I enjoyed the conversation between The Futur’s Chris Do and Marty Neumeier so much that I decided to turn part of it into a blog. Some of you may know Marty Neumeier as an author and speaker on all things brand. Marty has a long history in the industry starting in the 1970s as a graphic designer and copywriter. He’s known too for helping famous companies like Apple, Netscape, HP, Adobe, and Google build their brands.
Chris Do: “The term ‘branding’ I think unfortunately people use it interchangeably with logo design, identity design or even sometimes typography and maybe we need to set the record straight and I know you’re the best person to tell us, ‘What is branding, Marty?’”
Marty: “Let’s start with what branding isn’t. It’s not a logo. A logo is a very useful tool for a business but it’s not the brand. It’s a symbol for the brand. A brand is not a product, so when people talk about buying this brand or that brand, they’re really talking about buying one product or another product. People say a brand is a promise a company makes to customers, and there’s some truth in that. It does end up acting as a promise but that’s not what it is either. Advertising people like to say it’s the sum of all impressions that a company makes on a n audience. Well, if you’re trying to sell a lot of impressions, I see where that might be useful to you from a business point of view, but why do they want that and how does that help people understand what they’re doing?”
“A brand is a result, it’s a customers gut feeling about a product or service or a company. It ends up in their heads, in their heart. They take whatever raw materials you throw at them and they make something out of it. But they’re making it, they’re creating it and so in a sense when you create a brand you’re not one brand, you’re creating millions of brands. However many customers or people in your audience, each one has a different brand of you. So a brand is a reputation, so everyone is gonna be a little bit different about what that reputation is, and that’s okay as long as you’ve got it corralled mostly where you want it, and that its beneficial to the company.”
Marty then explained how designers and clients might perceive of what branding is. He also went on to explain on how designers may benefit from their knowledge of branding and business.
“Designers tend to look at branding, from our point of view, as something we’re doing. We’re telling a story where we’re making a client, or we’re pitching, and that’s what we do, but that’s not what a brand is. A brand is a result of that and if you don’t start there you don’t know what you’re doing. You actually don’t know what you’re doing. You think you know what you’re doing but you don’t. So, from a designer’s point of view, for me, its my gut feeling right about whether this is gonna work or not and then I would sell it as hard as I could get the client to sign it off on it.”
“From the client’s point of view they’re going, ‘Well, it’s a checklist - I got the logo, I got the tagline, I got the ad campaign click check, and they think they’re done, right? None of that’s right. You know what’s right is what happens in people’s heads. Like, what have we achieved, what’s the reputation that we’ve created through the products we’re putting out and the design of the products. The messaging we’re putting out, the look and feel of them, our culture, how does that affect people, how our employees behave, how is that affecting our reputation? All that stuff counts so it’s a big world, and it actually takes in almost all of the business. Not so much finance, but finance is involved too because finance has to green light all these things. But almost everybody in company is affecting the brand, doing something with the brand. Doing it for the brand or hurting the brand. So, you got to think of it that way.”
“This is not well understood. So, anybody who gets this and can explain it is in a very powerful place with the company. Now, designers are naturally good at this. Like if we opened our minds to it and learn a few skills, learn a little bit more about business, we suddenly have a lot more control over how our work is perceived by our clients. How it works in the marketplace, how much you get paid for it, and at some point when you really get good at this, you don’t have to charge by the hour, you charge by the results and not even that, you charge for being involved at the very highest level and it can be huge amounts of money, so the range of starting out as an hourly performer, getting up to where you’re an expert in something is huge. I mean, that the difference is like these millions of dollars in your income so it’s worth doing is what I’m saying. So, no matter what skills you have, creatively if you find out how they apply in the world of branding, they’re suddenly more valuable. Same skills, but you will be doing it differently, and you’ll have the confidence that you’re doing it really, really, well and you can explain why.”
I hope this blog has helped give you some insights as to what branding is.