From small bytes to big brands
5-must dos for branding institutions and corporations
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
― Leon C. Megginson
Branding is understood in many different ways and its definitions are as varied. As a design studio, we started out in the arena of identity and branding some twenty years back and we increasingly embraced a human-centric approach. Brands need to build themselves with empathetic values, no different than living breathing people. We started to look at branding as a permeable field that enters all aspects of an organization’s ethos and environment to influence people and behaviour – which in fact is the essence of communication design. Here, we share with our readers our five pointers for branding:
1. Tap the essence
Every branding program must tap the true essence of what a organisation is all about. Whether a big institution or a small start-up, honing in to ferret out the What-makes-You-factor which drives the brand defines your purpose and answers the why of what you do.
In the Bihar Museum, it was as simple as the Bo-tree – a symbol of wisdom and learning, and for Murugappa, the peacock – as symbol of national pride and heritage. This identity like a person will eventually be a complex personality, so when we scope this out, we always look at two aspects carefully – the roots of the organisation and its founding vision.
2. Speak in one voice
We think about brands like we think about people. You can describe an individual in a few words, but you know he or she is much more complex. The many layers of the brand are ultimately what become its drivers. It does not rest with the simple identity, but explores a multi-faceted range of characteristics. A humanistic, well defined and well- articulated value system will allow each stakeholder to function independently – in a way allowing the entire organization to speak in one voice.
3. From Local to Universal
It is important to see both the little and the big. In its formative years, modern design did not capture the universal in the local measurably in India, often separating Western ideology from Indian ethos. Our studio believes firmly in – think local act global – and have made it our approach for Indian brands.
Within the Tree of Wisdom, there is a triad of trees which represent the three pillars of the Bihar Museum – Great Dynasties, Supreme Knowledge and Way of Life. Further, the symbol has a bilingual bridge, a complex element, which brings history, language and acceptance of our colonial past together. This local to universal approach looking at small to big sends a pluralistic message while establishing pride of place.
4. Let your brand fly
Branding is about letting your brand fly far and wide. You are no longer restricted to visibility in the top three popular mediums, so move to be relevant – ie., where your target group lives. Social and digital media are about emerging mediums, each having their own language and behaviour. Dive in and experiment across mediums, always holding on to who you are. This will not just allow you to take the essential first step but learn and implement, getting better in time. As you fly higher in a particular platform you will find new possibilities emerging giving you fresh opportunities to express yourself. Our identity for Sify reflected ‘Keeping you ahead’ in a simple strong logo with the square motif ahead, flying high.
5. Adapt or die
In nature, the most persistent and innovative, outlast all other species to survive. While we don’t want to be seen as invasive, the brand has to be a creature that can manage in many different circumstances as scenarios change. In the Indian film industry for instance, the time-tested formula of hero-heroine-villain is increasingly being changed to scripts with female leads as in Queen, everyday life stories as in The Lunchbox and an aging father- young daughter relationship in Piku: these variants cater to a nuanced market, which has opened up new possibilities. These stories of change also shape mainstream cinema.
We design identity and branding looking at the possibility of change. Timelessness is linked to always staying in context and therefore agility. Brands are like live performers who must adapt and grow, or just adapt.