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D&AD Sharp’ner Branding 2.0: Thoughts

15 May, 2011 - Source: Else

SomeOne/Else was invited to speak on a panel for a D&AD Sharpener called Branding 2.0. Warren Hutchinson, SomeOneElse Founder & Creative Director got to chew the fat with some of the branding industry’s big guns.

  • Sharp’ner Branding 2.0: Thoughts
    Sharp’ner Branding 2.0: Thoughts

On the 4th of May SomeOneElse was invited to speak on a panel for a D&AD Sharpener called Branding 2.0.


Hosted by Simon Manchipp (Someone, @Manchipp) and including some of the branding industry’s leading lights, Marina Willer (Wolff Olins, @Wolffolins), Michael Johnson (Johnson Banks, @JohnsonBanks), Graham Jones (Venture 3, @venturethree) and Jason Little (Landor Associates, @jaslittle), the evening promised to be intesting indeed and even alluded to some ‘heated debate’.


The purpose was to bring together varying aspects of branding practice, new and old and to discuss the current state of play. What’s happening? What’s changing and all that.


Of course, you’re going to get a range of views, opinions and ideas particularly as those on stage were from different backgrounds and equipped with different ideologies and design agendas.


Suffice to say, it was an opportunity to talk about something that SomeOneElse finds really interesting and exciting, and that is branding behaviour.


However, before the ‘gloves came off’ there was a Pecha Kucha style opener by each panel member. We love the format as it forces the presenter to not only cut the waffle and get to the point, it also forces them to think very carefully about their chosen images.


True Pecha Kucha (which this wasn’t) means that you have to use 20 slides auto timed to last 20 seconds. You’re only allowed images and no words, no builds, just straight off the bat.


We don’t recall anyone sticking to the format (even me, I always need some diagrams), but what struck us was the different takes on what ‘Branding 2.0' is all about.


Out of respect for the rules and the format, I wont dissect what was said by each individual as it’s in the spirit of the debate to do it then and there, not from the comfort of your blog post.


However, I will say this, it is annoying when somebody takes the opportunity to show their work and not debate the issue at hand in the given format. In this case, unless it is an example of where where branding practice is going, then basically I consider it vanity – like showing photographs of your kids, nice for you but boring for the audience.


However, PK is a tough format to use on such an involved topic and without prep you are screwed, so respect to those that gave it a bash.


Anyway, The rub on branding?


Marina Willer opened with (and nailed it in one slide for my money) ‘Branding isn’t what you say about you, it’s about what Google says about you.


Bang on.


Jason Little talked about how you should take risks, had a view on guidelines and their role/use and swore a plenty (as did I).


I talked about branding behaviours and the need for new skills in implementing design with clients.


Graham Jones talked about ‘big’ and Michael Johnson refused to sit in the chair to aid filming like everyone else, But then,if you’ve been DandAD President, you can walk if you want to, and fair enough.


He went on to talk about how education doesn’t really teach you to break the rules and tried to keep it student focussed (the gap between education and industry being a fav topic of mine).


Well as far as we’re concerned branding stopped being about what it looked like years ago and has long since been about the experience people have. This isn’t a new idea, of course, but quite how the conversation kept coming back to guidelines and identity design was beyond me.


Without repeating the content in this post on branding behaviour, we are now in a post broadcast era where simply shouting about your brand / product / service is futile. Futile because if it’s under par you’ll be found out and people are more than happy to share their good and bad experiences all too readily.


It takes about 1 or 2 bad reviews in 10 (anecdotal) to dissuade someone from buying you, as a brand you’re now out of control because people would sooner take the opinion of a guy they’ve never met, in a country they’ve never been to on a product theyre thinking of buying over your agouti snooty broadcasty nonsense.


Now more importantly than ever, you have to walk the walk, you have to do and not just say.


It seems to me that traditional branding has been, to quote an old colleague of mine from LBi – Dom Collier, “…sat on an enchanted island for decades’ enjoying the fact that they can’t be measured.”


To folk who work with ‘digital’ none of this is new, but I was surprised it wasn’t a core thread in the discussion.


I don’t think debating whether or not the ‘logo is dead’ was the point either, when Simon Manchipp said this at the D&AD President’s Lecture, he was alluding to need for a richer brand world, more substance and he’s bang on.


No one says that the logo has no role or is really dead or that there’s no place for it. The truth is that it’s not the most important weapon in the branding armoury anymore. Neither is the slogan, strap line or advert. If that’s your main contribution as a agency then you’ve just been downgraded in your importance to branding practice.


As digital channels become more ubiquitous, customers contact businesses increasingly through screens and these engagements are typically task oriented, check prices, opening times, find directions, read a review, read a specification etc etc etc.


Does the development of brand guidelines consider these mission critical red-route customer tasks?


No, because according to Landor’s Jason Little “Guidelines are the dullest part of what we do….”.


I cant remember what he said exactly after this, but it was something like… We give guidelines to in house teams because they’re not as talented and need rules and to ‘brighten’ their day.


You can see a snippet of video here on the D&AD site – and btw, I’m not reneging on the rules as D&AD posted it.


This of course is like a red rag to a bull for me, having spent a good 7 years of my career working clientside within in-house teams. It’s for another post entirely, but let’s just say that anyone who is arrogant and patronising enough to say something along these lines, obviously hasn’t actually spent enough time trying to implement design in an operational business and maybe thinks that throwing it over the fence is enough to make it stick.


Anyway, the debate was just starting when it ended. I think we’d all have a good old chinwag over a beer or two, I look forward to the inevitable round 2 and I have some recommendations for Manchipp as to who should ‘represent’.


Some Links


Further thoughts from some folks who were there Moving Brands, JohnsonBanks, Paul Bailey and D&AD thembadselves.

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