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Five branding traps you need to avoid

Weve done this a few times, and have noticed a number of common traps clients can get snared in when creating or evolving a brand. Generally, Id say that one of the key aspects of our role in this process is one of professional objectivity. Its where we can add a lot of value for the client, because at some stage or other theyre going to struggle with one or more of the following issues.

I know this because we recently did some brand work for ourselves and I just couldnt get my head around it. I was too close to it. Too emotionally involved to be constructive in the decisions we were making. However, I think it was very useful as it gave me the client perspective on a brand project.

So in no particular order, here are five challenges that are more than likely to crop up:

(1) Evaluation without context

We all do it. We see something and immediately jump to a conclusion, whether that be good or bad. Its particularly true when it comes to naming. You just have to give it some time to sink in and understand the context around the proposition. New names and identities can be like trying someone elses clothes onA bit awkward and feels very strange. But, with time comes normalisation and perhaps a realisation that it wasnt that bad after all.

During this process I always have a new found respect for Wolff Olins team that proposed and pushed through the name Orange for a new telecom brand. I wonder how many clients in that room were squirming in their seats when the name was

(2) The search for perfection

This is a kind of no mans land between approval and rebrief. Its a dangerous rut to get stuck in because there is no way out. The truth is that in all of these projects need a level of compromise in order to move forward. Whether thats on colour, language, names, sub-brands, or URLs. There comes a time when decisions must be made to keep pace with the wider business requirements. We have a saying for this in the agency: “perfection is the enemy of good”.

Read more about branding a business:

(3) Subjectivity blindness

This is similar to the above, and is another pitfall that beckons welcomingly. You need to consider every single detail of your brand with a meticulous enthusiasm. But it can go too far and become detrimental to the bigger picture. For example, I once had a client who had a problem with the character “i” in the logotype of their brand name.

Apparently (in their opinion) it just didnt look like an “i” and there was a concern that their customers couldnt read the word. When this happens and they start talking about research to clarify things, you know it’s gone too far!

(4) Research isnt the answer

Dont look to it to make a decision for you. Thats a cop out. All it will do is cast up 1,000 other things to be worried about things you hadnt thought about before. Things that arent likely to be real things. But with your subjectivity blindness in full effect those things become mission critical.

Researching brand concepts, logos or names is wrong in my view. It invites an unnatural scrutiny of things we never really consciously think about and it takes you to the edge of madness. Calm down, take a step back and make some sensible decisions with objective, pragmatic advice. Youll also save some time and money.

(5) Never work in isolation

It might get you to the end of the process more quickly, but itll kill you in the end. No matter how good the work is.

Because everyone feels so invested in their brand, it’s important to take everyone with you. The best projects are the ones that somehow allow all the stakeholders a say at the outset (For example via a company wide survey). And as the project progresses, it’s sensible to create a smaller working group that represents the view of all stakeholders.

If you’re looking for other branding examples not to follow, then take a look at how Uber’s rebrand drew mass confusion from its users.

Chris Lumsden is a partner at brand and design consultancy Good.


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