Burn your brand book and embrace creativity
Brand books typically hold the keys to a brand’s strategy, direction and future, but Ed Bolton, director of Frog, suggests it could be an outdated guide that needs to be restarted. He suggests reworking his content and embracing fluidity in search of creativity.
When was the last time you opened your brand book? Is he sitting on the server collecting virtual dust? A brand book can be full of inspiring, strategic and creative thoughts, laying the groundwork for the brand to take hold in the world. But in most cases they are only consulted when someone goes to page 34 to enter the RGB color values. They end up being neglected, outdated and too heavy. Does anyone care about the exclusion area of your logo? Or that the left margin is 2x the height of X?
In the past, brand guidelines, brand bibles, brand books – whatever name you give them – were essential documents for global brands. They would use several creative agencies, with different specialties, located around the world and all with different skill levels. Brand books were a key tool for maintaining consistency and control on a global scale.
Frog explains why burning the script and taking a less stereotypical approach might work / Yaoqi via Unsplash
Over time, books grew, as if agencies had to prove their worth by the number of pages instead of the quality of what was on those pages. Some of the best tell the brand story in a rich and inspiring way, but more often than not they are glorified PowerPoint presentations. The world has moved on: the art of creative expression for brands has leaped forward, but not the way it is documented.
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While it’s important to establish a solid strategic and creative foundation – logos shouldn’t be messed up, a clean typeface can go a long way, and a base color can become an iconic asset – you don’t need of a heavy brand book to control this. You have to lay down the basics and execute some great creations. (According to legend, the best brand book of all time was Nike’s, which simply said on one page, “Don’t F with the swoosh.”)
So it’s time to burn your brand book and do this instead:
1. Lead with experience
One of the most important strategic elements for directing creative expression is your brand personality. How do you want to make yourself known to your audience? First, use your personal flair to define fixed elements (such as logo, base color, typeface, image style, design system, and tone of voice) without being too normative. From there, plan your customer experience and modify your flex elements (such as photography, illustration, graphics, and messaging) to meet their emotional needs through the brand experience.
The Starbucks Creative Expression is a wonderful design system that keeps the heart of the brand intact while allowing creativity to change with the seasons. In its own words, it is a “new design system that maintains the core elements of our brand while keeping our customer experience at the heart of creative expression, [bringing] purpose and cohesion in every interaction with customers. »
2. Take risks
We live in a world where everything is branded – from pet food subscriptions and pasta delivery services to beer cans and parking tickets – with a proliferation of bland creative expressions driven by the rise of tech companies over the past decade. That means plenty of white space, bold color palettes, geometric sans serif fonts, and quirky animated icons backed by core brand guidelines on how to achieve consistency. As a result, it’s all, well, a bit boring.
Thanks to the advent of the metaverse and the rise of decentralization, pioneering brands are incorporating an element of weirdness and fun into their brand identities. But you can’t do that when your inner “brand font” doesn’t allow it. Instead, think of your creative expression as a living brand that needs to be fueled by exciting new stimuli.
So drop the rules, play with your flex items, take risks and get weird. Consistency is important, but your audience cares more about how your products and services delight and engage them, which means going off track from time to time.
3. Invest in creativity
The level of creativity in schools and universities around the world today is at an incredibly high level. The democratization of tools driven by the internet and social platforms means that graphic design is much more accessible than ever. London and New York are losing their crown as centers of branding excellence and incredible agencies are springing up around the world, from Amsterdam to Stockholm to Bangkok. This, coupled with the availability of remote collaboration, means it’s much easier to access incredible creativity no matter where you are in the world.
Sure, brand books are there to standardize your brand implementation, but don’t let that lead to standardization of your creative expression. DAMs (digital asset management systems) are useful tools for defining templates that anyone can use for your low-level communications. Make sure they’re set up and deployed consistently, then find great creatives and give them a good introduction to your brand. They will reward you with brilliant executions.
So rip the best bits, then burn your brand book and embrace creativity!
At Frog, we help brands win hearts and move markets. For more information, visit our site and contact us.