Lets talk about branding. I'll be honest, it's something i've underestimated. At the start of all this, I would have said something like: "Well isn't it just your logo and colour schemes and stuff?". Of course that is partly true. But it fails to address all the component parts, both physical and non-physical that make up a company's brand.
What I have come to understand over the last few months is that a brand is a method of communication. And just as we as humans have numerous ways to communicate with each other beyond simply speaking (there's body language, written language etc etc), brands don't just communicate through a nice logo and some pretty colours.
Its not my intention in this post to break down and discuss all the important components that constitute brand identity (try here and here for starters). There are much better resources for that. But it incorporates everything from the style of writing I'm adopting here in this blog, to the UI/UX aspects of the app we're currently developing.
Logos discussions have taken up a disproportionate amount of our time recently. I guess we can justify it. In many ways, its the immediate face of your brand, and we were keen to make sure we'd got it 'right'. What that meant however, we didn't quite know. We spent a lot of time flapping around amongst ourselves, trying out different ideas. (There's only so many ways you can draw an 'S').
We eventually did what we should have done from the outset and utilised our connections. A few exploratory conversations with a designer friend led to some high level input from a creative director. After some more tentative back and forths over Facebook messenger I received a .zip file with the STAMP logo as you see it now. After some subsequent late night sessions with our designer friend, we managed to turn out a whole app wireframe redesign and the suite of photoshop files we could give to our front end dev.
I thought we'd nailed it.
Then a recent piece of feedback gave me reason to question that. "It looks quite cold and masculine". My heart sank. Perhaps I'd allowed myself to get too attached to this latest log iteration, unable to step back and remain critical and objective. I'm all for ignoring people's opinions when they go against something you love, but not all opinions are equal. This one came from the head of a brand agency.
We were sat having coffee in a hotel bar. I was seeking advice on marketing and PR approaches for STAMP - something we'll need to start planning for as STAMP enters beta testing. On the table was our two-pager - STAMP in a nutshell - the concise description of our plan for STAMP that reads better than my waffled verbal description.
There was a disconnect. The words in my two-pager painted one picture and our branding painted another. "Okay well tell me this, what are your core values?" I threw back a poorly constructed response. It wasn't that we didn't have any. I mean it was only the other week that I was writing about our ethos here. But it wasn't galvanised. It wasn't our mantra. I wasn't completely sure in what I was saying.
At this point, i'm going to steal the analogy that was offered to me during the course of that meeting. Your core values and brand ethos are the foundations of a house. Rock solid and permanent. More importantly however they form the basis on which you build your actual home (or brand). If marketing and publicity campaigns are the bricks to your brand, they are basically pointless without the solid value base on which to lay them.
I had approached this meeting looking for advice on which bricks I should use, when in reality I hadn't even laid the foundations yet.
I was glad to have learned that lesson now. With STAMP still in it's pre-alpha state, we're still essentially operating in stealth mode (aside from this blog...and some tweets). But just like i've projected our spending, planned the implementation of a revenue model and prioritised future feature development sprints, our brand strategy needs to receive some more quality time.
Back to our house analogy, I need to stop trying to find some nice bricks and sheepishly make my way back to the architect's table.
Till next time.
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