How to bring a brand to life

How can you help the next generation of great British designers understand the way that their talent helps businesses build brand reputation and successfully communicate the spirit of a brand through visual, practical and environmental design communication?

That was the question senior lecturer Mike Bond (one half of the design partnership Bond & Coyne) invited me to address during a lecture to a group of final year students at Kingston University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture last month.

The slide-deck (above) includes the visuals I used from that lecture (an annotated excerpt of which I used in the recent post ‘Do marketing communications teams have a future?’). In fact, as regular readers may realise, it’s a mash-up of three previous presentations that I’ve produced but with an eye on the practical application of the content plus a couple of twists.

Although it’s intended for an undergraduate audience, it’s likely to be just as relevant to to the owner of a small business or a head of marketing because it offers up two frameworks by which to easily and practically:

  • size up a brand’s character by breaking it down into its component parts (by unashamedly touting the beautifully simple model offered by Wally Olins in his book The Brand Handbook); and, once you’ve done that
  • suggests some design principles that you can apply to brand communications which are just as relevant to a routine e-mail as a they are multi-million pound advertising campaigns.

I’m also posting it now because it’s relevant to the final instalment in my series of posts on ‘The difference between brand and branding’. (If you missed them, see Part One and Part Two.)

Given the audience it was intended for, the visuals introduce you to the Olins model and then walk you through a workaday characterisation of how ideas are moved from one person to another via media.

After that, it offers up examples of the events and innovations that have disrupted the continuity of traditional communication and what the consequence is for brand design communication, before setting out four principles for brand communication and associated practical examples.

During the lecture, I offered the group a real-life example against which they could test the brand dimensions of the Olins model and the design principles I’d suggested by asking the question ‘Where next for HMV?’

But you could drop any business or brand into this slide, though; even your own.

All you need to do is consider a single-line core idea (expressed in terms of what consumers gain from you being around and not what you or your business gains), then how that idea is reflected by the way you go about doing business (using the four dimensions offered by Olins) and, finally, how you stack up against the four design principles that I’ve suggested.

If you’d like me to talk through the slides, and assuming there’s an audience for it, I’d be happy to try out a Zipcast for the first time.

If you’d be interested in a Zipcast, just e-mail me, tweet me at @mrianthomas or @NewTradition_, or post a message at our Facebook page to let me know.

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