Part of the communications business I play in involves branding—the art of helping companies convey their essence to the world. It starts with a logo, an identity…but of course it extends to much more than that.
Good companies that become great companies owe much of their success to their brand–the collective presentation of who they are, what they are and how they make people feel—all of which becomes anchored to and triggered by brand symbology and “touch points” (what people see, hear and experience when they encounter you) over time.
To some, it’s flippant work. Fluff stuff. Just-pay-somebody-five-bucks-who-cares-we-can-always-change-it-later-stuff.
Those are not the people who “get it.” The ones who “get it” know branding is hard work, and important work. It’s not work that you rush. It’s not work that you do at a distance, by committee or with rubber stamps.
It’s definitely not work that you meddle in if you don’t grasp its significance to the core, or if you don’t understand principles of design or if, God forbid, you don’t possess the ability to discern good design from bad. (Admit you don’t know and leave it to the experts.)
It’s also not work that you do by getting someone to send you a link so you can “see what you think.” No. Some things are meant to be done in a more measured fashion. And no self-respecting branding expert—graphic designer, writer, account executive, web designer, etc.—will break this rule. It’s a cardinal rule.
Caveat: The only time this rule might be bent is between designers or account people who work together and who have developed trust in each other over time. They will sometimes review work in progress asynchronously between themselves—but never to the client.
Every person who has been fortunate enough to create iconic brands knows how the process works best. They will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and tyrannical executives, but they will not “send the link.” They will postpone the universe and the machinations of commerce until they get their fair chance to present the work.
Best case, they will move heaven and earth to physically be in front of you when they present. Because they want and need to be there. They need to see your eyes and read your body language. They need to hear your reactions. They need you to shut up, turn off all devices and pay attention.
But more importantly, they need you to literally see, hear and understand them. They are presenting to you like a top defense lawyer who is there to convince a jury her client is not guilty and deserves to live. It’s the same thing. To the designer, brand champion and visionary–it’s a matter of life and death.
Worse case, because the world is big and we have lots of technology, the designer may agree to present through a Web conference. Reluctantly. Now and forever more, this is a necessary evil in the branding business. But it’s never as good as face-to-face.
Imagine if you can the first time someone was presenting the Nike logo. Fortunately, they didn’t have the Internet then, so some exec could just ask for “a link” to check out options. I don’t even know if the original designer presented options, or just the simple mark she created. But can you imagine the email exchange that might have ensued?
DESIGNER: OK, Bill and Phil. Here’s the link you requested. Let me know what you think.
PHIL: WTF is this? It looks like a check mark.
BILL: No. No! What else ya got? We’re paying you for this?? Go back to the drawing board.
Instead, the designer was given the chance to present her case, rightfully so, resulting in her ability to paint pictures, words and a story behind the swoosh that launched a thousand swooshes, and a thousand companies that all wish they were Nike and aren’t.
Or what about Starbucks? Can you imagine if that was designed over email?
DESIGNER: Here’s a link to view my recommended direction. I think you will love it.
HOWARD: WTF is this? We are selling COFFEE here. I have no idea what this is supposed to represent. What are all these squiggly lines? And why doesn’t this cartoonish woman have HANDS? AND WHERE ARE THE COFFEE BEANS OR ANYTHING COFFEE RELATED? We are paying you for this??
Instead, the designer was given the chance to present her case, which launched the brand you can’t escape, with the alluring logo and products you are addicted to, that other coffee shops only wish they had.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are great brands. Because great brands are works of art—not science projects and Survey Monkey polls…and most certainly they are not commodities.
If you hire a talented, passionate brand expert who “gets it,” you’re going to have to wait and follow a process. Be thankful and grateful for that process. Grab a Starbucks and relax. Just do it.