Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Does Branding Still Matter?

The RE:Brand project is a web series that pairs five design and branding experts with five small business owners to help provide advice on their brand identities. The webisodes can be viewed at http://www.openforum.com/, the American Express website for small businesses.

PSFK interviewed some of the participants of the project to ask: Does Branding Still Matter?  I think the answers are interesting and wanted to share:

Lesley Maia Horowitz & Dominic Sinesio, OFFICELAB
Of course. It has never stopped mattering. If we think of a brand as the sum total of one’s experience of a business, product, organization, person…then it has always been vital to how things are perceived. Not just the things we each consume, brands can be thought of as markers all around us. They create a landscape full of destinations we long for or paths we avoid.
The practice of branding is simply about organizing those experiences in order to shape a perception that meets specific goals. That was hopefully the biggest take-away for our American Express OPEN: Project RE:Brand partner, Artyarns. The core was there, the reason-to-believe was there, the product was there. What they lacked was an organizing framework for projecting who they are, what they do and why they do it. Beyond that, a lot of attention to detail, touchpoint by touchpoint is what will do the work of growing the Artyarns brand. Our role was to create that foundation, organize the key elements, and give them tools to get there.
The big challenge of branding in the digital age is fragmentation. Touch points get more and more granular but not necessarily less potent i.e. the wrong 140 characters can do a lot of damage! The trick is to identify what is meaningful, believable, ownable, different….and we’d add beautiful to the mix. Not necessarily aesthetic beauty, rather, beauty in the sense that there is both clarity and poetry at work. That’s what creates stories with resonance, stories worth believing in. After all, we all want to believe.

Iris and Elliot Schreier, Artyarns
Branding matters now more than ever before. In our field there is increased competition–every day there are new artisans who dye yarn for hand-knitting and offer it for sale online. Most are individuals doing it at home. The barriers to entry are minimal. All these small businesses are directly competing with us. In a world where everyone is now equally noisy online, and there is no distinction between small and large companies, branding is more important than ever.
Artyarns offers a line of yarns consisting of Italian-spun cashmere and Merino wool, Japanese silk and mohair, custom plied and hand-painted in our factory in New York with equipment we have designed ourselves and is difficult to replicate. For Artyarns, in partnering with OFFICELAB for American Express OPEN: Project RE:Brand our brand has been redefined to promote these very important distinguishing characteristics through various means.
For example, in the newly designed ads from OFFICELAB, we use a tag line that promotes the importance of using high-quality yarn to knitters: “Before the Art of Knitting Comes the Art of Yarn,” and also use call to action messaging: “Elevate your art.”
The photography in our new branding, particularly in the advertisements and blog, evoke the luxury and sensuality of the yarn, and the aspiration to create something magnificent. Rather than providing an actual design photographed on a model, creating interest in a specific garment, the approach is one that is more broad and enticing. Through videos and updates the blog adds a personal connection to the consumer experience and continues to reinforce the connection between Artyarns and Iris Schreier.
From this process from Project RE:Brand, the combination of these elements that OFFICELAB put forth, our brand, in a new understated way, now represents luxury, uniqueness, and quality which differentiates us from the many other yarn companies out there.

Willy Wong, NYC & Company
The need for branding only increases as our media landscape continues to fragment. We’ve adapted to life with messages directed at us offline, online, on-air, on hold, on-the-go, etc. Companies, organizations, and people looking to build their image and connect with audiences must consider all touch-points and timelines. In the digital space, speed and responsiveness are expectations that brands must meet to stay relevant in conversations and maintain authority in their narrative. 

 Julia Hoffmann, MoMA
Branding never mattered more than in todays age, because whether big or small a brand will be now accessible from everywhere in every possible channel imaginable.