Writing a good creative brief is a lot like cooking. You shop your competition just like you shop for food, walking the aisles of all your resources; hand selecting what you think are good brand staples you may want to mirror, and those you don’t.
You get all of your ingredients together, prep, and then start cooking.
Sounds simple enough but brand recipes are complex. Depending on how many cooks are in the kitchen, it can even get messy. Everyone has their own taste and style of working; getting on the same page means you have to respect all that is brought to the table.
Many questions arise to be answered. This is where your brand flavor begins. Are you going to brine, use a sauce or prepare a fond broth? What spices do you want to include in your brand?
Certainly you have your main course, but you will also have your sides, desserts and beverages. You have a table to set that may be casual or sophisticated. You may have a centerpiece and table décor to complement the setting. Then you have your guests to consider.
This is where it gets tricky. Your guest experience is going to be the most important part of the brand meal. Making your guest feel welcome is paramount. Flawless table service with right timing is like good grammar and punctuation. People notice.
Inviting interesting guests who will have things in common, but also those who are of different backgrounds and culture will help to keep things lively.
If you think of your creative brief this way, you will be able to determine what goes into the entire brand strategy with a fresh perspective. You will have a beautiful brand to plate, satisfying every touchpoint.
Strategic brand expressions come from many influencers. Consultants can be your top producers. They bring the freshest ideas to the table.
Where you are in the food chain of branding directly influences what consumers experience.
I’ve been on all sides of the pyramid, and consultants are often left out of the kudos loop. With so many contributors to the brand strategy, things get misinterpreted, diluted, and sometimes directed by unseasoned brand marketing teams. The creative brief is vague, or not well thought out. The food chain of brand creative—the marketing landscape, the brand positioning, the brand narrative, and the brand promotion activities are divvied up. You never know if you are talking to the decision maker or not. Are your ideas even presented?
In nature you have the top-level consumer, the secondary consumer, the primary consumer, the producers and the decomposers. Where do your ideas fit into the brand food chain?
In branding, as with everything, perceptions are unique to the individual. Branding poses a question that seeks the right answer. Branders want to set the hook and get consumers caught up with stories and symbols. They mean well, but without a 360 view of the landscape, an ethos of truth, and meaningfully engaging brand touch-points…it’s just who is the biggest fish.
I’m not always the one to present to the client, and many great ideas have been lost in the shuffle. It’s not always appropriate, or timely, to express why a name or brand theme is relevant. Or why it deserves undivided attention.
What the consumer gets is what can be cleared and registered in a trademark category, who is presenting the solutions, and the interactive communication skills on a specific day.
I have many projects with very short turnaround time, barely enough to scratch the surface of what goes into a great brand name. Depending on where I am in the brand food chain, where others may have had months to work on a naming project, I have a day or two. How does this happen? How can something so important be reduced to a few days of exploration? Still many, many, go to market, and I am pleased to have created them, either direct to client or through an agency.
Thankfully, I am hardwired, and easily inspired to name. I have no problem coming up with great names in a very short period of time, although I do prefer having time for deep research. It proffers names I would never have thought of otherwise. Great names can come in an instant, but having time to explore is optimum.
Exploring opens up opportunities for brand names that are not just quickly constructed, but deep in meaning. Smart names that people fall in love with and trust for good reason.
I recommend clients hire a seasoned brand team, including both big picture thinkers and detail experts. This is where consultants are extremely valuable. They see white space, and bring solutions to your brand you may not have thought of. Professionals with years of experience are a worthwhile investment of your resources.
Your customers want brands that are not just words in a sea of words. They want fresh ideas that hook the heart on joyful experiences. Brands that are simple to understand but offer an expanding adventure.
Being in branding is a whole new animal then when I started. It seems the market is flooded with creative branding experts both as companies and independents. Budgets have been cut drastically and the value of contributors is dwindling.
As I read the news, and listen to the buzz on social, it seems like a lot of people are scrambling for a piece of the pie, which is now in the sky.
What to do? I propose barter. I’m sure you have clients and friends who frequently ask for your help but offer nothing in return. They want referrals, free consulting, images, art, logos, concepts, names, and just about anything they can get from you.
They are desperate. Money has been tight. They are not sure how they are going to continue their business. Again I say…get bartering. If you are approached by someone who wants something, unless you want to give it freely, ask for a barter.
We all have something to offer. If cash is not flowing, start giving. But, do it with a twist. I suggest asking for what you want, or need in return. Quit giving yourself away.
In light of this, I am offering barter. It’s going to have to be fair trade. But, I am at least open to it. Pro-Bono is fine if you want to volunteer, but for anything else—ask for something in return. Use this incentive.
Best of Barter. Your time for my time.
Make an offer and we’ll both get our needs met. It’s a valuable option for those with or without cash. As we move into the future of commerce, Namelink is leading the way.
For people who have needs, and are always helping others without pay, this makes perfect sense!
If you have cash, that’s great. I expect it paid on time, no excuses. Getting 50% minimum up-front for the deliverables is mandatory, unless we have made special arrangements or you provide a retainer. The balance is due on delivery. Again, no tikie no washi.
No other businesses allow you to walk out of the store without paying. Cash or credit is up to you. Barter is a good business alternative.
Now, you have a choice. Make me an offer I can’t refuse, and put it in writing. Or, get ready to pony-up the cash.
When quality is your brand signature, style follows.
Shopping at discount stores like Marshalls, T.J.Maxx or Ross gives you access to a multitude of brands in one place. Secondhand stores also have their charm. You scan the selections of fabric, color, design, craftsmanship, texture and feel to find yourself.
Each of us has a particular style that we gravitate toward and purchase that which reflects our best self.
Places that offer such a wide assortment of items can be confusing, but they also call on us to use our style intuition. Impulse buying is fairly common in these large discount stores. You go in to get one or perhaps two items and end up coming out with more than you ever intended. For me, the extras are usually cookware or plates and bowls, a great new cutting board, or a fun, new set of sheets.
What all of these have in common is style. I don’t know what brands are going to grab my attention. I could care less. I know a good thing when I see it. I know it’s my style. It’s always surprising when I go for something and it’s a brand that I know well, have bought often, and instinctively know it’s for me. The style and quality sell me before I see the label.
Since I am in the brand business, and have a fine sense of what brand essence is all about, you’d think I was a brand devotee. I am not. What I am is a style devotee.
Packaging may impact my buying decision but quality is the hallmark of style. Quality is my brand.
Quality is more than an aspiration, it’s an action of love. Quality is what makes a brand stand out. Quality is style defined. A mark of simplicity, durability, elegance and sophistication. When I create a brand, quality is first on my list. The work I provide, and how I relate to my clients, demands quality within every phase of the project. I deliver.
Second is how will this brand make my client and their customer feel? The answer should be outstanding, empowered, enthused and satisfied.
When style is your brand, and quality is your standard, it is not all that important how you design around it. No doubt, it should be an interesting and delightful image that adds impact, a name that is aligned with the attributes of excellence, and a brand message that speaks the truth, but without style and quality built in to your product, nothing will make up for shoddy craftsmanship.
Creating radiant brand essence is paramount. That’s why I am selective about who I work with. I expect that the people I work with have the same standards of excellence that I do. I shop for clients they same way I shop for anything. I’m looking for the best. A big brand does not always mean quality has been built in. Now, more than ever, it’s the little guy who has a big idea with a great work ethic. They have a sense of what makes something great, partner with others who have the same ethos, and deliver products and services that make a difference in our world.
I am on their side, and quality and style are my brand of choice.
Namelink provides a full spectrum of brand services, articulately designed to meet and exceed a style guide that exudes quality, inside and out.
Are you in the caterpillar or butterfly stage of branding your company, product or service?
This is an apt comparison to the lifecycle of creating your brand. Each stage is vital to the full soul development of your beautiful creation. A brand that gracefully lands on the shoulder of humanity. An imago brand that scatters coherent light, migrating to meet your customer where they are.
Brands become a part of us as their symbols, stories, myths, and languages pollinate, crossing borders of culture with a message of love.
“Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?”
Caterpillars mature though a series of stages called instars. At the end of each instar the larva sheds the old cuticle and expands, before rapidly hardening and developing pigment.
Development of the butterfly wing patterns begins at the last larval instar.
Wing development starts with wing disks. In the final instars stage the wing size increases dramatically and begin to develop patterns with wing hallmarks.
Brand development has its own instar phases.
Butterfly conception is followed by maturing larva which then transforms into a chrysalis. Metamorphosis begins. At this point, several boundaries seen in the adult color pattern are marked by changes in the expression of particular transcription factors in the early pupa.
The imago is now nearly ready to fly. Just after it emerges from its pupal stage a butterfly cannot fly until its wings are unfolded. Next, it spends time inflating its wings to let them dry. This can take up to three hours.
Minute scales create the coloration of the butterfly wings. The structural coloration is the result of coherent scattering of light by the scales.
Butterflies also have geographic and seasonal forms. Mimicry is common. They have impressive scent antennae, their sense of taste is 200x stronger than a human, and their vision is well developed. Some species are especially sensitive to the ultra violet spectrum.
Some are territorial and actively chase off other species or strays.
These instars phase attributes are all very similar to the lifecycle of a brand and its strategic advance.
Butterfly eggs are affixed to a leaf with a special glue. The nature of the glue is unknown. It hardens quickly. It is so hard that the silk pad, to which the setae are glued, cannot be separated.
When we look at sticky brands, we need look no further than nature and its amazing feats.
Working with us is like that. We stick with you though thick and thin, and our nature kindly nurtures a brand the world will love.
For more joy…check this out.
These are the most stunning examples of wings you will ever see.
I fall in love with some brand items, like my walking shoes from Fila. The next thing I know they are worn out. I go to get a replacement pair and they no longer have them. Fortunately, I was able to get them to transfer the last pair in my size from another location. They said it could take up to three weeks; not good enough when you walk every day. Luckily they came in within a week and I was back in stride.
Then once again, I wore them to a thread and had to repeat the process. Ugh! They had none. The shoe was officially redesigned and not to my liking. Although they looked similar, they did not have the walking-on-air fit I wanted. I had tried them before in desperation. They immediately caused blisters due to the heel spine up the back. Chalked up as an expensive mistake, they are still in the box destined for donation.
Walking every day my shoes wear out pretty quickly. I had waited too long to replace them and needed something now. Not tomorrow—now!
It was semi-traumatic. I get used to my shoes; they are my trusty companion, a part of my everyday life. A comfortable extension of me. They form-fit my gait.
Now comes the switch. I have to change brands instantly. I choose my new shoe brand feeling a sense of loss. I identified with my Filas and am forced to leave my brand loyalty behind.
In with the new—no looking back. Fila lost a customer and Sketchers gained a new brand evangelist.
Shoes are very personal. I generally choose low-key colors and styles with minimal brand identification. Uh oh! These had fluorescent pink trim accents with their ‘S’ logo branding on both sides, plus the tongue messaging, ‘Sketchers Go Walk’. The mid-outsole side dons the Resalyte Technology name. They were the only pair left in my size and on sale; 7’s seem to go quickly. I caved and bought them.
As soon as I put them on I loved them. No breaking them in; they were perfect from the first step. They felt like they were custom made for me. As for the neon pink accents—surprise!—they make me happy to see their bright lights in action and put a little more pep in my step. I did not go all the way and switch out the black laces. They give you both options, a nice bonus—two pair of laces with your shoes. Black and hot pink. Choice is always an excellent personal touch from my perspective. The pink laces would have been overkill for me, but someone else might love them.
What might have never happened did, when my brand of choice left me no option but to move on. Some brand loyalty gets in the way of finding other products and services you may enjoy even more. In this case, a lot more.
Perhaps brands should ask customers before they make formulation or style changes. No one needs brand blisters. Social media is a perfect opportunity to test the waters in the wake of change. Retaining loyal customers is easier than finding new ones and, with so many options to choose from, in some cases, one blister is all it takes for a customer to walk away.
I was a Fila, now I’m a Sketcher, and my memory foam has adapted.
Check out this product description to find out just how great these shoes are. Seriously, once you read this, you will want these shoes. They live up to every promise. Including no stinky feet!
How people navigate and process information has a direct impact on how your brand is perceived. Individual viewing goals are not always the same. When we move through life in the fast lane we get ‘there’ more quickly but miss most of the scenery.
Scenery opens your heart, allowing your gaze to relax and see things from a different perspective. It gives you time to digest and direct your thoughts and feelings to the most nourishing intention. Does your brand offer a place to slow down and appreciate the nuance of now?
While the world of information is honking its horn to get you moving faster and faster, you do have a choice—it’s the bike lane on the Information Superhighway.
I’m not talking about reverting to dial-up connections; I’m talking about being present. You don’t need an adrenaline boost to be present. You pace yourself and slow down to breathe easier, think more clearly and enjoy the view. It’s also where your customer chooses you. It’s a thoughtful decision without a barking dog harassing them. This is where loyalty is born. You did not push them to make a decision; you gave them a comfortable place to meet your brand without demands.
Gearing ourselves to the optimum speed means we learn to shift. Life can be hard when you are in the wrong lane or gear. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing right now—shift. Shift into yourself. How does that feel?
You can shift into a new gear if you are taking a hill. Shift into a new gear if you are merging with traffic, or shift into a new gear of thinking and just coast—that’s right, coast until you are ready to take the next turn of events, make a purchase, or decide what to click on.
Think of the bike lane as the scenic route; you still get to your destination—but at your own speed and frame of reference, refreshed and ready to move on, sharing your vision and heart with clarity of purpose.
On being a lane changer…
Meeting your customer where they are, at whatever speed, means your brand will shift up and down, some times moving from the bike lane into the fast lane and back again to accommodate their personal needs. When your brand is flexible and can shift gears easily, the ride is enjoyable for all.
Your cat meowing at 4am…a bird chirping at 5am…the garbage truck at 6am or your alarm at 7am? Sounds are alive, and your brand is more alive with sound. Utilizing sound to represent your brand impacts memorablity. It wakes us up like nothing else, and stays with us nearly indefinitely. The following information is written by experts in sound with full attribution to the authors and references. My friend Beth Underwood wrote the first article for me, and the next is all excerpts from Diane Ackerman’s outstanding book, A Natural History Of The Senses. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do sharing it. It’s fascinating.
Why Sound Mark?
Sound is intrinsically linked with memory. Even if there were no scientific data to support this, it would be difficult to overlook the fact that the temporal lobe of the human brain is all about auditory function and memory.
But there is scientific data, and it’s not dependent on the Mozart Effect. Infants recognize a familiar voice before they can identify that person with a name. Alzheimer patients know a familiar voice long after they have forgotten the name attached to it. Dementia patients frequently are able to sing songs when all other speech is no longer coherent.
Traditionally and today, distinctive sounds and rhythmic patterns are used as mnemonic devices to trigger memory. But there’s another advantage to using a distinctive sound signature—throughout history, sound and music have been identified with strong emotions. In a musical score, the directives often are meant to provoke a certain emotional response (vivace, grave = vivacious, solemn).
During the halcyon days of Greece, the structure of music was based on modes—similar to what we now call keys. But they believed each mode had specific meanings and usages attached to them. During the European Medieval era these modes were revived, and composers were obliged to use one specific mode for a particular emotion such as romantic love, and another mode for love of one’s country, for instance.
Both the Greeks and Boethius (Medieval music authority) considered music a serious science, which, like medicine, influenced the humours, as well as physical parts of the human body. Music, like mathematics and astronomy, reflected universal patterns and truths.
We could go back as far the ancient Syrians and as recently as yesterday for examples, but the point is that music and sound are inherently tied to memory and emotion—in turn, the most effective and most motivating elements of advertising. To make use of this powerful tool, sound, is smart business.
Distinctive, smart, aural punctuation as brand identification works.
References: The Oxford Companion to Music Science and Music, Sir James Jeans The Psychology of Music, Carl E. Seashore Concise History of Western Music, B. R. Hanning A Plain and Easy Introduction to Practical Music, Thomas Morley
Music, the perfume of hearing.
An ancient Chinese proverb says: “A bird does not sing because it has an answer—it sings because it has a song.” Birds speak dialects, as people do. There are auditory niches, echolocations. Leonardo da Vinci once suggested dipping an oar into the water and listening, with one ear against the handle…an auditory straw of sorts.
What we call “sound” is really an onrushing, cresting, and withdrawing wave of air molecules that begin with a movement of any object, however large or small, and ripples out in all directions.
Sound travels through the air at 1,100 feet per second, significantly slower than the speed of light (186,000 miles per second). That’s why, during a thunderstorm, one often sees a flash of lightening and hears the thunder a few moments later.
Sounds so captivate us that we love hearing words rhyme, we like their sounds to ricochet off of one another. Sometimes we prefer words to sound like what they mean, in the aural equivalent of a pun: hiss, whisper, chirp, slither, babble, thump. The word murmur makes us murmur just to say it.
A campfire wouldn’t be as exciting if it were silent.
At the peak of our youth, our ears hear frequencies between sixteen and 20,000 cycles per second-almost ten octaves—beautifully, and that encompasses a vast array of sounds. Middle C is only 256 cycles per second, whereas the principle frequencies of the human voice are between 100 cycles per second for males and 150 for females. As we age and the eardrum thickens, high frequency sounds don’t pass as easily along and between the bones to the inner ear, and we start to lose both ends of the range, especially the high notes.
Every religion has it’s own liturgy, which is important not just in teachings but also because it forces the initiate to utter the same sounds over and over until the are ingrained in memory, until they become a kind of aural landscape. We are a species capable of adding things, ideas, and creative artifacts to the world, even sounds, and when we do, they become as real a fact as a forest.
The odd thing about music is that we understand and respond to it without actually having to learn it. Each word in a verbal phrase tells something all by itself; it has a history and nuances. But musical tones mean something only in relation to one another, when they are teamed up.
Like pure emotions, music surges and sighs, rampages or grows quite, and, in that sense it behaves so much like our emotions that it seems to symbolize them, to mirror them, to communicate them to others, and thus frees us from the elaborate nuisance, and inaccuracy of words…music is a language which communicates experience.
If we transform music into emotion, how closely does this emotion resemble the original emotion? About as closely as the emotions of one human being can ever resemble those of another.
Music speaks to us so powerfully that many musicians and theorists think it may be an actual language, one that develops about the same time as speech. Music is a kind of intelligence, an aptitude like that for words or numbers, with which we’re simply born. PET scan recordings show that reading excites the left hemisphere of the brain, music the right.
How do we assign a particular meaning to a piece of music? How do we understand the language of music without learning it? It’s deeply hereditary.
A single chord is a calling card and, at that, a mighty simple chord, based on universally shared mathematics. Does music, then, have a grammar, like language, or its own set of mathematical laws? Each civilization seems to prefer hearing tones arranged in certain patterns according to slightly different laws. According to Felix Mendelssohn, it’s not because music is too vague, as one might think, but rather too precise to translate into other tonal idioms, let alone words. Words are arbitrary. There’s no direct link between them and the emotions they represent. Instead, they lasso an idea or emotion and drag it into view for a moment. We need words to corral how we feel and think; they allow us to reveal our inner lives to one another, as well as to exchange goods and services. But music is a controlled outcry from the quarry of emotions all humans share.
For Mozart, music was not only a passionately intense intellectual medium, it was one through which he felt, indeed conducted, precise emotion. Everyone touched by a piece of music hears it differently. Some animals and people speak in music alone. In Australia, the aboriginals have divided up their land according to a maze of invisible roads called Songlines.
When words and music meet, each enhances the effect of the other. Our pupils dilate and our endorphin level arises when we sing; music engages the whole body, as well as the brain, and there is a healing quality to it. Vision vs. Tone? If you mix blue and yellow together, you lose the individual colors and make a new one; tones, on the other hand may be combined without losing their individuality. What you end up with is a chord, something new, which has its own sound but in which the individual tones are also distinct and identifiable. A chord “ is something like an idea,” philosopher of music Victor Zuckerkandl writes, “an idea to be heard, and idea for the ear. An audible idea.”
Music is not just in time…it does something with time. Tones mark time.
Love is everywhere. When you see life though loving eyes it greets you with a smile and unfolds its arms with a warm embrace. It makes no difference if you are looking for the right name, a brand solution or an image. It’s all there for you to see, if only you will look. It’s calling out to you to be noticed and appreciated. It only needs a second to appear and give you the answer you are looking for. Opportunity shows its happy face with little or no effort when you are open to it.
The main mosaic image was from an abandoned storefront in Capitola, California, the double-delight rose is from my front yard, the pomegranate was sliced open for my food blog, and the bird of paradise leaf was fresh from Home Depot’s garden center.
See what I mean? You create a brand just like a mosaic—adding one element at a time, piece by piece, and keep it evolving with new brand attributes…a brand mosaic never ends.
When you build a brand, you keep your eyes open, and new ideas appear from everywhere.