london-branding-agency-garden
 

The Trump Effect



I heard the words ‘brand Trump’ early this morning, and that this is something that Trump ‘has’ that’s helped his journey to the Whitehouse. This made me ask myself the question, how does that work? ignoring the medias additional dislike for Hillary, one needs to think about what ‘brand Trumps’ values would be; hatred, fascism, greed, power? I don’t know the man, and struggle to weave enough knowledge around media hype to get a real sense of what he is really like, but if the media is correct and that he is targeting white Americans, and as the media also says’ that these are mostly less educated white americans, then how does this work? do people really dislike other people due to the colour of skin – really?

Fortunately, the Americans I know and have met over the years definitely do not share these values, and I would bet their vote went somewhere else, but this does make me think a bit deeper of the power of the bigger market, or in brand or marketing terms ‘mass market appeal’. Something that I have struggled with over the years is designing for the mass market, the issue is that the more you work in the design industry, the more refined your skills become, especially if your influenced by the best of the design industry. But of course, the more you design for ‘good design’ the less you are designing or creating brands for the masses.

Here’s my logic for it though; brands have either a long shelf life or a short shelf life, they are either there one minute and gone the next, or they have a lasting effect, and brands are what influence people. I often hear people say they don’t like a new brand, which incidentally are often brands that I like due to the very fact that they disrupt the market, and yet months later you may well find that brand on their shelves and the same people once hating the brand, starting to berate the brand like it is something they have loved from the beginning. So in my logic, people, and clients, are unlikely to like a good disruptive brand when they first see it, it will make them feel uncomfortable, it will make them feel like it is too risky. It takes time of living with a brand to truly understand it and the best people to understand these things are people who do branding for a living, people who know how people react to brands and can anticipate the relationship.

Taking this back to ‘brand Trump’, here we have someone who has managed to work his way to the Whitehouse through the mass market vote, a vote made potentially as a vote of frustration than of logic, not a million miles away from Brexit, so the question from myself would be this – is the mass market vote the right one to collect? yes of course, but does it work well enough? I believe Sir Winston Churchill once said “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” So it’s interesting that we employ the very best at what they do, the most educated and wisest that we can find, and in the case of the brexit, we don’t use their knowledge and wisdom, we use the common vote, who often doesn’t understand policy, but vote based on feeling left out, a kind of ‘getting you back’ vote.

In relation to a retail brand, it is the power of knowing how it will ‘play out’ that makes it more powerful, and all too often people making decisions on the client side are made based on the safe side, rather than risk, but this decision should be left with the creative and a good strategist, but only once the client believes that the designer and strategist understand the demographics and product offer. So is the US election process, as is the British, too old? news travels fast these days, the media has too much control, and the masses have less knowledge about policy and mostly voting based on resentment, rather than policy.

As for brand Trump, let’s hope for the sake of the people of the US and the rest of the world for that matter, that they use his brand wisely, that they underpin it with values like trust, compassion, wisdom and not hate, greed & power.

The Trump Effect

I heard the words 'brand Trump' early this morning, and that this is something that Trump 'has' that's helped his journey to...

Building a beautiful website



Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or is it?

When it comes to building websites, much like fashion, there are trends that come and go. Currently sites with a minimal design are considered as beautiful. Using little to no graphics or using icons only when it’s necessary. This is done because an increasing number of people are using their mobile devices to access the web and a minimalist site translates well without losing it’s core aesthetic.

There is a baseline of basic rules every site has to follow regardless of the current trends:

  1. It has to be readable by humans, black on white or white on black, the text has to contrast the background colour
  2. It has to be readable by Google
  3. Accessibility is important, make sure your site can be read by a screen-reader
  4. It has to be responsive

These four rules are the foundations of a good website, if you follow these, it’ll bring you closer to building a beautiful site. Maybe you don’t like to follow trends, but you have to follow these rules. The internet is huge, there’s thousands of websites going live daily and if your site isn’t readable or doesn’t appear on Google… Well. No one is going to want to see it when there’s a million more just like it. Be unique, follow the trends or break them and make your own.

Look at this site. Here, we tried to do something that we thought was quite rare. We’re a branding agency so we have a lot of high resolution, beautiful and colourful images at our disposal. We use one icon and that’s for the hamburger menu, the rest of the site is simply a dark grey or black background with white or light grey text, so let’s take a look at the checklist:

  • Is it readable by humans? Yes
  • Is it readable by Google? Yes
  • Is it accessible to people who are visually impaired? Yes
  • Is it responsive? Yes
  • Does it follow or set a trend? A bit of both, it follows the minimalist trend but sets a new one when it comes to interactivity and playfulness

 

Building a beautiful website

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or is it? When it comes to building websites, much like fashion, there are trends...

Technology and branding, shaken or stirred?



What do you prefer? Do you prefer a perfectly blended combination, or a separate approach to your branding and technology fields?

When we look at big brands today, every one of them has one thing in common. They all leverage the tech available to them, be it through websites, new gadgets or using electronic kiosks in shop aisles with spot lights highlighting their chocolate. There’s even a fridge out there right now that leverages the (albeit limited) power of the Near Field Communication (NFC) tag to send you notifications when you’re out of milk. The tech is easy to create, and really doesn’t cost much either. By programming an NFC tag to essentially “weigh” items in your fridge, you’ve gone into the market with a cool modern fridge and have set yourself apart from everyone else by making it a smart fridge.

You can start with a strong brand, but if you wish to make yourself stand out from the crowd, you need to innovate. The innovation doesn’t need to be huge, even if it’s as simple as coding an NFC tag to tell you the ingredients of a ready made meal when you log into the app, definitely not difficult. We’re in a world now where small quality of life tweaks make things more streamlined for our hectic lifestyles.

As a developer, I find it difficult to separate the two fields, they’re both reliant on each other. On one side, I want a good brand, on the other side, I want my life to be easier. Companies that understand this ultimately come out on top. A perfect balance between ease of use and strong brand, not too much of one, but not too much of the other, a good combination.

Technology and branding, shaken or stirred?

What do you prefer? Do you prefer a perfectly blended combination, or a separate approach to your branding and technology...

Brand Britain in a storm



So the referendum happened, and what a storm of a day, but more importantly, what a storm! To me it was a tough day on both counts, being a fairly liberal person who tends to stand more left of the middle than right, seeing our country torn apart was a heart sinking moment, as was waking up in the depths of another storm, seeing a months worth of rain in just one night had my house under a foot of water!

Looking back over the rubble of the last few weeks, I can see many problems, one of the bigger issues at hand is how Britain responds to the fallout of the UK’s pealing off from the EU, and as such, the stress of the whole country – the lies told before the referendum starting to reveal themselves, and leaving three kinds of voter; the disappointed remain voter, the regretful leave voter, and the triumphant leave voter. I suspect though, that many of the leave voters are starting to come to terms with what they have done to the brand of the United Kingdom, and the future lives of our children.

So what does this mean to Brand Britain? will it be a good thing? or will we suffer? to me unfortunately it is leaning more on the latter, to me what made Britain Great was how much it had changed over the years, how we as a nation had become more accepting of cultures, we had bridged (or so I thought) the ditch of racism, yes it still occurred, but it had become the rarity rather than the norm, and yet Britain today feels a little uglier, to me it still has a great deal to offer, it is still ‘Great’, but somehow, it feels, I don’t know, grubby maybe. Something that Britain has always had though, is a way ‘somehow’ of its people pulling together, rallying round, making it work, and never have I seen that more than voting day, with my house under 12 inches of toxic water, and the insurance company never getting back to me, watching my beautiful house crumble in front of my eyes while my country seemed to make a colossal mistake, I had one great thing for comfort – the great British people, and the humble, and yet so powerful – cup of tea. Yes it’s true, people all over my village came out to help, yes there was the usual gawpers taking pictures and actually smiling at me, as if to say ‘ha, at least it wasn’t me’, but amongst these fools where mostly compassionate people, people offering to help in any way they could, with the humble cup of tea, or toast and butter, or to help with possessions, cleaning and more.

So for me today, I have a house that has been turned upside down, a stressed out family with no home and a wife in tears, and yes, the usual insurance company run around, spending more time avoiding a resolution than helping a distressed family with young children (watch this space for further events unfolding on this matter, Suppershoppers content maybe?). And I have a business that fortunately for us, trades globally, but can see the impact on friends and families, as well as an eventual impact on us too I dare say.

As for the flag of Great Britain, maybe we should replace the good old union jack with, well, how about a cup of tea!

Brand Britain in a storm

So the referendum happened, and what a storm of a day, but more importantly, what a storm! To me it was a tough day on both...

Is the left brain the right brain?



A subject that is often discussed in the office is the difference between left and right brain thinkers, the difference between people who are great at maths and english, and people who are not – does this make them less important? I don’t think so, and here is why.

As a child I was terrible at maths and english, if I’m honest, things haven’t improved much, my english isn’t much better, but getting advise on dyslexia (who was it that made that word so hard to spell!) and how to handle this has helped immensely, like writing in capitals, using spell checkers, and the auto correct has been a god send. My maths to this day is terrible, but I get by.

That said, even from a very young age, I always had a pencil in my hand, and would be found for hours every day sketching away, after all, that was the one thing I ‘could’ do that was better than anyone else. From the age of 7 or 8 eight I was capable of drawing better than people years older than me, I was also intensely shy as a child, much more of an observer, than an entertainer – these things were the start to my life in branding.

The great thing about what I do for a living is its sole purpose is to understand people, what makes people do one thing over another, and drawing knowledge from this by bringing it back into simple logos, and design communications, simple things that build impulse to purchase. Yes as a company we do interior design and implementation, but to be honest, that is something I keep a wide birth from, that is why even though I have my own business, I simply keep to the things that I am good at – graphic design, human nature, brands.

So my point of this ramble is this – for all those young people out there who struggle like me with maths and english, and well, any academic studies, remember this, the world needs right brand thinkers, not to do maths of english, but to be good at understanding people, imaginative thinking and great design to colour the world.

We need more left brain thinkers please!

Is the left brain the right brain?

A subject that is often discussed in the office is the difference between left and right brain thinkers, the difference...

Branded content and the art of storytelling



Branded content has been taking a prominent stage for marketeers across the globe, not happy with the results of traditional advertising, marketers have realised that there is a much more powerful approach to getting products into the consumer mindset.

Branded content though has some challenges; managing multi channel campaigns, creating content, getting content out there, all can be tough. However, if achieved, the results are excellent, and a way for companies demonstrating and parading themselves with confidence. Where as traditional advertising was/is about building audiences with entertainment, then paying to interrupt the audience in the hope of doing it enough to etch your name into the viewers brain, of late advertisers have moved on, and mostly understand that by making the ad an entertainment piece in its own right is far more powerful than the traditional product demonstration. In other words, engage the viewer, make the viewer smile or fill them with wonder, and they will be happy to embrace your offer – the power of likability.

Branded content takes this to a new level; content that has its own followers, its own reason for people to watch, read and enjoy, builds willing, and indeed, truly engaged viewers – this is the fundamental difference, people who are absorbing the offer willingly. Of course, this won’t mean that viewers will automatically purchase your product, but you are shortening the distance consumers have to travel to convert, i.e. they all ready know you, they probably like you, and so when given a choice they are more likely to purchase or engage your brand above and beyond others that follow the more traditional process of ‘interruption’.

Our partner agency Nomad have been doing just this for some time now, creating branded video content for their clients that is far more powerful than traditional advertising. I spoke to Co-Founder Phil Griffiths recently about this subject. He commented, “We are finding these days that our clients are becoming smarter and smarter, and this area of our business is growing better than any other. Yes we are still creating commissioned Television content and corporate communications pieces, but our role is evolving. Now we are responsible for helping our clients plan and build digital and broadcast television video content strategies and campaigns, that carve out large channels of consumer action; with people happy in the knowledge that they are being sold to, because they are not there because they have to be, they are there because they want to be”.

I asked him how they do it, what makes them different, Phil explained – “The key is story telling. Too many, focus solely on the client. But it’s just as, if not more, important to cater for the platform or publisher, and ultimately the audience. We know video, we know the channels, we know our customers and how to speak to them, so things seem to be starting to snow ball, which is really exciting for us right now”.

This approach isn’t new, but is a developing sector, and it isn’t easy for companies to just start doing it. It requires a lot of knowledge and experience, but with the right team, the results can be much greater per buck, dirham, dollar or pound, and this area is growing and building. I would suggest if you are looking at building a branded content campaign then why not get in touch with the Nomad team to branded content.

 

Branded content and the art of storytelling

Branded content has been taking a prominent stage for marketeers across the globe, not happy with the results of traditional...

Channel 4 Supershoppers



We were all delighted at Garden to have made another appearance on Channel 4’s rather excellent Supershoppers recently. The episode delved into the sometimes murky world of packaging. Or rather, when is a brand really an artisan “local” offer and when is it not? Or to put it another way, when is it really a big corporate masquerading as an artisan offer?

The show itself looks at some of these issues with a tongue firmly planted in its cheek. But actually there are also serious messages here too. And that’s what attracted us to be involved with it from the start.

 

Of course, it’s perfectly understandable that all brands want to carve out their own competitive marketing edge, rise above their competition and – perhaps – even become the benchmark in their category (aside from the glory there’s also serious money to be made here!). To that end, we’ve had a proliferation of terms associated with products over the recent past: words such as local, hand-made, rustic, artisan and the like. And, for sure, there’s nothing wrong with that, if they actually are. But if a large corporation uses its financial muscle to create a brand that appears to have all of these things (but actually do not) then not only does this create a massive confusion to the consumer, but you could definitely say that it has a very unfair (or downright deceptive) competitive edge!

 

We’ve learnt over the years that packaging plays a massively important role in influencing consumer behaviour. And that knowledge stems from building an understanding of what motivates consumer mindsets. What are they looking for? What drives them? What turns them off? We balance these – and others – with an acute understanding of what our brand is trying to achieve. But most importantly we make sure (and this really is important to us) that it’s all put together very honestly!

 

But, are we taking packaging too seriously? Are we giving this too much thought? The simple answer is no! Seriously, we hope you caught the show and you’ll know exactly what we mean!

Channel 4 Supershoppers

We were all delighted at Garden to have made another appearance on Channel 4’s rather excellent Supershoppers recently....

A loss to the industry.



The last 12 months has seen the loss of 2 people who I greatly respected, and feel the urge to say a few words; firstly Sally Mason (Nesbitt), CEO of Evolve passed away last year at a very young age, leaving far too much behind. She will be missed by many, especially the branding industry – she will be somewhere right now on her mac in the sky, colouring everything around her. And also this week the loss of legendary branding icon Wally Olins, the man responsible for some of the biggest and boldest brands across the globe,

So just a quick thank you to you both, for making the world more pleasant to look at and be in.

A loss to the industry.

The last 12 months has seen the loss of 2 people who I greatly respected, and feel the urge to say a few words; firstly...

Brand stand



The Soap Box is where we will be discussing matters of the branding industry and brand areas of interest, things that we want to get off our chests, or just to express a valued opinion. So in coming months please come back to hear more about the world of branding.

Brand stand

The Soap Box is where we will be discussing matters of the branding industry and brand areas of interest, things that we...

You can’t replace good design



To me there seems to be a great number of branding or creative agencies out there that try to convince corporate and retail companies that the answer to their dreams is in knowledge and strategic logic, which sure has a great deal of substance, but many of them seem to provide the knowledge while delivering slightly better than weak creative solutions.

What is amazing is that the magic of great design is rarely built with numbers. The magic of great design is created by talented designers, indeed they need to know why they are doing what they are doing and what the opportunity is, and it’s by bringing these two skills (creative and strategy) together that creates amazing things, but you would think that more agencies and consultancies would understand this more, not use statistics for excuses for bad creative.

 

You can’t replace good design

To me there seems to be a great number of branding or creative agencies out there that try to convince corporate and retail...

Why Garden?



I thought I should spend 5 minutes explaining the thinking behind Garden, so here goes.

The last 10 years has seen massive changes globally, not just with technology, but also, travel, culture, technology etc, and branding has had to keep up with these changes. People need to understand what companies stand for, what is the thing that defines them, what makes them memorable, and with so much visual and oral noise, its becoming hard to be recognised and understood – enter Garden.

To us there seems to be a distinct lack of personality coming from many brand strategy companies, which is strange in many ways, I’m not talking here about the work they do, although we feel that a lack of approach can mean weaker results, but more about approach in attitude and reflecting through to their own visual language. Of course I do understand the need to stay clear from pigeon holing yourself, or to avoid standing too much in a certain camp and alienating part of your audience. I think that was certainly the way it used to be, but surely these days people are smarter, braver, more aware, and looking for something that stands for something. That is partly why we created Garden, to stand for something.

As a company we want to stand for the things that people think of when they think about creativity, the home of exceptional people, people who only stand for the most challenging brand approaches, the finest of brand strategy, the tightest details when it comes to knowledge and the widest logic when it comes to approach. As a company, we surround ourselves with great people, immerse ourselves in what’s going on at the fringes of life, art, design and culture – exploring, understanding and knowing what’s been and what’s coming around the next corner.

We are about taking good, honest companies and turning them into beautiful things that people believe in, want to wear, be associated with, use, work with etc. What we don’t do is help companies fool customers into trusting them, only to be let down.

Why Garden?

I thought I should spend 5 minutes explaining the thinking behind Garden, so here goes. The last 10 years has seen...

Agency for today



The typical branding agency from the past (or at least a more professional branding agency) have focused on the standard mission, vision and values approach. And yes, this works well as it understands what a company stands for and aligns the brand around this. However in practice over the years, I have noticed a few things that happen, firstly, the client starts to feel engaged in the process, they get excited and start to get more involved (all good), however, in some cases I see that as they start to get to understand our processes and get more involved, they stop focusing on the end result and start to refer back to the work, aligning to what are they are today, or what they want to achieve, and the client gets more and more drawn into the process. And while it is good to get the clients attention and involvement in the branding process, it isn’t so good for the branding agency to loose grip of the end result.

It’s interesting when I look more holistically at the results of the bigger and more established branding agency – I wont mention names, you start to see that once they become well known for what they do, they start to be trusted by companies and brand managers, who acknowledge that they don’t actually need to sculpt the end result for themselves, they trust the branding agency to make recommendations, and then from here reap the rewards of this. The result from these branding companies is more arresting, vibrant and produces braver brands, and once these brands are out there in the world, they start to grow and form new brandleaders, brands that others can only hope to follow.

So, to be a really great branding agency, the answer is in the branding process, making sure that you educate the client in how brands work, how his brandworks and how his demographic will be inspired by a new brand. The branding agency I work for today, Garden, in my opinion, has been educating companies in this way for many years now, it’s in recent years that clients have seen us as a more conceptual branding agency, with strong strategic anchors. In fact one of mybrand strategists often refers to us as being creatively driven and strategically anchored, and I like this description as it is accurate and what I would suggest otherbranding agencies should aim for, after all, you should never be different for the sake of being different, or so strategically aligned and ‘safe’ that you loose anybrand personality.

In summary – be brave creatively, take care to align your brand to the demographic, educate the client, don’t let go of the brand. Oh yes, and of course all this happens if you have a great design team – a branding agency for today.

 

Agency for today

The typical branding agency from the past (or at least a more professional branding agency) have focused on the...

Know your client



Knowing where you can take a brand and where the risks are, by Garden.

The typical branding agency these days tends to mimic the competition, but good quality agencies, or a branding agency that knows what it is doing, will know that it needs to do several things. Firstly it needs to find a single and honest relevant point of differentiation, a point that is a benefit to the customer. From here it should live and breath this core, from recruiting, training, experience  packaging, promotion advertising, website design – everything that it does, from the ground up, needs to express this key point.

Once you know what this core element is, and once you have started to build this, you need to know where you are aiming for. There are several ways to develop a brand, from pushing the boundaries right out, and creating a brand that gets market attention, or you can build the brand more carefully, mimicking the competition. When I say mimic, what I mean is, to establish how the competing brands are approaching the market, and placing their brand in a way that doesn’t build any risk. Of course it always depends on the situation, is it a first to market offer? is it an established brand? does the brand cross borders and cultures? does it have a shelf life? such as 3G, is the brand representative of a new product or technology? is it representative of an establishment, charity etc. Understanding these areas, and what the audience is looking for or expecting, allows you to target that audience with relevance and interest.

A truly good agency will know how to channel into any area and disrupt in the best way, never going beyond acceptable, never sitting in a place of too much comfort, but always leading the field. The risks here are that by going too far ‘out there’ you create the potential of risk, you allow your competitor to target you, to change the course of the market etc, and you simply don’t want to risk a brand in that way anyway. That isn’t to say that it wont be inspiring, or intelligent etc, it just means it needs to follow the right direction.

When we re branded a world famous telecom, we needed to know what the company was about, what the benefit was for the customer, and what was believable as a brand shift. There was a new competitor coming into what was once a monopoly market, and that competitor was going to come in hard and high, in that they would be fun and cool and aggressive in this space. Knowing this and expecting this approach allowed us to stay calm, mature, and focus on the core of our offer. If we had tried to make them look young and cool, it simply would have been too much of a shift. We knew that we had to create a brand that would be respected, admired and aligned to the benefit.

We managed to do this with great success, so much so this company is now one of the most successful telecom brands in the world, certainly for the region they are in, and today they have an offer that works over 20 counties.

So what I am saying here is that any branding agency that operates at the level that an agency should, needs to know where there clients offer will sit, they need to understand this place very well, they need to know what their competitor brands are doing, where their brand will go, and how to sit in this space and create an offer that shines, that is rich and expressive, that shakes a market up, but doesn’t alienate.

The art of branding, is learning about your clients offer and their world, skills that only really come from experience and capability, things that any good branding agency should be able to achieve.

Know your client

Knowing where you can take a brand and where the risks are, by Garden. The typical branding agency these days tends...

The mysteries of brand creation versus the realities of brand perception.



You do branding? Oh you mean you write a load of bulls**t?

This is a genuine comment that I received relatively recently at a dinner party. It’s actually a pretty common response (well not that exact sentiment) when I get asked the inevitable “what do you do?” question at dinner parties, general social events, picking up the kids from school etc.

And – to an extent – I can understand it. As brand strategists, designers, managers & creators our collective existence is not as easily understood as, say, lawyers, politicians or traffic wardens – it’s certainly far more nebulous than these (but hopefully a little more popular).

But, I think it’s important to distinguish what we do as brand creators with what brands are as a general concept.  The former can be allowed to be a little mysterious but the latter most definitely should not be.

How we go about our business varies from individual to individual, agency to agency.  Some agencies are very much led by a brand strategy; some are very much led by a visual concept (I very much believe that we, at Garden, balance these approaches very well but that’s for a different piece for a different time). Some ideas spring from the mind of a visionary whilst other ideas come from a committee (I mean to use that word in the nicest possible way rather than the pejorative way that that word can be used in the “creative” context).  Similarly some designers find inspiration by using good old-fashioned pen and paper whilst others could never function without a screen. Some immerse themselves in research: living and breathing every minute of their lives in a product or sector whilst others favour a more remote, removed and clinical approach.

But in the end, it probably doesn’t matter. How we go about creating a brand is of very little importance to the outside world. By analogy, the lengths & depths that Marlon Brando, Daniel Day-Lewis or Christian Bale would go to in creating roles, the drug induced inspirations (I’m not condoning!) underpinning Aldous Huxley’s books, William S. Burroughs’ “cut-up” techniques or the reasons why an apple became representative of Apple are of minor anecdotal importance. What matters, is the end result. And that’s exactly how a brand should be viewed. Does the brand work? Does it engage visually? Does it engage emotionally? Is it clear? Is it coherent? Is it consistent? Does it deliver? These are the indicia that matter.

I’ve wanted to post this video here for a long time and I think that it really does prove that good brands are far from mysterious. And it also proves that people understand brands far more than they give themselves credit for. At Garden, we’ve been lucky to have created brands all over the world and also ran as manybrand engagement programs in as many places with as many diverse audiences as one can imagine. I tend to start these sessions with this or a similar video explaining what branding is – the general nodding of heads over the years have shown me that: 1) irrespective of their backgrounds, people really do connect with these brands 2) great brands do not necessarily need complex words to effectively engage with an audience 3) simplicity is still key.  And, just as importantly, what these sessions have also shown me is that people don’t care about how we went about creating their brands but they do care about what their brand means to them: an emotion that’s very similar in the ”real” world, and, I would argue, exactly how it should be!

PS: You’ll need about 5 minutes for this video (sorry about that!)

The mysteries of brand creation versus the realities of brand perception.

“You do branding? Oh you mean you write a load of bulls**t?” This is a genuine comment that I received relatively...

Branding agency to change the world?



Branding agency changes the world? ok, so its a big statement, and let’s face it, no branding agency is going to change the world single handedly, but maybe it isn’t as silly as it might sound.

Many people view the branding agency cynically, and why shouldn’t they, after all, it has been the branding agency that for many years has been used by many people as a method of selling products full of rubbish to children, products that have clogged up the countryside with litter, clogged up peoples arteries with saturated fats, in fact to many it would seem that the branding agency is the weapon of the larger corporates to tell lies to the masses.

The good news is that this isn’t going to happen as much as time goes on, at least not as long as Google isn’t controlled by governments, Twitter is the voice of the people, and Facebook is the home of global communities, and any other new platform. And let’s face it, there are ever more ways to communicate with the world, with newer platforms for sharing and talking.

In the past it was too easy for larger companies to retain their stake and control their revenue by controlling the market, if anyone had anything bad to say, their voice would soon be stifled. But with so many open platforms, and so many people getting instant access to the masses, means that larger companies have no choice other than to hear their customers, and change accordingly – or face pretty quick losses of share value and dwindling profits.

We have seen this phenomenon, at first I wasn’t sure how effective it would be, but after watching many publicly raised issues, and watched these corporates value drop, you start to realise it works, and that the public do have power, the kind of power that is natural, as opinion is like a ship, it takes many voices in its sails to move, but once a breeze of change hits and it starts to turn, it’s impossible to stop, no matter how great the work by a branding agency.

So how does this relate to a branding agency changing the world? well, in my view, branding and what a branding agency does is still the only thing that people can use to tell one product or service from another, and what the values of that brand stands for, so in reality, it’s not just how great a logo looks, but actually deeper. It’s what’s behind the brand and what a branding agency does that counts, yes of course a brand needs to be exciting visually, but more than that, it has the power to change companies from the inside. In fact, branding is the best way of doing this. Yes it does take internal communications, campaigns, training, recruitment etc. but who knows more about this world than a branding agency?

So from my view, branding is about making organisations right from the moment it brings someone in, from the inside to the surface, from the surface to the customer – joining all the dots. It can only operate in this way, any other way will only mean failure, and this is fundamental to what a branding agency brings.

 

Branding agency to change the world?

Branding agency changes the world? ok, so its a big statement, and let’s face it, no branding agency is going to change...

Naming



As a branding agency, I would say that naming is probably one of the hardest things that we ever have to do. Like many things though, these things always seem deceptively simple after the event. Great names sometimes feel like they were just plucked out of the air but I’d say that they probably came at the end of a lot of blood, sweat, tears, tantrums and several disagreements. Or, maybe it was one of those rare occasions when they just got lucky.

But if you’re not feeling lucky, there are some basic things that you should think about. These are not “rules” per se but just some general guide points.

  • Set some (reasonable) boundaries
    You don’t want to stifle your creativity before you’ve even begun but it’s important to set yourself some general rules before you get going. Before you embark on your quest for the perfect name, you need to set yourself some clear boundaries. That way, whether you are working alone or as part of a group or even briefing a branding agency, you’ll be able to keep a fair degree of control over the potential routes that you could take.Generally, by the time we get to the naming phase we would have already conducted extensive research as well as created a brand strategy or strategic summary. So, in these cases, we will have a pretty clear idea of our product’s “personality”, audience, promise and voice. These help to shape and control any potential names by answering fundamental questions such as “are we serious?”, “are we fun…amusing…cheeky?”, “are we talking to teens, mums or business men?”, “are we talking to everyone?”, “are we budget or premium?”,Who should care about us?” and “why?”.All branding agencies tend to work in their own way. At Garden, we initially tend to work on naming ideas individually (to a short brief) before convening and conducting a group brainstorm (or 2 or 3…). I find that the individual exercises are useful, as people tend to feel a lot less restricted when working in isolation. It also means that you can start a brainstorm with some fair preparation and avoid any tumbleweed moments.
  • Have fun
    To some, approaching a naming exercise can seem daunting and – at times – even embarrassing. Although I’ve said that you need certain boundaries (for practical reasons) you should still feel free (and encourage everyone) to go for some more interesting – and maybe even wacky – routes: apples have nothing to do with computers but it’s a pretty good name & oranges have nothing to do with telecommunications but, likewise it works too. Having said that, I can’t say I’ve ever been a great fan of BlackBerry! Of course, there are infinitely more routes (& some non-fruit routes too) but hopefully you get the idea!
  • Be open
    Keep an open mind in your brainstorms. Listen to every name idea and try not to shoot them down or judge too harshly as soon as you hear them. It’s an interesting thought but sometimes the silliest sounding names can spark off some really good ones. And also some of our best ideas come from the most unusual sources – some branding and design agencies stick purely to the creative roles for these sessions but we always involve the entire agency wherever possible. Great ideas are not limited to job titles!
  • Don’t be too mathematical
    Democracy is great but it often doesn’t work. Let me qualify that: we’ve often generated names and put them to a vote (where you are not allowed to vote for your own) and quite often everyone’s collective 3rd or 4th choices end up mathematically with the most votes.
  • Be prolific
    Rather than ache over single names, try and run your way through as many as possible. It’s often whilst you are in a flurry that the best names come out. Encourage others to do the same.
  • Be brave and don’t play too safe
    Feel free to make up names – Xerox, Sony, Häagen-Dazs are 3 simple examples – the latter is especially interesting as it’s an American brand that wanted to sound as exotic (and European) as possible.Similarly, sometimes bolting words together can also produce some interesting results. Superdry looks like a strange & historic Japanese/American hybrid but it’s a relatively modern English brand.
  • Be descriptive
    If at all possible.For example, if you’re an online only offering, it would make great sense to be descriptive in terms of what you do in the name. So, if your business is booking hotel rooms then something like “co.uk” may help in terms of being a good, practical name. OK, it’s not the sexiest of naming types but a descriptive name will help immensely in getting people to find your site. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a pretty complex area and a little beyond the scope of this piece so we’ll post a piece on that soon.Most names however – especially the more personality driven ones – are not descriptive. But if they feel right for the brand and offering then you are probably on the right path. What is important to remember here though is that marketing spend and campaigning may have to be increased in order to embed the brand in the public consciousness. Spotify opted for a more “verb” driven name when launched in October 2008. They invested heavily in marketing and awareness-led campaigning in general – so much so that they actually reported a significant loss at the end of that year (-$4M+) but the overall investment paid off as they had in the region of 10M paid and 30M paid subscribers by mid 2014.
  • Check
    Once you’ve found your name you may just want to check them. You’ll need to do a couple of checks:

    1. IPO check.http://www.ipo.gov.uk/tmtext/This will identify names that have already been trademark registered and in the relevant classes (of course, you’ll need to check which classes are appropriate to your product)

      But, note that not every brand will be registered. Some are not (and cannot be) registered – or certainly would be met with a lot of resistance – Chanel, for example, failed to register the word “jersey” in the UK after objection from the Channel Islanders. Similarly “Google Glass” can be (and is) registered but Google may struggle to get “Glass” registered on its own (it’s too generic)

    2. Acronym or initialismIf you go for a multiple word name, it’s worth checking that you don’t accidentally have an unfortunate or rude acronym. In 2009, The Wisconsin Tourism Federation had to change their name to the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin because they got tired of the jokes – although to be fair the WTF expression probably came afterwards. But in 2000, a newly formed Canadian political party came up with the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party or CCRAP for short. They quickly changed it to the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance.
    3. Other language fails
      This one is a little harder and clearly some of the biggest brand owners have fallen foul of it over the years. Mitsubishi’s Pajero works well pretty much everywhere but in Spanish (you can check the meaning of that one yourself!). Nokia’s “Lumia” is Spanish slang (again) for prostitute, whilst Apple’s “Siri” is a rude Georgian word for a certain part of a man’s anatomy. Finally, “Pee cola” from Ghana just about fails in most parts of the world as does “Urinal Hot drink” – except the Czech Republic where it’s from.
  • Say it over and over and over again
    If you’re not bored of hearing it after a 1000 times then it’s probably not that bad.
  • Look at it over and over again
    Write it out, type it out, stick it up on the wall – look at it endlessly. If your eyes don’t get bored then you are almost there.
  • Ask yourself if the name is capable of creating intrigue & interest.
    You don’t want to be mysterious – far from it. But you do want something that will catch the imagination. And who knows, maybe create or completely redefine a category. Innocent smoothies did just that with their brilliantly named brand a number of years ago.
  • Ask yourself if the name is “campaignable”
    If your chosen name is of the made up variety or not especially descriptive, it could still lend itself to being campaigned or “taglined”. In fact, as a branding agency, these are areas that we look at separately to the naming phase but it doesn’t hurt to think about them as early as possible either.Think:Believe

    Because you’re worth it

    Just do it

    Indeed – and certainly in the case of the latter – they can stir up an emotional connection on their own – even without the brand name.

  • Ask yourself if the name feels “right”

If you think you’ve ticked all these metaphorical boxes, then all you need to do is:

  • Finally, find a great designer!Now that your hard work is over, take a breath, create a nice brief, find yourself a great designer and enjoy!

Naming

As a branding agency, I would say that naming is probably one of the hardest things that we ever have to do. Like many...

Do looks matter?



Personally, I think the answer to the question is yes. But I’m approaching it from a slightly different angle. There is the obvious angle: should attractiveness matter? And, at the risk of sounding a little shallow, I think the answer is definitely yes, but, more on that later

The “looks” that I wanted to cover first of all is of a slightly different variety. I’m talking about when you first meet someone. What’s the one thing that really puts you off a person? Yes, I suppose it could be they come across as smug or arrogant; you may not like the way they dress; you may not like what they have to say. The list is pretty endless and, of course, it can be any of these things.  Add in the fact that different cultures naturally behave differently; for example, nose blowing and spitting are considered both repulsive and acceptable depending on which continent you reside in. Equally, showing the soles of your shoes is considered massively offensive in certain parts of the world whilst post-dinner burping is acceptable (even complimentary) to some and not to others.

But, the one thing that is universally accepted & gauged is how someone looks at you – specifically how they maintain eye contact. Good & measured eye contact conveys that the person is honesttrustworthy, is more likely to be paying attention to you and therefore it’s also pretty likely that what they say to you is going to be relevant. Minimal or the absence of eye contact suggests uncertainty at best and at worst that the person is evasive, “shifty”, has something to hidecannot be trusted.  The latter also sows seeds of confusion – you can’t help wondering if they are really listening to you at all, or are they just waiting for you to finish so that they can say their piece? In the case of the latter, I heard a “conversation” between a couple on the train a few evenings ago (I’m not in the habit of eavesdropping but having stared at screens of various sizes all day long, I thought I’d give more screentime a rest and just sit and do nothing). It would have been more accurate to describe their conversation as two separate & irrelevant monologues – he was more interested in telling her about his stressful day and she was more concerned about her friend’s husband’s alleged infidelity!

Over the years I’ve found that these adjectives perfectly describe how we emotionally respond to brands. The looks are important, but there’s an equally important shift in dynamic.  In this case, it’s about how I look at the brand. If the message & the feel of the brand is clear, simple, straightforward & memorable then it’s pretty likely that I will give it a second look, that I will want to explore it a little further, that I will end up trusting it. It’ll have my attention.  But it the message is confusing, unconsidered, half-baked, or just pointless then I’m not going any further: you won’t get a second look.

And speaking of irrelevance, I can’t help noticing that there’s been an ever expanding degree of “bandwagonism” with the use of social media over the past couple of years. It does seem to me that the general feeling for a lot of brands is “we need to be on Youtube/Facebook/LinkedIn/Pinterest/Vimeo/Twitter (and any others that will soon pop up)..” without actually asking the question “Why should we be on Youtube/Facebook…..?”. Now, I’m not an “anti-social media” advocate. Far from it. But I do think that brands need to consider why they are on these channels. If it’s giving their consumers some genuine benefit such as offers or ideas then I’m all for it. But if it’s to tweet that “the team at Brilliant Butter are loving the weather today, what are your plans for the evening?” then that’s surely a big fat slice of pointlessness that’s not really doing much for the brand, doing even less for the consumer and is clearly a wasted opportunity. You may get some likes but does it really mean anything? Personally, I’ve always thought that it means more to meaningfully connect with 1000 than fall on 1M deaf ears. Another way to look at it would be this: if you – as a brand owner – could get a consumer in a room, would you tell them about enjoying the weather and ask about their evening plans?
If the answer is no then why do it online?

So, to spin the metaphor back round. I would like a brand to look me in the eye, give me something useful, not use something because it’s there but because they’ve genuinely considered it.

Oh, back to the original point about attractive physical looks? The answer as you may recall was a yes. As I said earlier it may come across as shallow but the reality is that physical looks do matter. I can’t claim the next point as mine but the general gist is this: 2 products, both do the same thing, both priced identically, one is beautiful and other is not. Which one do you choose?

Do looks matter?

Personally, I think the answer to the question is yes. But I’m approaching it from a slightly different angle. There is...

Brand revival and the art of nostalgia



Is it unusual that companies in recent years have started to roll out older brands that have for some reason been scrapped, or ‘parked’?

Well not really, there is apparently a hark back to the past in times of austerity or harder days, for some reason people look back to the ‘good ol’ days’ for that feeling of well being. While at the same time, companies are looking for newer cost saving products to launch into the market, having to fork out less marketing spend whilst targeting the nostalgic purchaser, plus lots of potential free PR! why wouldn’t you?

I wonder what would happen if penguin started selling classic books printed and produced from a press from the 50s?, ok right now with the mass growth of Ebooks it’s possibly the wrong time, but in 5 years time I wonder if people will start to tap into that nostalgia buzz? Restaurants have been relying on this from the earliest of times, it’s called atmosphere, people like to dine in elegant and beautiful locations, take for example Les Trois Garçons, a rather special restaurant in East London that manages to mix nostalgia, with art, abstract connections and even the grotesque. Somehow it works, for some reason people love to reflect and wonder. I have even found it mixed in office environments, where offices start to build spaces with interesting antique furniture, bringing together the past with the present.

I do really enjoy moments of nostalgia, it’s a strange feeling, bringing back feelings from yesteryear, reflective, retrospective imagination, theres something in there somewhere, and maybe there should be some new and really exciting brand revivals that work really well in this arena.

Lets think of some brand revivals in recent years shall we – the Fiat 500, the VW Beatle, the Mini, Triumph motorbikes, the Chopper bike, the Whisper chocolate bar, Golden Nougat cereal, Air Jordan, Converse, Biba fashion house, Puma and Adidas trainers, Arctic Roll!, the list goes on, and all have some feel of nostalgia, or at least something magical that people connected with in the past.

As is I mention above, I am a bit of a lover of nostalgia, in fact over the years I have collected vintage packaging, from the Tufty Club government safety awareness campaign (something for the older UK reader), to Airfiix, to Prince Albert cigaret papers, to Matchbox, and some other less known brands. Personally though, although I love many of these revivals, and many have managed to connect the past with the future, certainly when it comes to engineering. I do wonder what it would be like if someone was brave enough to bring back a product from the past and use the same visual brand approach to shelf based packaging that it started with back in their ‘hay day’. There are some cereal based brands that do this ‘ok’, or at least get close, although I do wonder if they miss the mark a little, I’m referring to say something like Scots Porridge Oats – close, but could be better I think.

I sometimes also wonder if cinema has missed a potential opportunity, after-all, if your over 30 you only have to hear the Pearl & Deal soundtrack to get those memories flooding back! Imagine if we went back to making cinema a ‘night out’, having the interval, people selling ice cream, the whole atmosphere of the traditional ‘great night’ of cinema  – where has that gone?

And finally, do people remember the following brands – Clackers, Wantney’s Party Seven, Ford Capri, Action man (yes, still around I know), Pearl & Dean, Top of the Pops?

So… what brands do you miss, what would you bring back?, why? and how would you do it?

 

Brand revival and the art of nostalgia

Is it unusual that companies in recent years have started to roll out older brands that have for some reason been scrapped,...

Branding in a connected world



The world we live in today, and far more so into the future, is super connected, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc … The list is endless. And with this connectivity comes challenges, certainly in the world of branding. The challenge is huge, after all, it wasn’t that long ago that a disgruntled member of staff could at best go to the press, see if anyone was interested, and probably only be able to warn their friends about any wrong doing. Or if a customer was dissatisfied with their purchase, they may use some word of mouth to spread their pain, but other than that, they all too often couldn’t do much at all. But times have changed, and now people have hundreds of channels to spread their opinions, sentiments and before long those words will spread, and very fast.

What this means is that companies now can’t just state what they are, preach their vision and mission and their values to their customers, or make unfounded statements about their brand messages – how they are there for their customers, or how the quality of their products far outweighs that of their competitors. These days they have to make sure that their brand is lived right through to the end result, so that people can see for themselves that their product IS better than their competitors, or that they ARE there for their customers. Therefore branding has a different role, well in honesty it is the same role, it’s just that the values and strategy that they define now has to be honest and true, and they have to be lived by these companies, not just mantras to sell more products.

What this does today, is mean that your average decent branding agency needs to go further than what they have in the past, not just create brand strategies that give a company a clear brand direction, they need to help them build their future, define strategic brand pathways, knowledge sharing, reward programmes. Sure, most larger companies have these in place, but I rarely see these working in harmony with their brand strategy, and intertwining these with the overarching brand and what that brand is telling its customers is imperative.

So, given that the task for branding agencies today is far harder than it has been in the past, what else is there to think about? Well, the challenge is knowing how a brand is looking in the actual world, building and reading measurement tools, and effecting channels, such as social media, direct media, advertising, product etc.

So the average agency these days needs to know what channels to understand, that could be Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pintrest, Tumblr, all kinds of forums and blogs, it’s getting tougher, more complex and more challenging, but I suppose that is the nature of branding, for every new tool that makes life easier, comes something that makes life harder, and we are starting to understand that knowing ‘us’, knowing our ‘customers’, ‘where’ our customers ‘talk and share’, ‘listening and learning’ we can build better companies through better branding.

 

Branding in a connected world

The world we live in today, and far more so into the future, is super connected, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,...

Can you be TOO friendly? (branding and authentic attitudes)



Branding and authentic care has its place.

I got a call recently from my car breakdown people. I’d called them out recently so I assumed that this was a follow up. I don’t have a problem with follow-up calls in principle – feedback is always good, especially bad feedback. But as it turned out this was a sales call masquerading as a follow-up (so a slight ruse on their part really). To be fair, I don’t really have a massive problem with sales calls either: they may well be offering something that I could just need so, assuming I have the time, I like to keep an open mind.

In fact, I’d filled in their online questionnaire at the time of the breakdown, and with the exception of the time it took to get to me (2 and half hours!), I’d rated them as excellent throughout.  So the reality of this calls must, logically, be purely sales. And it was.

I have a pretty good memory but the only problem here is that I can’t actually remember what the call was about now. All I can remember is the caller constantly referring to me as “mate”, “bud” or “sir”.

Now I know all good brands have guidance in terms of how they should speak. I’m guessing (and it is just a guess) that the above probably doesn’t really fit with that guidance. I mean it’s good to be approachable, it’s great to be friendly and a little familiarity can be quite useful but I can’t help thinking that this one was slightly overdone. I mean in a scenario where I really need them then I may put up with it and even think it’s a little quirky. But if the scenario is reversed then it’s irritating at best and downright annoying at worst.

Maybe I’m overreacting here but the reality is that odd or inconsistent behaviour will get talked about much more than good & consistent behaviour: it’s much more likely for someone to say “I spoke to X company’s customer services the other day – can’t get over how rude/arrogant/patronizing (delete as appropriate) they were….” than “I called Y company last week, what a nice bunch they are…”. Clearly that’s the case here as I’m writing about it!

What’s the lesson here?

A brand doesn’t want or need a bunch of robots at the other end of the line, speaking from a script – that’s as off-putting as my “mate” at the other end of my call. But what it does need is a consistent approach. Being friendly for example, is open to interpretation but it shouldn’t veer into over friendly. But regardless of your individual brand values, the most important approach is honesty. If my caller was honest & simply courteous (which is clearly the safer option) then I probably would have listened on. I might even remember what it was he was trying to sell me!

 

Can you be TOO friendly? (branding and authentic attitudes)

Branding and authentic care has its place. I got a call recently from my car breakdown people. I’d called them out...

The brand of a Nation



Recently I was kindly invited to a 40 year celebration for the UAE held at the Millennium hotel in West London.

The event for me and my eldest daughter seemed at an outsiders view point, abstract and maybe a little strange, but only really because we didn’t get sub titles with the speeches, and as it was a celebration for the nations 40 years since creation and uniting of the Emirates, it may have been a little strange to even have Westerners there.

However, I have to say that both myself and my daughter really rather enjoyed the experience, unfortunately cut short due to other commitments. Its hard to say why or what made it so unique, but I suspect that it was that we was actually getting a rare glimpse at the genuine way people feel about their country, and in simple terms – passion.

I have spoken on the issue of nation branding a few times, and it is always a fairly complex subject, but this actually made me think about what it is that the UAE has done to create such a great difference to nation branding compared to so many other GCC countries (not all, but many). So what HAVE the UAE done so differently? and why are their people so proud and content?

I cant really say exactly, neither am I (or is anyone really) qualified to, but I am going to offer my opinion:)  – They are a nation that has grown out of wealth, one that has in a sense a form of democracy, or rather a constitutional federation as opposed to a dictatorship, and as a nation it has mostly seemed to look after and listened to its people. It’s oil wealth has been invested back into the country and thus shared among its people, plus having low income tax has been a big advantage to its people. I think though what is also at the heart of this is not only the wealth that they have achieved and shared, but also that they have managed on the one hand to embrace Western design influence, but on the other encourage and evolve its own rich history and culture, keeping hold of its roots.

Nation branding, like any other kind of brand, comes down to a few key areas, the most important is that it needs to start from ‘inside’, it needs to start with what the nation stands for, what’s important to hold onto, and how the country is actually run and the decisions it makes,  therefore how a country treats its people, how it deals with its growth, what events it sponsors and celebrates, all have an impact on how a nation feels about its own brand.

I think a way of summarising what I am saying here is that hearing people speak proudly about what their country does for them is the biggest and most powerful way to build a nations brand, and the only way to get people to do that is to invest into that country, either via education, support networks, a health system, events like F1, football etc and essentially leading by example, showing people that the way a country is run is an example of how people should act.

Well thats my thoughts on it anyway, happy to hear people’s views.

 

The brand of a Nation

Recently I was kindly invited to a 40 year celebration for the UAE held at the Millennium hotel in West London. The...

Made in – Culture and the Art of branding



At Garden we have had the benefit of working on many cross culture branding projects: from telecoms in the Middle East, to Sri Lankan teas, to UK supermarket brands. We have faced challenges understanding all the complexities with Arabic and Cyrillic typography and also understanding cultural differences, political issues and much more.

There is one thing though that I have found intriguing over the years. It is how some societies are consistently proud of their country or their culture, and as such seem to portray a great nation. It would be interesting to see how does this happen? Is it because the government represents its people in a particular way? Or because of the condition of the economy? Does history has to do with it? And does any of this come down to brand or branding?

There is a time in the UK when the Made in Britain symbol stood for something. It meant quality production values, high value engineering etc – and therefore the brand mark of the Union Jack was hugely influential. At the same time, the symbol for Made in China, or Made in Taiwan was frowned upon, a brand of cheaply made products that people where very cynical about. Is that the case today? I’m not so sure it has the same meaning anymore.

There are some powerful and well-respected brands in China these days. There are also brands that are known for value, quality engineering and innovation. Over the past twenty years, innovation, grow, and improvement are within reach of many other nations. Now the famous and esteemed Union Jack has started to fade in the light of some very good newcomers. So where does this leave the UK? Is there a risk? Can we repair the damage? And can we approach this issue in the same way as a branding project?

If you agree with the fact that branding isn’t just a logo, like I do, you will then see that perhaps there is a connection. Good brands should always adhere to values. Do countries do as well? Well I think so. Good brands have always branding engagement programs. Do countries do as well? Probably, if you consider some politics that promote getting people back to work… Good brands have a clear level of differentiation. What about countries? I think they should.

It would be an interesting experiment to see how a branding agency would tackle branding a nation – not just the logo, but how that nation thinks and feels about itself – completely from the bottom up. Let’s start with immigration, not necessarily with a view of control: we will ask what is its policy? Does this align with the nation? What is its employment program? How flexible is it culturally, and does this align with its past and its future? What are its values? And what is its mission and vision?

Then there is control of implementation, how can we maintain a single focus, how can we express the same messages, without people feeling uncomfortable about the confines of this approach.

Of course it is all rather silly, but I can’t help wonder if there is a way that we can bring back some of the pride back to Britain, some of the quality control, some of the focus – is this something a branding agency could do? I would love to at least think about.

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Made in – Culture and the Art of branding

At Garden we have had the benefit of working on many cross culture branding projects: from telecoms in the Middle East, to...

And the world changes…



Garden has been created in the vision of serving the new world – the new ways of working.

Todays world of technology, community and inclusiveness, has created a new breed of people, a new world where no longer do large corporations dominate and control the world, but where the power has been put into the hands of the many. It seems strange really that although we mostly live in a democratic world, that large, ‘old in years and mind’ companies still exist and are gripping on with tiered hands.

It has become obvious though in recent years that there is something new, and something better. New companies and organisations are developing all over the world, the online revolution HAS happened, and (mostly) the world IS now connected, sharing, growing. And whats amazing about this is that people are no longer happy about the world they’ve been living in, and can and are making change. Think about the Arab Spring – a fight back against dictatorship, the occupy movement fighting back against financial greed, the dramatic changes seen to journalism, the huge changes seen to the music industry, with some control being put back into the hands of artists. Companies, corporations and even countries are now becoming more accountable, more open, more honest – people expect it. And what’s amazing is that it is these new more dynamic and more accountable companies, like FaceBook, Twitter, Google etc that are (possibly unknowingly) supporting and enabling this change.

When you think about it it is only in the last 10 years that Apple, a technology company, has become the worlds most richest company, and Google and Facebook have from seemingly nowhere become massive successes. Essentially, and in the words of Judith Clegg – ‘disruptive businesses are taking over companies that have been around for as much as 100 years’, and they bring with them a new way of working, new ideals, new ambitions.

It is this change in attitudes that has inspired us at Garden, it is this energy based on openness that underpins what we do. In the past brands where often created in an attempt to convince customers to part with their ‘hard earned’ small amounts of money, it was more about market dominance and saturation, destroying competitors and raising costs to build the bottom line. Of course this does to some extent still matter and I’m not suggesting that we remove the desire to succeed, after-all communism didn’t seem to work. But what I am saying is that companies need to not change from the outside in order to convince consumers to line up at their doors, but change from their core out, to actually become what they are telling people.

Someone once said to me that marketing is the art of selling things to people, whether they want them or not – selling sea water to sailors for example, but branding isn’t that, branding is about selling sea water to desalination plants for countries that don’t have its own natural water supply, it’s about selling sand to glass manufacturers who don’t have access to sand in their own location.

Branding over the years has on occasions been frowned upon, I’m not saying it has a massive negative reputation, but that some people see it as an unnecessary evil – we don’t see it like that at all, certainly not in the way we operate. Brands and the skill of branding to us should be about finding what is good and at the heart of a company, bringing that out and showing the world in an engaging and appropriate way.

We intend to be part of the revolution that is leading this important and fast moving change, we want to make a positive contribution to society, we want to do things that matter and are important. Yes we are a branding company, and yes we work on many commercial projects, and that wont change, the difference to us is that we believe in the art of discovering what people ARE good at, what people DO want to do, and being honest, clear and showing the world in new and exciting ways.

The world is changing, we know why and how it’s happening and we are supporting those companies that want to be part of that change.

And the world changes…

Garden has been created in the vision of serving the new world – the new ways of working. Todays world of technology,...

Don’t waste my time – People don’t have time for brand fluff; talk less but talk smart!



You know what’s really annoying? People who talk too much!

And not just people but things in general. For example, you know when you watch a film that lasts for hours and you sit there and eventually stumble out of the cinema nursing a sore behind and you wonder “so what was the point of the 1st hour? It didn’t really tell me that much. OK, maybe we could have kept some of it but definitely lost a good 20 minutes. And come to think of it, they really dragged towards the end there.” So in the end, you could have ended up with a great hour and a half rather than a long and drawn out 3 hours. OK, I’m not saying everything should be purely practical and functional – there is and should be scope for the artistic for the sake of it – but there’s always a limit.

The point of this piece is pretty simple really: we live in an age where time is at a premium – we want to know what something does and quickly. What’s the benefit to me here? Will it improve my life? Will it entertain me? What does it cost?

Recently I downloaded an app called AppGratis – a brilliant concept for those who – like me – don’t like parting with money. The idea is simple – get a paid app for free every day. The people behind AppGratis negotiate with the app developers, feature their app for 24 hours and move on to the next.  Like I say, a brilliant idea and it’s definitely one that I refer to regularly.

The only problem is this. It’s completely mysterious at 1st glance what each and every app actually does. Any meaning is buried under a vaguely tenuous and wooly intro paragraph (or 2). Usually buried even deeper somewhere in the middle of the 2nd paragraph is where you’ll get a clue as to what the app is actually for.

I suppose it’s pretty clear on the law of averages that not every app is going to appeal to me, but surely that makes a functional and practical intro even more appropriate? Or just get to the point!

This brings me to one the best things I ever heard in relation to brands – what’s the point? A simply brilliant question. And one every brand should ask itself. What’s your purpose? What are you trying to say? Why are you saying that for? Does this improve or detract? Are we talking to the right people?

If brands constantly asked these types questions, I reckon life would be a lot simpler. And isn’t simplification a good thing? The best and most lauded inventions tend to do just that, simplify; the computer, the plane, the wheel…All these things make our lives easier, more efficient and even more fun.

Maybe the pointless wording only takes away 20 seconds from my life everyday. But it’s an annoying 20 seconds. And I remember it and I’m not getting it back! And the more a brand communicates fluff the least likely that that will then turn into a brand experience.
Perhaps it’s just a question of time. The more brands think, the more they understand what they are about, the more they understand what their audience is about, the less they have to say. Or as Blaise Pascal once put it “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter”.

So, the moral is THINK MORE > LEARN MORE > THINK SMART > SPEAK LESS

And that lesson is truly universal and shouldn’t purely be restricted to brands. I started on a film analogy and I will (sort of) close on one. Many years ago, I believed that the key to delivering a good & effective presentation was to build slowly and get to a big (maybe even “audience- surprising”) finish. What I neglected to realise at that time was that I wasn’t there to entertain: I was there to deliver a solution. So, the approach changed to: 1) 1st tell your audience what you propose, why & how they are going to benefit and 2) then tell them how you are going to do it.

Put simply: if you believe in your solution (which, of course, you should!) then you have the audience with you within the 1st couple of minutes. If you bore them with peripherals then you lose them and you may not get them back. If you don’t believe in the solution then maybe you should start over…

(Oh, I’m aware of the irony of me including an analogous pre-amble here by the way!)

Don’t waste my time – People don’t have time for brand fluff; talk less but talk smart!

You know what’s really annoying? People who talk too much! And not just people but things in general. For example, you...

Am I good looking – Branding that works, speaks & looks



Am I Good Looking? A Question we all ask, although deny the very inception of the thought if someone would happen to pry about it.

It is personal, intimate, – a very touchy subject for many as our confidence shutters the moment a good looking person of the opposite sex happens to share or reveal his/her negative opinion regarding our appearance. Such a critique is inappropriate, judgemental, rude, wrong, – subjective.

We are lucky.

Lucky, that this prejudice is openly accepted and discussed in the world of design. It gives us a very valuable opportunity to learn from one another, though we are only learning once the discussion is well informed. Failing to create a discourse filled with challenges, problems, and solutions will always lead to judging the very looks of the thing, whatever that might be.

A good conversation can lead to many things. It might let us discover something new; to hear something old – and we think to our-selves, “ah, I know that” – our vanity grows just for a moment, until we are silenced with the unknown again.

A good conversation might change our opinions. It just might convince that judgemental man or woman, who spoke so ungracefully about one’s appearance, to foolishly fall in love with an idea.

Unfortunately, in branding, we do not have the luxury to convince and change options in a delightful one-on-one discussion over a cup of coffee (or a glass of red wine if you will). We communicate in an instance. We must, because there is no time.

An opinion is formed within few seconds, for example, a poster gets an average four-second gaze from a traveller. We might get a little bit more on the Internet; or even less time once a branded van drives in front of us as we patiently wait for the green light at the zebra crossing (distracted by a bunch of bicycles zig-zaging all over the cross-road). We know that crossing recklessly would be risky; we need to look in all directions to make sure we get on the other side safe and sound. As designers, we always have to look in every direction, follow predetermined rules in some cases, respect books and approach research responsibly. We need to be modern and fresh; not to mention the numerous problem solving every project bears under its hat.

All the research and solutions are integral, giving us the tools to make a brand work and speak to our customers in the right language (whether it is in English or Spanish, in colours or black and white, portraying nostalgia or our potential future).

In order to reach our goal of an instant communication, we take time to fully understand all those answers nicely provided to us by consultants and researchers; however I have learned all of that can, quite easily, go to waste if the right amount of care isn’t put into play. With the appropriate care, even the ugliest of weeds can grow into a beautiful tree, blooming with flowers and delivering ‘always fresh’ fruits.

Because brands need to look great even if it’s just for a second; they need to cherish their looks with the most convincing of confidence, as nobody remembers a bad looking brand that works and speaks.

Am I good looking – Branding that works, speaks & looks

Am I Good Looking? A Question we all ask, although deny the very inception of the thought if someone would happen to pry...

Why should I be brand loyal?



“You’ve worked even harder than we imagined you would – have some more money”.

 “You didn’t use as much as we thought you would – have some money back”

I think it’s fair to say that we’d like to hear these types of things on a regular basis. Not because we are getting something for nothing but because it’s fair – it’s the right thing to do.

The key thing behind these two statements – and what makes them a little unusual – is that their main focus is…me…the customer….the end-use… (call it what you will). Quite often, brand messages focus on the brand. So, typically,  “we are a great place to work because______” or “our service leaves the competition standing…”. Both of which are probably quite true but – in essence – these brand messages promote & justify the status quo. True enough there are implicit “user” benefits in there, but the primary purpose is for them to tell you how good they are (just in case you were feeling a little hard-done-by by paying too much for example.)

But, going back to the “me” focus for a while. It genuinely makes me take notice when a brand seems to be thinking about me – about what they can really do for me, what they can do to improve a service or give me a better product.

I got a text the other day from Orange. It read:

Hi from Orange. Best Plan is our free service that reviews your mobile usage every 6 months to make sure you’re getting the best value. We’ve just completed your review and you could save money by switching to your recommended Orange talk plan. Visit Orange.co.uk/bp for details. Terms apply.”

I suppose the reason that this has some resonance with me is that it seemed to form part of a genuinely empathetic strategy: “they seem to be thinking about things from my perspective”.

It’s very common for people to shop around (especially in the telco sector) but the reality is that people probably don’t quite have the time. And when they do get round to it, the chances are they will leave for another provider (especially if they get approached by the other provider). But I think that this particular strategy will go some way into ensuring that their brand loyalty stays pretty strong. And one of the reasons for that loyalty/retention is down to simplicity: “they did the thinking for me”.

On a similar cost-saving note, my recent experiences with BT show that they can be quite flexible but I can’t help feeling that they don’t do simplicity very well. For example, it’s pretty difficult to email them if I don’t have my long account number handy (when I get the urge to email them, I generally don’t have a copy of my phone bill handy!)  When I eventually get through by calling them, they are flexible inasmuch as they will reduce my direct debit amount down to the amount that I want to or should pay (which makes sense given that I rarely use a landline any more & I get a ton of credit balances). But somewhat annoyingly they do have a habit of increasing the amount arbitrarily again afterwards when you aren’t looking (apparently the computer does it). So you need to call them and go through it all again!

Anyway, just looking at these two scenarios, it’s pretty clear to me that brands can give themselves a significant advantage over their competitors when they can show clear empathy: think about me, do something for me, make things easier, make things cheaper.  They don’t have to be big things. The example I gave above isn’t exactly ground breaking but it does go some way towards making me look at that brand in a slightly different light: a little bit of positivity.

Actually maybe it IS a big thing example. Orange apparently have 144 million customers worldwide. If this approach means they retain 5% of customers that they would otherwise have lost. That’s a hell of lot of business!

So, simple lesson here really: think about me and I will like you and I might stay with you. Make it hard for me and I won’t necessarily leave you but you’ll make it easier for me to do so.

Now, if only Orange would ring me with an offer to replace my BT landline and broadband…

Why should I be brand loyal?

“You’ve worked even harder than we imagined you would – have some more money”.  “You didn’t use as much as...