The practice of branding is undergoing a deep transformation — a change brought about by our kaleidoscopic postmodern culture, the development of communication technology and rapid globalization.
In prior decades, brand managers aimed to establish their products and services primarily by way of consistency and repetition. A brand’s voice and message were to be the same, independent of marketing channel. The goal of the designer was to define identity systems that would ensure compliance and coherence in all of the brand’s manifestations, as codified in brand identity style guides.
The Reasons For Brand Consistency
This approach to branding was solidified in the mid-20th century, when relatively simple printing methods and communication technologies were available, marketing and advertising practices were not yet sophisticated enough to surround the consumer in a holistic experience, communication technologies enabled only one-to-many broadcasting, and companies didn’t face the customer-service challenges and scrutiny they do now.
It was a post-war time of optimism about the capability of standardization to drive progress — a notion whose origins stem from scientism, the industrial revolution and the workings of capital.
From that standpoint, it made sense for corporate identity designers to apply standardization and aim for simplicity to make the most of what reproduction and communication methods were available to them, and to ensure that their designs were defined in a comprehensive and consistent way.
From this school of thought hail historic graphic identities such as UPS, American Airlines, Mobil and Chase Bank, brought to us by Paul Rand, Massimo Vignelli and Chermayeff & Geismar.
The Playful, Adaptive Brand
Brands should nowadays give themselves permission to be more surprising, to flirt with their customers, to listen to what they have to say and to cater to their desires. A modern brand should take leaps of faith, abandon self-obsessions and embrace risk. Conversely, by not doing this, the brand could become irrelevant in a hurry.
Because of the dominance of social media, brand identities can now be defined more by their customers than by the companies themselves. The ideal balance, however, stems from the ability to be flexible while keeping intact the core principles and attributes that formed the brand in the first place. Without such grounding, a brand becomes a changeling — morphing its shape to any external whim and impulse.
This fresh approach to defining a brand can be liberating for designers, brand managers and the public. It tends to result in more immersive, delightful and rewarding customer experiences, and it is at the heart of a recent spate of “loose” brand identity executions whose core elements nevertheless remain. Designers have yet to exhaust the full potential of this new method, but many instances already point the way.
Now ask your self . Do I love my brand ?
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