these connections to the initial themes we had thought of was interesting. As the concept begins to take shape, each point that it expresses is refined and sharpened. There were no longer any unanswered questions about the brand, myself and the team could confidently answer any questions regarding the meaning of the logo, ensuring a very clear message is sent across.

The team were very happy with the final design, as we could all agree that it summarised what Disruptancy was all about in a simple mark.

Disruptancy_Logo_Black

I feel that myself and The Loft have learned from the entire process of creating Disruptancy’s branding. I know now not to through away any ideas, because even the most ridiculous will have depth to them. To be honest, it’s usually the most ridiculous that are the most successful. Always stay true to that concept as it is so easy to take it on another path. Working close with the client and building a trusted relationship is key too, is it gives you as a designer freedom to make decisions based on your training and knowledge. Always be abstract and creative, never stop pushing to create something you and the client are proud of.

REISS

Reiss is a multi-purpose designer with a broad range of skill-sets.
He loves being a part of any creative activity — whether it’s mapping out a user experience, getting his hands dirty with some copy or even re-building bits of his motorbike.
A born people-person, Reiss is never happier when showcasing ideas from his vividly wild imagination and working with clients to see them through to completion. Once an architect, he has a keen eye for conceptual ideas and never tires of learning new things.
12
Jul

A Golden Age for Designers

As I write this post, I don’t think there has ever been a better time to be a designer.

I am Benedetto Bordone and I run The Loft, a design and branding studio based in the heart of Glasgow. Like most of my peers, I have witnessed the down-sizing of the creative budget, the commoditisation of basic services and as a designer’s designer (I started my career as a 3D designer and not a graphic designer,) the reducing importance that design seems to be given at agency level in contrast to digital/development/marketing.

However, I remain more optimistic than ever about the future of design and this is why…

– Noise. We are bombarded every single day with more people trying to get our attention – whether it is via digital channels – E-Mail, Social Media, Search Engines or more traditional media outlets such as newspapers, radio or the television. Everybody wants our attention. The beauty about this for a creative is that although there may be no shortage of people offering commoditised services to make the noise – it is only those that are capable of making sounds worth listening too that people truly engage with. Those that can make the complex – simple, those that can make the intricate – beautiful, those that can make poetry from prose. The more commoditised and sub-standard communications on the market, the more the good stuff shines like a beacon. Why are we all so drawn to certain brands? Because there is a purity about the way they communicate and only the best know how to get this across. The more savvy clients in this smaller and joined-up world know this and are more than willing to pay for it.

– New Channels. Digital has already created an entire new ball-game and range of tools for designers to express themselves – Websites, E-Mail Campaigns, Social Media Content, apps, etc have all provided new opportunities. However, there are incredible cross-over opportunities on the horizon with new technologies such as 3D Printing, Augmented Reality, Artifical Intelligence – companies are going to soon be able to create a whole raft of products that bring their brands to life in ways that just weren’t possible before. The modern-day Polymath is going to be more and more critical in bridging the gap between technologies to communicate messages to new people in new ways. Going way beyond the company website, business card, company brochure, etc. There is an incredible range of opportunities here for those designers that wish to look just a little left-or-right of centre.

– Storytelling. A picture speaks a thousand words and most people don’t have time for a thousand words. Metaphorically speaking – give them a good paragraph and they may read the full text. Only the most skilled creatives can write that great paragraph. In the last 18 months we have had so many things land on our desks that sit squarely outside what you would expect for a design and branding agency. We have been asked to illustrate complex business plans, we have been asked to graphically create memorable sales systems, to bring life and make effective – flow charts and operational procedures. International legal firms have even discussed with us how we can use graphics and info-graphics to more effectively communicate their cases in court. For the open and prepared mind, there is a raft of new opportunities out there.

– Leadership. Designers can be the new leaders. For the designer that can be both creative yet commercially literate – there are huge opportunities. Brands now communicate over a huge number of different channels, almost relentlessly. The communications must be on-message, be true to the values of the organisation, be authentic and be worth seeing or being listened too as well as being relentlessly consistent. This is an incredibly important job and work that great designers, with their heightened intuitive faculties, are better equipped than anybody else to do. Sir Jonathan Ive is now “one of two of the most important people at the world’s most valuable company – Apple.” His presence extends way beyond that of the designs of the products; he is the ‘guardian of the brand’ and what it means to people. Many may not consider themselves in this way and Sir Jonathan Ive may be a man with very special abilities, however the opportunities are there for every creative and this role is going to become more widely available in the future.

Every industry or sector must go through periods of renewal and creative services, it seems ours is following that course, but for the designer that has a commitment to excellence, a positive attitude and retains a very open mind. If they unwaveringly focus on the people they are serving and concentrate a little more on the result and a little less on the method. I think they will eventually come to see that today we do indeed stand on the precipice of a golden age for design.

“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness.”
Benedetto

BB

Benedetto is a designer and founder of the loft – a specialist design and branding studio based in Glasgow.

The loft takes the true essence of what organisations do and with his team brings those stories to life with a coherence, simplicity and delightfulness that helps companies to create outstanding brand communications.

‘Design with Soul’ is more than a company tag-line to Benedetto, it is a way of life.

His journey has taken him from a career in car design through to his current role. He is honoured to manage a great team, work with great clients and have a lot of fun mixing with so many great people in business.

09
May

7 tips for effective branding

Creating a brand for your company is one of the most fun, exciting and commercially shrewd things you can do as a Chief-Exec or Marketing Director. A new brand with the right meaning is an absolute statement of intent to everybody who comes into contact with your organisation – new customers or clients, your existing customers or clients, your staff, your suppliers, even your board – it is a magnificent way to get on the front foot as a business.

Lots of people are thinking about it, some are about to embark on it and to some it may never have crossed their minds.

Here are 7 of our tips for effective building an effective brand.

1. BRAND NOT LOGO

You want a brand, not a logo. A brand has so much more value and will serve your organisation in a much greater way.

You may ask what is the difference?

A logo is a new mark or shape to represent what you do. A brand goes much further – it captures the very essence of who you are, how you do what you do. The very spirit of your company, product or service.

Both a brand and a logo will have similar outputs but there is so much more thought and intellectual value that goes into a brand which is why it will serve you in a much greater way.

2. YOU’RE SPECIAL

You really are and this is what you want to get across with a new brand. What’s special or unique about your company? What stories can you tell? How are you different or how do you make a difference?

This is a lot less about what you do, a lot more about how you do it.

3. MULTIPLE IDEAS

We say that brands are ‘ideas manifest in form.’ You want to strongly get those ideas across with your branding project.

Believe it or not, people will love your company for lots of different reasons and they may not be the same things that you think they do. Your brand should represent not one single big idea, but a lot of different ideas about what makes you great.

It is an understanding of all of these ideas that will help you to create a richer, better-thought-through and more personalised brand.

4. FORGET COMPETITIVE BENCHMARKING

Well at the beginning at least.

Competitive benchmarking is one of the staple activities of our industry – to see ‘what the competitors are doing’ – it is the comfort blanket that designers retreat too when they are feeling a little timid with their work. This exercise will always guarantee a safer solution, most logo projects for example, will start by cherry-grabbing visual cues from competitors, these are other people’s work – a colour here, a shape there, that nice font that you see. At the loft, we see those activities as recycling of other people’s ideas.

We want to bring YOUR ideas to life, not those of somebody else.

That doesn’t mean that we never do competitive benchmarking – we do – or that we never incorporate other bits of other people’s designs – we do but only after we have a firm grasping of our own ideas.

And competitive benchmarking does a have a part to play sometimes it is useful to know the dress code before turning up to the ball – fashion brands, legal brands, retail brands, etc will all have their own styles which are useful to know. However, for us it is definitely an ‘end-of-project after-thought’ as opposed to a mission critical part of the process.

5. GET EVERYBODY INVOLVED

There will be sceptics, there always is in every creative process but we always find that everybody in an organisation has an opinion and everybody enjoys having their opinion heard. We have been amazed in the past about how involved everybody likes to get in branding projects. Everybody from the office tea lady to the Finance Director likes to have their say and a lot of the time, their judgment is more than sound. It is their company after all.

We always say that something should be so simple to understand that ‘your granny will get it.’ The feedback from lots of different people in an organisation tends to minimise our chances of making a howler or putting out something that just doesn’t work in the real world.

Finally, previous experience tells me that people really appreciate to have their opinion heard – even if a different direction is eventually taken – they like to be considered in the first place.

6. STORIES

Everybody will have their favourite stories they use when talking about their company – a little like your favourite stories about your kids. We have favourite stories about our organisations – especially if you are in sales. The design of your brand should capture some of these stories in its form. We build visual themes into our designs that help to add real meaning to the brands that we create.

Your brand should say what you would like it to say when you’re not in the room to say it and a great brand will make you smile as you tell others about it.

7. UNDERPIN EVERYTHING

We are not the brand police – we don’t believe in stifling individual expression but consistency enhances brands so you want to present as consistently as possible. The research and intellectual rigour that goes into creating a new brand should not be wasted with just the final design. Your branding project should be an exploration into who you are and what you stand for. Throughout the process you will have made decisions about message, tone, formality, values, etc and these will be expressed in colour, typography, photography/copywriting styles. You will want to ensure that you get as much use out of each of these characteristics as possible.

Creating a brand is a path of exploration and an incredibly interesting exercise.

This isn’t a definitive list set in stone but some helpful advice from our past experience in creating brands for lots of different organisations. We hope you find it helpful and you know where to find us if there is some way we can help out?

Thanks,

Benedetto

BB

Benedetto is a designer and founder of the loft – a specialist design and branding studio based in Glasgow.

The loft takes the true essence of what organisations do and with his team brings those stories to life with a coherence, simplicity and delightfulness that helps companies to create outstanding brand communications.

‘Design with Soul’ is more than a company tag-line to Benedetto, it is a way of life.

His journey has taken him from a career in car design through to his current role. He is honoured to manage a great team, work with great clients and have a lot of fun mixing with so many great people in business.

16
Apr

COMING SOON!!

We’ve been updating our portfolio recently & boy have we been busy! Lots and lots of lovely new projects to get excited about. Each one, a big, beautiful idea brought to life in the most imaginative way possible…

You can see them by checking out our site…

What’s even more exciting is that we’re just warming up…

coming soon

Coming Soon!!

04
Apr

Role of Honour

One of the most interesting parts of being in business is the ‘dreaded’ elevator pitch. For those unfamiliar with the ritual… If you were to walk into an elevator and somebody were to ask about your business. Could you tell them about it in the time it takes for the elevator to go from the bottom floor to the top?

About 30 seconds to be precise.

I’ve spent years creating, chopping, changing and honing my elevator pitch to meet prospective clients when out and about…

But now…

Well I simply give people one of our very special business cards (you’ll hear more about them later…) and ask them to check out our portfolio online.

I generally don’t need to say anymore, our work speaks for itself…

You’ll find most of what we do on our website and Facebook pages but not everything. So here is a quick run-through of some of the other lovely things we’ve been working on recently…

 

Fridge Angels, branding & website

Fridge Angels Branding & Website b

Women’s Enterprise Scotland, infographic

Womans Enterprise Scotland Infographic b

 

Jim Henderson, Blog & Art direction

Jim at Shirlaws Blog b

 

Murphy Insurance, Website Design
Murphy Insurance b

Altia Solutions, Product Logos

Altia Sub-brand logos b

 

Altia Solutions, Updated Brand Identity
Altia Logo b

Every project, toasted with a glass of bubbly…

Benedetto

BB

Benedetto is an enthusiastic Creative and Business person.

‘Design with soul’ may be the company tag-line, but to Benedetto, it is also a way of life. He believes that creative and commercial enterprise is about purity of thought, honesty of construction and boldness of execution.

He believes in bringing out the true essence of human endeavour and considers his job of articulating the great work of people and companies an absolute privilege.

His journey has taken him from a career in car design through to his current role as the Founder and Creative Director of the loft, a branding consultancy in Glasgow.

He is honoured to manage a great team, work with great clients and have a lot of fun mixing with so many great people in business.

28
Sep

10 ways to win and retain clients

A couple of weeks ago my company created a brand–experience chart to compliment a presentation about ‘Branding for the 21st Century.’

It can be found here…

http://www.theloft.co/loft-brand-experience-map.pdf

The chart demonstrated the importance of company culture in creating brands that people wish to engage, and more importantly, continuously engage.

Client/customer/employee loyalty is one of the most important aspects of commercial success.
VW sell close to a half million cars in Europe every year and have done so for a very long time, it is the bed-rock of the company’s success and future growth. Customer loyalty is one of the most fundamental attributes in helping a company to scale.

This can also be true with employer-employee experiences, but this post will focus on the client/customer journey.

Here are some of our top 10 ways to building a brand experience that helps to win and retain customers and clients…

1. Create your own map

As a starting point, for brand experience; start with a single client/customer group. Anything your company does that engages the five senses of the end client is a touch point. Consider direct (your communications and activities) and indirect (press coverage, word-of-mouth, market perception, etc) touch points. Touch points can range from the initial hand shake and swapping of a business card to the client’s viewing of your website, through to your e-mail system (we have a blog coming up on the dangers of poor e-mail campaigns.) There can be thousands of interactions depending on the size of your company; take the most important ones and break them into sub-categories (website – home page, about us, contact form, twitter feed, etc…) or (people – dress attire,)

2. Look out for red flags

Ruthlessly vet your business for hygiene factors throughout the ENTIRE EXPERIENCE. These are interactions that will kill the brand experience in an instant and make it almost impossible to do business with your company in the future. Obvious ones include – slow website, broken web-pages (particularly important with multi-browser compatibility,) overly aggressive sales technique, spelling mistakes, un-expected price hikes or change in ‘terms of conditions,’ any form of over-promise and under-delivery.

There are also some really trivial touch-points which may seem obvious but you’d be amazed – members of the company dealing with the client/customer who may have a limp handshake. A really trivial thing, but along with others, can damage the brand experience beyond the point of no-return before a sale has even been made.

3. Don’t forget in-direct factors

Examples of bad press, poor reputation management or the ascent of your rivals in terms of reputation and perception will reduce the quality of your brand experience. These have to be identified and confronted as quickly as possible.

4. Differentiate yourself

You have to strongly differentiate yourself in the market for anybody to take notice of you. There are mainly four ways to define a brand in the market. How you deliver your product/service, what the product or service is, who the individual in the company is and why the company exists.

How you deliver your product/services | A key differentiator may be a special warranty, Hyundai made great hay when it began offering 5-Year warranties as a symbol of their reliability. It could be a unique client experience; one accountancy firm gave their clients jelly? No I’m not kidding; one of the fastest growing accountancy firms in the country actually gave their clients jelly as part of a zany brand experience. Not everybody wants jelly from their accountants but some did and loved it… However, make sure whatever you do is in keeping with your own culture.

What you do | Do you do anything that your rivals don’t? EE, for a very limited space of time, are the only provider of 4G phones in the UK. This differentiates them. ‘Law At Work,’ one of the fastest growing legal firms in the country, is a legal brand that only operates in the area of ‘employment law,’ this exclusivity of service re-defines their expertise for a very specific type of legal work. They are perceived as specialists in a market full of generalists.

Who you are | People defined brands, brands with superstars that front them up – including all of the following – Jamie Oliver, James Dyson, Mary Portas, Gordon Ramsay, Richard Branson but more interestingly many companies/individuals still pledge allegiance to the partner as opposed to the firm in professional services.

Why you do what you do | The big one! Why do you exist as a company? What is your purpose beyond profit? The most intangible of differentiation points but the most potent. Apple are defined by ‘thinking differently,’ Google are defined by ‘indexing the worlds information,’ and the Ritz for providing the best customer experience in the world.

This may seem a bit flowery to some but it is unbelievably important to driving client/employee loyalty.

The companies that can define themselves in this way are the ones that will create a real bond with their clients, customers and staff.

I suggest that you take a piece of paper. Make a set of axis and create 4 quadrants – why, who, what and how; list all of your rivals down and see if there is any great differentiator in a clients mind between yourself and your chief rivals.

5. Watch Simon Sinek, ‘Why great leaders take action.’

For more information on creating your differentiation by ‘why you exist,’ I really advise watching Simon Sinek, ‘Why Great Leaders Take Action.’ It is a 20-minute TED talk which beautifully explains the importance of your purpose beyond profit.

6. Find out why existing customers/client choose you?

Really drill down into WHY your company wins business. Is there a real compelling reason? Is it a logical or emotive reason? Most importantly, is that reason present throughout the entire experience? A contradictory competitive advantage or brand experience pretty much kills any chance of a second sale. People struggle to trust brands that contradict themselves so finding that out should be a matter of priority.

7. ‘Walk the talk’

For existing clients/customers, failure to ‘walk the talk,’ is critical. Any form of broken promise pre-sale will be punished when it comes to product/service renewal. Whichever feeling you decide to invoke in ‘sales/marketing’ has to be consistent throughout the experience. You must ‘walk the talk.’ If you’re selling safety as the differentiator in your service, this has to be evident throughout, if you’re selling a commitment to people or social justice, this can never be contradicted throughout the entire experience. Even if there is short-term pain, a betrayal of values damages the brand, brand authenticity and relationships with clients/customers and staff.

8. Build the emotional case

For marketing and sales, I briefly mentioned technical and emotive information. People make decisions based on emotion and then justify them with logic. That doesn’t mean that logical information such as price, location, delivery of service, size of company, etc will always be overruled by pure emotion. But if all logical elements are comparable, people will make decision based on emotion and gut-feel. If a brand can invoke some kind of natural feeling, this will help considerably in getting the company over the line in winning competitive pitches or tender against their competitors.

9. Work out your ‘purpose beyond profit’

Companies with distinctive cultures and ‘a sense of mission,’ will out-perform those that are purely ‘results driven.’ They allow for more consistent brand experiences which in turn drives loyalty, companies with genuine culture have an authenticity and ‘real-ness’ that people buy into. Furthermore, evidence of a unique or strong company culture will become the best marketing collateral that you will ever have. Don’t just have values, create a set of behaviours to sit beside the values and tell the whole world about them.

10. Build the brand from the inside out.

Think of your brand as a method actor/actress. 90% of what we communicate when speaking to others is in body-language not words. When actors/actresses have to depict their roles on stage, they naturally find it impossible to control every single part of their body language and also recite their lines at the same time. This is where method-acting comes in, the actors/actresses immerse themselves in the characters to become them in their own minds’ this allows the performance to flow and create a more natural and authentic performance.

For anybody with staff and particularly those of you that runs larger companies with potentially hundreds of thousands of touch-points, you aren’t going to be able to micro-manage every single interaction – like the method actor trying to control every part of their body language, it is impossible. The only way to allow for some kind of consistency of brand experience is to immerse your staff and suppliers, into the company culture. Define your culture strongly and then communicate it internally with as much rigour and gusto as you would with external communications.

These are just some of the main ways that you can build a brand experience that helps your company to win and retain clients.

For any further advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us…

Benedetto

BB Profile Pic Small

Benedetto Bordone

Creative Director of the loft.

Benedetto runs the branding consultancy, the loft. Based in the centre of Glasgow, the loft creates emotive brands.

Benedetto began his design career aged 9, sketching cars in the loft bedroom of his parents house. Even then he realised some eternal truths. Alfa Romeos are infinitely cooler than Ferraris and always have been. Time has only hardened this opinion. Since then, he has been on a journey taking him from his hometown in Kilmarnock to Coventry, studying car design aged 17, three separate spells in Italy followed where he interned, worked & freelanced for distinguished design companies – BeeStudio, Alfa Romeo, Honda Advanced design & Stile Bertone.

Setting up his own business was a natural step for somebody as independently minded as Benedetto. The loft was set up in 2008 and offers a comprehensive branding and communication service to its clients. The company combines a deeply analytical approach into the clients culture and commercial targets before engaging in creative design and strategy work to build emotive brands.

08
Sep

Branding for the 21st Century

On Thursday night, I discussed ‘Branding for the 21st Century.’ at an event for the ‘Entrepreneurial Exchange’ in Glasgow.

The main point of the discussion was that in this the digital age, people are more important than ever before in building the great brands of today.

You can read highlights from the talk below…

The rise of the digital space has completely transformed communications for business in the last 15 years. It has allowed us a tremendous opportunity; the ability to get our own message out. For the first time in history, we can reach people from any destination from any part of the world at any time of our choosing. We have bespoke media channels and can engage in two-way conversations with potential clients and customers like never before.

The rise of digital has given brands a new repertoire of tools to engage with.

Unfortunately, it has also given us more ways than ever before to disturb, confuse and alienate our audiences. Anybody with a smart phone will know, the internet is a very noisy place. The average person will receive 142 e-mails a day at their work alone. That’s 81 received with 41 replies. Up from 101 just three years ago.

We are supposedly the most interrupted people in the history of the human race.

Unsurprisingly the brands that make the most noise are the ones that tend to engage the least.

The digital landscape has also helped to accelerate the commoditisation of many of our products/services. The easier availability of untried alternatives and further globalisation has driven down the prices of products and services that were once revenue streams to us all. You have to look no further than the media sector to see that the race to the bottom has no end in sight. There has never been a more important time to build and show value.

No matter what you do, somebody will always be able to do it cheaper. Cutting through the noise and displaying value are just two of the greatest challenges we face today as business owners.

Both challenges point to a stronger brand.

However, to build a strong brand, your company must have communications that go far beyond saying what you the think the customer wants to hear. Culture and a sense of mission underpins the strongest of brands and those that have a goal larger than profit will be the ones that engage in the strongest way with staff, customers and clients alike.

The culture within your business underpins every part of your brands communication. A brand is more than a logo, it is an entire experience; the manifestation of thousands of interactions between your company and the people it interacts with; externally and internally, online and offline. This includes factors as diverse as customer service, corporate responsibility and of course, the delivery of the end products or services themselves.

Each interaction combines to create a brand experience.

However, to create a rich experience, there has to be, what we call a brand narrative, thread through the entire company. It has to permeate the organisation from top to bottom. It’s where the brand is borne.

The business owner who knows that over-capacity in the factory can damage brand experience is one that is fully in control of their brand; they understand that sales staff will have to be more aggressive or resort to discounting – both activities that damage brand experience and value. The most aware business owners will already be hiring people that are good cultural fits and can deliver the right brand experience without even trying. With brands, actions speak louder than words.

The entrepreneur that stamps their personality on every aspect of their company will regularly lead the strongest brands.

The world’s no-1 brand Apple, under Steve Jobs may be the most vivid of examples. Only Steve Jobs could have the ingenuity to roll out I-Pod, I-Phone, I-Pad, one after the other. Game-changing products! Only Steven Jobs could steal the music industry from under the noses of those in the sector. Genius products, genius man. Only Apple, under Jobs, could have the arrogance to tell us that their brand new I-phone 4 wasn’t working because we mere mortals weren’t holding it correctly. For better or worse, a lot of great brands resemble their leaders.

There are hundreds of other examples; we could speak about Michael O’Leary, Richard Branson or even Richard Reed are all obvious ones. All people whose personal influences have helped to create brands that are memorable and easy to define.

Of course, there is a balance to be struck. The more distinctive the culture, the more likely some may be alienated. It’s fundamental that the markets you seek to enter align with brand positioning. Volvo is a brand that sells cars but to the consumer, they sell safety of themselves and loved ones when they travel. Selling safety as an emotion is fine in the family car market, less so for sports models. The very essence of strategy is the narrowing of choices and closing of opportunities to focus on the end goal. It involves discipline and there are times to be pragmatic and times to be idealistic.

These are the decisions you will face when looking to build your brand. Unfortunately there is no one-size fits all solutions to building a strong brand. However, one of the principal reasons for branding is the means to define and differentiate with competitors.

If customers can understand what you do without even thinking and you’re the answer before they’ve even asked the question then you’re communicating well.

Who you are, what you do, how you do it and why you do it are the main ways to define a brand.

All companies should be differentiated in at least one of these ways from its competitors.

Who you are… Obvious people-brands include Jamie Oliver with his restaurants or cookbooks or James Dyson with his vacuum cleaners but more interestingly, many clients still pledge allegiances with the partners as opposed to the firms they use in accountancy and legal firms. Personal branding also has a large part to play for entrepreneurs who present their brands.

Definition by What you do… Companies like EE are completely defined by temporarily being the only 4G provider of mobile services. Edinburgh firm – ‘Law at Work’ are another example. They may be small but are one of the fastest growing professional service firms in a bad time for the profession. Why? Because they only deal with issues around employment, you perceive them to be specialists in a market full of generalists. Defined more by what they don’t do as opposed to what they do.
How you do something… How does your product or service differ in its marketplace?

The companies that tend to innovate a lot round product or service offerings tend to be those with a strong core purpose which we’ll talk about next. A good example includes the first Human resource companies that offered psychometric profiling to its clients or Hyundai several years ago being the first auto maker to offer a five year warranty. Defining your company in those ways are all options available, they’ll help your company become more recognisable, memorable and easy to define.

But why you exist is the most potent way to define yourself, particularly in competitive markets. The really memorable brands are all defined by a core purpose – Nike, Apple, Ryanair, The Ritz, Innocent, Audi, IKEA, McKinsey, IBM up and coming brands such as Tough Mudder, B2C brands and B2B brands, even great Scottish brands such as Irn Bru or Tennents. These are all companies where both staff and customers and clients alike know instinctively what their brand represents. Why you do what you do is the ultimate emotional pull to staff, clients & customers. It is the sense of mission that transcends the commercial part of the business. Emotion always trumps logic; people react based on their emotions then justify their decisions with logic and facts.

Engaging with people on an emotional level is the most powerful way for a brand to communicate. The more potent the emotional argument, the greater the potential value in the brand.

Volkswagen are a company with a very high reputation for quality but consumers will pay £6000 more for a 2-litre A4 over a Passat, they are virtually the same car, many consumers know they are virtually identical yet the prestige and quality of the Audi brand commands a very significant premium.

That is maximising the emotional and commercial value of your brand.

It is not only common in cars – the best restaurants charge significant premiums for the strength of the brand experience. The big 4 do likewise in accountancy terms. Indeed there are very real opportunities for companies in the B2B space to build more engaging brands. Only 14 out of the 100 brands in the world are ‘business to business’ but the likes of IBM with Smarter Planet & Social Business have demonstrated great ways it should be done. Whatever the brand, the communications have to align with the cultural values of the company.

Everybody from the sales staff to the person that sweeps the floor must know why you’re special.

And therein lies the rub, special brands are the result of great companies.

Building a strong brand is one of the most potent weapons for growth there is. A strong brand provides the answer to just about every challenge you will face.

Obtaining sales is easier if the company has a strong brand.

Entering new markets become easier if you have a strong brand.

Launching new products, attracting the best staff, motivating existing staff, increasing margins on your products, inspiring loyalty and in some just cases feeling good about yourself and what you’re doing are all a result of a strong brand.

If you want to build real value into your brand, turn it into a cause. The companies that have a clear sense of mission are the ones most able to create a great brand story with higher value to all those that it touches.

People don’t just want leadership now, they expect it.

And those that lead in terms of innovation and culture will be those that shall be rewarded.

Cultural goals gives people in organisations scope and autonomy to make decisions, innovate and improve service/product quality. Building blocks to building even stronger brands that don’t have to compete on price. Most of the great brands mentioned above share a common theme – they are restless innovators.

Great brands are not made by digital tools, marketing agencies or people like ourselves at the loft. Our role is critical to compiling and articulating a vision but the brand message is created by the business leaders at the top. What kind of company do you want to build?

And on the subject of leadership, if brands must have personality to win in the digital race, who should determine what kind of personality the brand has? If the entrepreneur or business leader is going to be bought into a brand and drive it forward. If it’s your baby that you wish to grow. It ultimately has to reflect your character. You are the main stakeholder, it is your values, principles, interests and vision that will determine the success of the brand long after the agencies have completed their work.

With the amount of noise in today’s market, only the brands with the strength of purpose and clarity of message will gain and retain loyal clients. This can be shaped only by company culture and the vision laid out at the top of the organisation.

And it is for this reason that in this the digital age, it is people that are at the heart of building brands for the 21st century.

For further information, you can check out our info graph that compliments this talk at…

http://www.theloft.co/loft-brand-experience-map.pdf

Benedetto

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Benedetto Bordone

Creative Director of the loft.

Benedetto runs the branding consultancy, the loft. Based in the centre of Glasgow, the loft creates emotive brands.

Benedetto began his design career aged 9, sketching cars in the loft bedroom of his parents house. Even then he realised some eternal truths. Alfa Romeos are infinitely cooler than Ferraris and always have been. Time has only hardened this opinion. Since then, he has been on a journey taking him from his hometown in Kilmarnock to Coventry, studying car design aged 17, three separate spells in Italy followed where he interned, worked & freelanced for distinguished design companies – BeeStudio, Alfa Romeo, Honda Advanced design & Stile Bertone.

Setting up his own business was a natural step for somebody as independently minded as Benedetto. The loft was set up in 2008 and offers a comprehensive branding and communication service to its clients. The company combines a deeply analytical approach into the clients culture and commercial targets before engaging in creative design and strategy work to build emotive brands.

24
Apr

The West Wing Effect

It took about 10 years of my friends telling me ‘You have to watch the West Wing, you’ll love it.’ for me to take their advice. I know the first West Wing was shot in 1998 and the final one in 2006, so I am about 15 years late to the party. But a couple of months ago I got the box sets and before I knew it I was on to series 6. I got to admit, my friends were right- what a show! Packed full of drama, great personal and political stories and from what I understand- a reasonable insight into what life is really like inside the White House.

What I like most about the West Wing is the culture within the organisation, the human tales – the energy, the sense of purpose, the sense of unity. I must admit it reminded me very much of my time at Alfa Romeo nearly 10 years ago. Awake at 6AM, in work for 7AM, incredible energy, incredible passion, fierce debate, a little bit political. You seldom left before 7PM, you’d regularly still be around at 9, midnight and beyond was never out of the question. It’s probably the hardest I’ve ever worked and it was a combustible mix of passion, energy and chaos fuelled by espresso of course. Working hours were horrendous, pay was incredulous but it’s one of the experiences I look back on with the most fondness. I think it’s why I’ve enjoyed The West Wing so much. One is design, the other politics but the fundamental attributes of passion and a clear ‘sense of mission’ is evident in both.

Alfa Romeo and the President of the United States are two very emotive causes. Its crystal clear what you’re working for, the sense of mission is evident and these organisations have people that put the cause before their own needs.

Why?

Not because they have too. But because they want too.

It’s the invisible force that drives people to do better that I’m fascinated with- finding it, unlocking it, releasing it and letting it grow to let companies do better, to let people do better. To outperform the market. It’s evident in sport too. I was fascinated and delighted that Iain MacRitchie, chairman of Hobbs, at a recent dinner agreed with my question that companies could use sport teams as examples to endow their people with a sense of pride in the organisation. If you play for The All Blacks or Manchester United, you play as much for the jersey as you play for yourself. I have friends that work for companies such as Nike who are endlessly reminded of what it means to work for such a great company as well as being aware of the company values, vision and culture.

This sense of purpose.

This sense of cause should be at the heart of every organisation. Brand communication has a true role to play. To communicate a vision, you must firstly have a vision. It has to come from the management team. The people at the top must understand, live it and buy into it before anybody else can. Thereon in afterwards, it’s about telling and re-telling that story – to staff, to clients, to prospective clients, to suppliers, to investors. Getting buy-in from each of the individual stakeholders is what will propel your company forward. It will be the invisible force that enhances sales, client loyalty, client satisfaction, productivity and overall happiness in the workplace. It will be the passion that fuels new thinking and innovation.

We are officially launching a service – initially for large law firms- called Loft Legal. Long term, we’ll work with other service providers. We know that most top firms have a culture, but all too often it is hidden away. We intend to bring it out and turn it into something that can motivate, educate and inspire people to do better. Everybody knows what they do in a professional services firm and how they do it. But many just need to be reminded a bit more often, why they do what they do. Call it the ‘invisible force’ or the ‘West Wing effect.’ Given the right place, it can help to drive your company forward.

Benedetto

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Benedetto Bordone

Creative Director of the loft.

Benedetto runs the creative design consultancy, the loft. Based in the centre of Glasgow, the loft creates emotionally engaging brand identities.

Benedetto began his design career aged 9, sketching cars in the loft bedroom of his parents house. Even then he realised some eternal truths. Alfa Romeos are infinitely cooler than Ferraris and always have been. Time has only hardened this opinion. Since then, he has been on a journey taking him from his hometown in Kilmarnock to Coventry, studying car design aged 17, three separate spells in Italy followed where he interned, worked & freelanced for distinguished design companies – BeeStudio, Alfa Romeo, Honda Advanced design & Stile Bertone.

Setting up his own business was a natural step for somebody as independently minded as Benedetto. The loft was set up in 2008 and offers a comprehensive branding and communication service to its clients. The company combines a deeply analytical approach into the clients culture and commercial targets before engaging in creative design work to build emotive brands.

25
Mar

out of your head…

‘Hierarchy of information’

Remember those words.

Yes it is pretentious ‘designer-speak.’ But it is also one of the pivotal factors in the success of your website or digital presence.

Why, what, how?

Who, where and when?

These are all questions that must be considered when building new digital communications. One of the common questions we get asked from clients before building their websites is please justify the added expense of doing this activity. What’s the ROI? A question that once had me hiding underneath the table in worry is now one that I take delight in answering.

Whilst working with professional service firms I tend to notice that the partners tend to have good conversion rates when sitting in front of a prospective client. Their technical expertise and professionalism will usually win the day when speaking with new clients. Conversion isn’t as much a problem. Something I hear more of, is that they just don’t receive enough new qualified leads to convert.

And this really is the tricky bit.

This is where the company’s overall marketing and brand communications holds greater significance. Getting the right message to the right market gives you a better chance of getting more leads. And obviously your web presence is a pivotal part in this. We also find, when speaking with prospective clients, that if you ask any good accountant, lawyer, broker, advisor etc how they’ve helped their clients in the past. They’ll have wonderful and nuanced examples of how they’ve worked with different clients in different ways.

Call them ‘great stories’ or ‘great case studies,’ they have undoubted value to the people that are browsing your website, blog or LinkedIn profiles.

Where can you find these great stories?

Unfortunately they seem to live only in the heads of the people telling them. This clearly means that nobody, with the exception of those that know them or deal with them regularly, are going to know of the additional and specialised expertise.

A potential client almost certainly won’t.

Not only should they be online but they should be easily accessible too. Most people talk a good game but at some stage you have to show more.

Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?

Hierarchy of information means that you are brutally selective about the layering of information on your website or any communication platform for that matter.
Let’s be honest, we all try a little bit harder on a first date don’t we? We don’t show the other person absolutely everything on day 1 do we? Well not at the start anyway. We put our best foot forward and hope we build enough of a rapport for them to want to learn more. So why would you not approach your digital presence with the same attention to detail.

People in business are mightily busy.

Mightily busy.

So to just get a hearing, you have to remove every possible stumbling block between a prospect and what you can do to assist them.

I have said this before but Winston Churchill once apologised to his audience for a speech being too long because he just didn’t have the time to edit it for their ears.

You can forgive him.

He absolutely had the right idea. It’s YOUR responsibility to ensure that people get to see the right information, the information that can make a difference to them.

The information that justifies your fees.

It’s no good in your head when hundreds of people visit your website daily.

Well actually it’s really our responsability because that’s what we already do for all our clients. Hierarchy of information: layering the information in just the right way to help generate more sales leads. It takes time, intelligence and understanding but will make a significant difference.

How many client accounts do you have to win to justify the additional price of the website?

Yes, you’re right. It’s an absolute bargain.

Benedetto

About the Author

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Benedetto Bordone

Creative Director of the loft.

Benedetto runs the creative design consultancy, the loft. Based in the centre of Glasgow, the loft creates emotionally engaging brand identities.

Benedetto began his design career aged 9, sketching cars in the loft bedroom of his parents house. Even then he realised some eternal truths. Alfa Romeos are infinitely cooler than Ferraris and always have been. Time has only hardened this opinion. Since then, he has been on a journey taking him from his hometown in Kilmarnock to Coventry, studying car design aged 17, three separate spells in Italy followed where he interned, worked & freelanced for distinguished design companies – BeeStudio, Alfa Romeo, Honda Advanced design & Stile Bertone.

Setting up his own business was a natural step for somebody as independently minded as Benedetto. The loft was set up in 2008 and offers a comprehensive branding and communication service to its clients. The company combines a deeply analytical approach into the clients culture and commercial targets before engaging in creative design work to build emotive brands.

14
Mar

The 3-Word Challenge

Those of you that read last weeks post would have noticed that we’re talking with various legal firms about their brand identities. I did a quick-snap poll of a few business people that I knew whether they could tell me what a couple of various firms stood for?

Why they would maybe use them?

Unfortunately, nobody could give me a reasonably consistent answer for one firm. It got me thinking about the whole challenge faced by all professional service firms in this climate. They may be very good at what they do and quietly do an effective job for their clients but if the clients can’t meaningfully describe why another person should use them then they have no means to refer, no real message in the marketplace. Unfortunately it means they have a very weak brand.

In addition to what I said last week – the vocabulary we use as designers – vision, values, brand, culture, DNA etc may not be the language everybody uses to discuss their companies. But, everybody both internally and externally should instinctively know what their firm is about and why people should engage them.

‘They’re the great corporate firm.’

‘They’ll look after you.’

‘Boy they’re expensive but worth every penny.’

‘They may be lawyers but they party hard and you’ll enjoy their company.’

‘They are ruthless.’

‘They are technical wizards.’

Don’t be fooled. These conversations are going on at dinners, at events, at networking breakfasts etc all over the country.

What do you think they’re saying about your firm?
Are they saying anything noteworthy?

I don’t really go for one-size fits all theories or process diagrams that tar everybody with the same brush but I have always said that there are two fundamental rules to branding.

1. Strong message
2. Consistency

The message has to be unique in the marketplace. If I hear another lawyer or accountant tell me they want to have a relationship with me or that they’re trustworthy and have integrity I am going to scream. No thank you, that’s the least of what I expect from another professional. Tell me something more interesting??

And consistency?

Well if you tell me your firm is ‘X’ and I buy in for that reason. When I meet somebody that also requires assistance with ‘X’. I want to make sure that everybody in your firm is going to provide ‘X’ kind of service.

Otherwise I am going to be let down or can’t refer.

Great brands are pre-dominantly one thing and are known for that one thing. And please don’t think only multi-national companies have brands. They may use different terminology but it’s as applicable to your favourite restaurant as it is to your firm.

The challenge is in the message. Who has the time to read war and peace when selecting a professional? We’re all busy people. So think of the perception you want people to have about your firm. Keep it brutally simple and work backwards from there.

This is where you really have to do some work. It’s you that wants the business isn’t it?

If it’s a paragraph, it’s too long and you’ve failed.

If it goes over a sentence you’ve failed.

If you can sum it up correctly in one word, you’re a genius.

But let’s say three words!

Give yourself three words to describe why anybody should engage with you. Short, concise and easy for people to remember you by. You’ll have to go through one hell of an exercise to get it down to three words. Those three words really have to be all-encompassing and appropriately meaningful.

But you’re smart people and it’s worth the pain. Ours is ‘design with soul.’ A huge amount of work went into those three words. A momentous effort with endless trials and errors.

But those words underpin everything we do as a company

– The way we work
– Who we recruit
– What services we develop
– Who we work with
– Selecting strategic partners

Its one of the key reasons we chose not to develop services such as online marketing, web-development, web hosting, etc. Even though they may seem like more natural fits to a company that’s most popular service is still web-design.

That doesn’t mean those exact words are used when people talk about us.

But…

‘passion’ is,
‘boldness’ is,
‘excitable’ is…

Work out how you want to be perceived and work backwards from there.

Or even better, give us a bell and we’ll work on it with you.

Benedetto

About the Author

BB Profile Pic Small
 
Benedetto Bordone

Creative Director of the loft.

Benedetto runs the creative design consultancy, the loft. Based in the centre of Glasgow, the loft creates emotionally engaging brand identities.

Benedetto began his design career aged 9, sketching cars in the loft bedroom of his parents house. Even then he realised some eternal truths. Alfa Romeos are infinitely cooler than Ferraris and always have been. Time has only hardened this opinion. Since then, he has been on a journey taking him from his hometown in Kilmarnock to Coventry, studying car design aged 17, three separate spells in Italy followed where he interned, worked & freelanced for distinguished design companies – BeeStudio, Alfa Romeo, Honda Advanced design & Stile Bertone.

Setting up his own business was a natural step for somebody as independently minded as Benedetto. The loft was set up in 2008 and offers a comprehensive branding and communication service to its clients. The company combines a deeply analytical approach into the clients culture and commercial targets before engaging in creative design work to build emotive brands.