Here at Newicon, we’ve built a team with the skillset to help businesses at every level of a digital project — from marketing and UX design through to web, software and app development. ‘Team talk’ is a series of blog articles where we delve into the expertise of our team, and explore what interests them most in their line of work.
First up is George, one of our digital marketers, who has an interesting take on how to get your branding right…
Branding has to be one of my favourite elements of marketing. As someone who started out as a copywriter, there’s something exciting about the idea of turning a business into a persona — how it sounds, what it talks about, carefully crafting the face it shows to the public. So, as more of our software projects begin to include an element of branding here at Newicon, I couldn’t be happier!
It means I’m currently thinking a lot about branding in general, and especially about what makes a brand that’s sturdy and long lasting. Because of this, one particular thought has been playing on my mind, and it’s this: the strength of any given brand has a lot in common with a certain rule in science fiction and fantasy storytelling.
It’s a bit out there, I know, but stick with me and I’ll explain.
Suspend your disbelief
You already know that I started out as a copywriter. The next important piece of information you need to know (for this story to make sense) is that I’m a massive nerd — one of the biggest science fiction and fantasy fans you’re likely to meet. I’m also someone who likes to write outside of work, and studied scriptwriting at university.
Basically, I spend a lot of time thinking about how sci-fi and fantasy stories work.
The area of storytelling that overlaps with branding on a Venn diagram (at least the one area that I’ve been thinking about) is the importance of consistency in working within the rules you’ve set.
In sci-fi and fantasy, a writer will often create entire new worlds. Within those worlds, there could be systems of magic, or technologies that don’t exist in real life. There could be new species of animal, or human cultures that have no basis in reality. When setting up these ideas, the writer effectively creates a set of rules — a framework from which to hang their story.
These stories require the reader of a book, or the audience member of a film/TV show, to suspend their disbelief — to forget, for the time being, that what’s happening in the story couldn’t possibly happen in the real world. For them to do that, the writer has a responsibility to keep this made-up reality consistent to the laws he or she laid down at the start — to make sure that their framework doesn’t falter.
It’s hugely important, because if you break the rules you set, you immediately throw the reader out of the story. Essentially, people are happy to buy into your made up world — no matter how out-there it is — as long as you remain consistent within your framework.
Bringing it back to brand
Now consider that building a brand is a lot like creating a work of fiction. You’re putting together a personality and applying it to a business. No business inherently has a brand. Without planning, a business might build up a brand that’s essentially an amalgamation of all the people who communicate on behalf of it. But that brand will be flimsy and have next to no value.
For a brand to have real value, it has to be clear and consistent. It has to have one voice, applied at every point of contact with the real world, both internally (with staff) and externally (with customers). This voice is the equivalent of the rules we talked about in sci-fi and fantasy.
Get it right, and the audience will buy into your fiction. This is where brands add value. When the audience buys into the personality you’ve created, only then will they start listening to your messaging — your marketing and your sales.
This is also where the danger comes in. Because if you break the rules of your brand, you break the illusion and throw people out of the story. And when that happens, people stop listening to what your business has to say. That’s why consistency is so important. The question is: what does this mean in real life? What can you do to keep your brand consistent?
Quick tips for creating brand consistency
This isn’t the place to go into depth about how to create a successful brand (keep an eye out for that article later!), but here are some tips for what to look out for in terms of consistency:
Develop and stick to a tone of voice (TOV)
One of the most famous examples of a successful TOV comes from Innocent Drinks. The smoothie company’s TOV immediately differentiated it from the competition, with its irreverence and sense of humour. Keeping this TOV consistent over the years has seen Innocent through a global recession and a gradual takeover by the Coca-Cola company — something that many thought would be the death of this “healthy” brand. If Innocent had changed its TOV after the takeover, there’s every chance that its loyal customers might have jumped ship.
Get serious about grammar
Nobody likes a grammar pedant, and that’s fair. Literally nobody likes to be corrected over the way they use the word literally. But in terms of your brand, having someone who cares about grammar helping out can be a godsend. Why? Because consistency in your grammar and accuracy in your spelling is critical to your brand identity. A lot of grammar is about style, rather than right or wrong. The key is picking a style and sticking with it. You’d be surprised at the difference a consistent use of capital letters and full stops in bullet points can make (seriously).
Create brand guidelines
The bigger your business, the harder it gets to make sure that every piece of business communication you deliver is on-brand. And, to be honest, it’s hard enough for even the smallest of companies. Think about the contact surface area a typical business might have with its customers: you’ve got advertising, packaging, website, blogs, news, direct mail, email, social media… the list goes on. Communicating your brand to all the people involved in all those areas could be a herculean task… or you could create one definitive set of brand guidelines, and share it around the company.
That list is far from exhaustive. But it is a good place to start. You may have noticed that I didn’t even touch on the visual aspects of consistency. Those are just as important, but I’m a writer, not a designer, so I’ll leave that topic to one of my talented colleagues.
What does brand have to do with your next software project?
As I mentioned right at the start of this article, we’re getting a steady stream of web and software projects through the doors that require branding. The interesting thing is that not all of these projects start off that way. Often, through our workshops — essentially brainstorming sessions we have with clients at the start of every project — our clients come to the conclusion that they need an element of branding.
This could mean a new logo to coincide with an app. It could equally be a complete rethink of the brand in conjunction with a new website. Sometimes it’s a startup that has a fantastic product they want us to develop but hasn’t put much consideration into their brand.
Whatever the reason, putting some thought into their branding brings value in the long run.
Hopefully, you’ve taken something away from this, more, at least, than the knowledge that I’m a bit of a nerd. If anything, I hope that my thoughts about the connection between sci-fi and fantasy storytelling and brand will stick in your memory, and remind you of the importance of consistency in your brand messaging.
If you want to have a chat with me about the topic (or if you just want a suggestion of some amazing sci-fi novels you should read), then make sure to get in touch.
If you’re interested in working with Newicon on your next digital project, get in touch now.