Each morning you drink a cup of “something”, look at your day ahead, check your emails, weather, social media and then decide what to wear. We probably all have some kind of similar routine for getting ready, whether it’s choosing your outfit or picking the right accessories.
That’s because how you present yourself and what you wear depends on what you’ve got planned that day. What are you doing? Who will you see? The alternative: jumping out of bed and wearing “whatever” might be okay, but isn’t likely to set you up for success and make the right (i.e. killer) impression.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Lately, we’ve had the same conversation multiple times with a number of highly motivated, visionary and successful entrepreneurs launching new Luxury brands. In each case, they’ve described how significant time and money have been put toward creating elements like logos, graphics and packaging design comps prior to conceptual brand development, and in some cases, even before the product itself exists.
We get it. In fact, to a degree, we applaud it. Having worked with dozens of entrepreneurs over the years, we know that they’re passionate about their ideas and live for the opportunity to share them with the world. They want everything to happen fast. The temptation to come up with names, logos, packaging and other elements is too strong to ignore. After all, that’s building the brand right? Yes it is, but it’s also too soon. As Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of Wine Library TV and VaynerMedia wrote in his book, Crush It, “Patience is the secret sauce.”
The ‘Design First’ approach might work in some mass categories, where products and services are more commoditized and value-focused (and catchy names and packages may be the only real differentiators). But in the Luxury space, it’s all about cultivating a highly considered and cohesive brand experience. Even the slightest misalignment between the branding and the offering will be detected by discerning Luxury consumers. They’ll move on to the Luxury brands who get it right faster than you can spell BMW.
SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Our agency is often asked to assess Design work commissioned before the concept, and sometimes the product, has been developed. Trust us, there’s no shortage of personal opinions at creative agencies, but how can designs be accurately evaluated if target audience, specific goals, positioning and the like haven’t been established? The unfortunate answer is: they can’t. So while sometimes they’ll be appropriate, many times they won’t. And that means the work needs to be done again. More time. More money. Not good.
When you pick the wrong clothes without the proper due diligence, you may end up without your favorite power tie for the important meeting or drenched and freezing on a rainy day. When brands execute Design before completing the conceptual work, they inhibit their ability to fully realize their potential. Not exactly the best way to launch.
UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BRANDING AND DESIGN
It’s important to develop a brand step-by-step in the proper order. Start at the beginning. The thinking around category, target audience/consumer, unique differentiators, and of course, the actual offerings must be developed before deciding on the brand’s look and feel. In many cases, even the name should be decided upon later rather than sooner. Who’s the target? What do they respond to? Who else competes in the space? What are they about?
Branding is the sum total effect of Positioning, Concept, Design and Execution.
It’s the world’s perception of a company and it’s offering. Design (the look, feel and voice) is only one part of the brand and it shouldn’t be the first consideration.
NO MORE TA-DA MOMENTS
Branding, when done properly, is a slow and steady build toward the alignment, cohesion and consistency of all brand touch points. Working with conceptual thinkers, avoiding the urge to move straight to visuals, and making sure that the brand is built for its target will keep a brand focused on developing the foundational thinking crucial to successful Design execution and brand launch. The “Wow!” you’ll get for a flashy logo and package will wear off much sooner than the satisfaction you’ll experience after bringing an amazing idea to life.