What’s a brand, and why do you need one?

By Emma.

A lot of people think of logos when they hear the word brand. And that’s fair enough – a good logo is a critical piece of brand identity. But a brand goes far beyond a logo – it’s the emotional response your customers have when they think of you; the summation of who you want to be, what you are, and how people interact with you; in short – it’s a vision of everything that your company aspires to be.

This might sound like psycho-babble, but think of some of the great brands: Apple, with its “think different” tagline and beautiful, minimalist, design; Coke, the soft drink that owns Christmas; Disney, the world’s pre-eminent entertainment company. These businesses don’t just have personality – they have artfully designed themselves so that they can leverage public perception in their favour.

Today, branding is more important than ever before. Your customers are behaving in new ways thanks to the internet: they’re checking out you and your competitors’ websites against one another, and deciding who to go with. In almost every case, customers will have made a decision about you and your company without ever talking to you or visiting your physical premises. How do they make that decision? By evaluating your brand. That’s why it’s absolutely vital that your branding, online presence, and marketing materials are every bit as strong as your actual business: in many cases, it will be all people look at to decide whether they want to become your customer or not.

Take the companies we discussed above: many people in the I.T. world have gone on record as saying that there’s nothing special about Apple products. In blind taste tests, Coke is regularly beaten by its biggest rival, Pepsi. And Disney – well, I love what they’re doing today as much as everyone else. But lets remember that the stories that this legendary storyteller is currently focusing on (Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar) are ones that they’ve bought – so much for creativity.

So if the difference between these companies and their competitors isn’t in the product itself, where is it? It’s in the brand – it’s in the story that each of them is telling not to their customers, but with them.

This last point is central to the idea of a good brand: it’s not something that gets “made” and then exists in some vacuum – your brand will change with you, it will pick up connotations as customers evaluate their experience of your business alongside the story you are telling about it. It will evolve organically. A brand is not an icon that sits on a webpage – it’s an idea in your and your customers’ heads.

This is why you have to get it right. Many people can tell a good story. But can they find the right story? And, once they’ve found it, can they tell it in the best way, a way that you can live alongside authentically? If your branding lacks authenticity, your customers will figure it out.

No one can do this effectively alone, and that’s why people like Kiss Design exist. Our main job is to become an expert in you and your business, and then tell your and your customers story as well as it can possibly be told. Some businesses might have stories that are more obvious than others – but we’ve yet to find a company that doesn’t have the seeds of a great brand at its core.

Why you need a professionally branded website

By Emma.

It has never been easier to start a business than it is today. Anyone can create a simple website at minimal cost to market their new company, and the benefits of a website are numerous.

You can reach people all around the world – or, if you spend a little on targeted ads, you can talk directly to people in your region. You can keep customers informed on the day-to-day progress of your business. You can have a virtual shop for your services or products that anyone can browse with no need to even leave their home. And, of course, people can contact you more easily than ever before through email forms.

But here’s the unpleasant truth: that’s not enough.

Make no mistake, in terms of public-facing marketing, a website is probably the most important asset a business can have. But, in a world where 571 websites are created every minute, standing out is nearly impossible. Well, if you try to do it alone. Plenty of businesses do just that: they build a free website with easily accessed web tools, fill it with content, and… nothing happens.

There is a solution. And that is to let a professional help you build something that can really stand out from the crowd.

There are lots of tricks that a talented web design and development team can use to improve your site’s functionality and its reach in search engines and through digital advertising. It is often overlooked that strategies are needed to make sure customers can easily find your website, this together with ongoing customer engagement are paramount in this, the customer-age. Of course, if the content on your website is anything less than professional quality, that won’t matter – people will land on your site and leave it within seconds. So you’ll need a talented copywriter and graphic designer to make it look great and read well, and probably a wider team to deal with production, editing, and proofreading.

Guess what: even that is not enough.

While a professionally created website can do a great deal for a business, without good branding, it simply won’t push your business as far as it can go. Many people mistakenly think that having a brand is optional – it is not. Every business has a brand, because a brand is simply the core messaging that customers pick up from it. The difference when you design a brand is simply that you can determine what that messaging is. This is the most powerful truth in creative marketing.

Consider the following: 90% of customers expect that their experience will be the same across all platforms and devices. If you haven’t decided what your core values are, developed a suitable logo, tone of voice, and marketing strategy, your brand simply cannot deliver that. 91% of consumers are more likely to buy from what they consider an “authentic brand” – unless you have built your brand carefully and deliberately, that is not you. 77% of customers make their purchases based on a brand name: will it be yours? If you are relying on luck rather than the services of a professional, the answer is almost certainly no.

Perhaps the simplest way to think of it is this: Coca Cola has outperformed Pepsi for most of its life. That’s not down to the drink itself – blind tests demonstrate that people prefer the flavour of Pepsi. It’s down to Coke’s legendary branding.

At Kiss Design, we have a wealth of experience in building brands and websites together. We believe this is the simplest and most sensible approach: your brand is the most important marketing element of your business; your website is the very first thing it should be applied to. But don’t take our word for it: just check out the testimonials and case studies on this website – if you understand the value of branding, then perhaps the next business we add to these sections of our site will be yours.

Our first Baxi magazine!

By Amie.

We love getting involved in lots of different creative projects for our clients, and one of our latest projects was a great chance to showcase how our branding, copywriting and creative skills can come together to produce something great!

Baxi are a leading name in the heating industry, and we have been working with them on their internal communications over the last few months. Now, as part of their new internal comms brand: ‘Get Connected’, we have produced their latest quarterly magazine, which is just one of the exciting plans that has been implemented to improve their internal communication.

Andy, our Head of Design, and Matt our Creative Artworker, worked on the project and how we could refresh their existing magazine with new ideas and designs.

Containing stories about charity initiatives, the latest internal innovations and their employees’ achievements, the 24-page CanDo magazine was printed and shared with all employees across Baxi Heating. Also, Baxi will share the online version of the magazine via their new branded email marketing system.

This magazine is part of a wider strategy to improve internal communication at Baxi and boost performance. Also, it is something we really enjoyed working on and we are chuffed with the outcome, as are Baxi!

Design’s impact on the beautiful game

By Mike.

Football is the world’s most popular sport and enjoyed by people of all different ages, backgrounds, religions and nationalities. And, this is why the sport has become such a hub and hotspot of marketing and design, as clubs compete over not just on-field glory, but off-field fiscal success also.

Apart from the geographical locations and players, one area that sets different clubs apart is their design, branding and marketing. Whether it’s through product sponsorship and endorsements, design collaborations or fresh social media content, the marketing department of Premier League clubs are always working on new projects to try and stay ahead of the game, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Changing how a company or a brand’s logo looks is very tricky and needs to be handled delicately, especially if it is a symbol that prompts mass recognition. That is heightened in football’s case, as the loyalty and love fans have for their clubs creates a real emotional attachment.

This means that any changes need to be subtle, tasteful and well thought out by everyone involved, as a misstep can cause a backlash, as Everton FC found out following a high-profile revolt against their proposed new logo back in 2013. So, the stakes are high from an emotional point of view, but also from a financial sense, with Manchester United’s ‘brand value’ being rated at over $1.1 billion by Statista.

When done well, design, branding and the beautiful game can come together spectacularly, as fans the world over will pay out for their favourite kit designs, or the latest model of Adidas or Nike football boots for instance.

In terms of social media, football is in a realm of its own, with millions upon millions of fans all over the world wanting to get a glimpse into the inner workings and behind the scenes moments of their team and favourite players. With clubs feeding the beast with digital campaigns and a constant stream of content, they only seem to grow their channels.

However, these accounts have a much higher level of gaffes and errors than you’d expect from organisations of such a size. This is because to try and maximise their content they have to be reactionary and often get content out during or shortly after matches, when a lot of their fans/customers are browsing the social channels.

There is a whole world of marketing and design material being put out by elite football clubs, and just how this relationship between business, sport and design continues to evolve in the coming years will be fascinating.

Valentine’s Day – Cute celebration or marketing mechanism?

By Emma.

Much like Christmas and Easter, Valentine’s Day is seen, by some, as a time to celebrate with that special person. Other people, however, cynically view it as a marketing ploy and commercial opportunity.

We’re a healthy mix of enthusiastic romanticism (Amie, our digital director even gives her husband a card from her dog!) and weary scepticism here at Kiss. Therefore, we’re in a good place to take an objective look at the marketing and advertising strategies around the special occasion.

With Valentine’s Day being less than a week away (Tuesday, guys – DON’T FORGET) the adverts, email marketing and digital campaigns are coming in thick and fast. But what is the right way to go about this without alienating people, becoming too cheesy, or just sticking to boring clichés?

Last year, a study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released data stating that 51% of people in England and Wales identify themselves as single, and so retailers have to make sure these people feel enticed too, not just loved-up couples. With couples and singletons buying gifts for their friends or partners, spending hit a record $19.7 billion for the holiday in 2016.

Of course, a lot of people love Valentine’s Day, and that makes it a great opportunity for your business to get a themed message out there. There are a few key guidelines to follow around February 14th, which usually apply to all of these ‘Hallmark holidays’.

  • Be creative and interesting
  • Stick to your established tone of voice
  • Be authentic

Also, what do you know about your customers? Do you have data on them, how old are they? What are their interests? Are they mainly male or female? What brands do they associate with and enjoy? All of these are questions that should be asked when devising a strategy, because if you can become more precise and targeted with your messaging and marketing, the results you see will naturally improve.

Whether you are someone who spoils your partner or friends with lavish gifts, or a plastic flowers from the petrol station kind of person, you will have seen a whole range of Valentine’s marketing – good and bad. If you would like some advice on your messaging, we would love to hear from you and see if we could help.

 

Hull gets creative as the UK City of Culture

By Mike.

We have an obvious interest and a real passion for great design, wherever we find it. But, when it is also British, that is an added bonus – and so we were delighted when it was revealed that Hull would be the next UK City of Culture. We have taken a look at what this means for the Yorkshire city.

When you think of creativity, art and culture in the UK, you would be forgiven for instantly thinking of London events, galleries and so on. However, 2017 is the year that Hull shows its cultural identity through a string of events, festivals, instalments and all sorts really.

The city won the award for ‘the worst place to live in the UK’ in 2005 and was last year dubbed ‘a glum port town falling apart at the seams’ by Vice magazine, however this year will see them brighten the place up. In fact, they have already begun with a fireworks extravaganza and other New Years events.

As an example of the events that will roll on throughout the year, in January alone, there is: Made in Hull, at the Hull City Centre, Bowhead at the Hull Maritime Museum, The Pitmen Poets at the Pocklington Arts Centre and a Brass Band Spectacular at Hull City Hall.

This range of events going on in Hull throughout 2017 are clearly being designed and commissioned to try and change the city, bring positivity, intrigue (and money from tourism).

However, it is not only attitudes and connotations of the city that are changing, the bricks and mortar changes are occurring too. For instance, the Ferens Art Gallery has just re-opened following a £4.5 million refurbishment and it will be hosting the Turner Prize later this year.

Speaking to ITV, the chairwoman of Hull City of Culture 2017, Rosie Millard, said that people visiting the area this year would find a city transformed. She said: “I think Hull is the least known city in the UK and for outsiders, they will be surprised and amazed by what an extraordinary place Hull is, and for locals, they will be proud of what the city has achieved. They will have an amazing welcome from one of our 4,000 volunteers, who are mostly from Hull, and all absolutely bursting with enthusiasm. They will see a city with great optimism. They will see a transformed city."

Our very own Head of Design, Andy, has previously worked on creative projects to promote tourism and culture in Yorkshire and the North of England and so he has an interest in the creative development of these cities.

There are hundreds of interesting and, most importantly, creative acts, performances and exhibitions coming to Hull throughout the rest of the year, and we will certainly be keeping a close eye on proceedings.

Branding your way to the White House

By Andy.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, on another planet, or on a remote island somewhere, you’ll have noticed there was a momentous election in America this week. Now, months of media coverage has come to an end and Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States, yes that’s right: President Trump!

However, while TV news channels and newspaper columns have been full of the two candidates and their confrontation, what has interested me the most has been the branding behind the two campaigns.

election_story_image

Whether it has been around their speech podiums, across their personal aeroplanes or on campaign buses, both parties were keen to get their branding and their message in front of as many people as possible. The Clinton campaign went with this logo (above) which became synonymous with their campaign, using the red arrow symbolising the candidates desire to move the country forward on a number of issues.

The symbol, created by Pentagram partner Michael Bierut and Jesse Reed, was used alongside a white, custom, sans-serif typeface, Unity, with the colours incorporating the classic red, white and blue of the American flag.

Hillary Clinton’s ultimately unsuccessful campaign was aiming to make her the first female President in the history of the country, something she played on a lot throughout the campaign. A lot of her advertising material and branded merchandise played on the feminist idea, using ‘she’ and ‘her’ across many items, whilst keeping the focus on progression. Eventually this spawned the #ImWithHer hashtag across social media.

The eventual winner, Donald Trump, has been a news phenomenon over the last year, with news broadcasters and print media becoming a fanfare around him and there being some sort of story, positive or negative, in almost every news cycle. Because of this, it was important he has one clear message to speak to his target voters.

The Trump campaign, running with Mike Pence as his vice-presidential candidate opted for this logo initially, with the American flag re-design at the top, and his somewhat notorious slogan ‘Make American Great Again’ at the bottom. This logo was released as Pence was unveiled as the VP candidate, however with the capital T going through the P, some people took an alternative and rude view of the logo and it was eventually scrapped.

After scrapping the logo, the Trump campaign went without an icon, instead opting for ‘Trump’ and ‘Pence’ in bold, sans-serif logotype, along with their slogan and a blue box border with five red stars.

Elections are always a good time to observe how branding and design can help a candidate gain recognition, become memorable or even just stand-out from the rest of the field. In this instance it was the simplicity and safe branding of Trump which turned out on top.

NatWest looks to the past for inspiration

By Theo.

NatWest is a regular feature on the UK high street, and its iconic logo – three chevrons forming a triangle – is etched into the national identity. So, when the bank decided to rebrand in October this year, the pressure was on to get it right!

The new branding, which was created by design consultancy FutureBrand, takes its inspiration from the past. NatWest’s original 1968 logo saw its chevrons filled out to become three cubes joined at the center, symbolizing “three separate banks coming together under the brand”. Those banks were National Provincial Bank, Westminster Bank, and District Bank. In 1969, the logo went from 3D to 2D – presumably to emphasise the fact that three had become one – a new, single, banking entity, with its own identity and culture.

Rebranding to combine both the original 3D structure with the bank’s newer, more impactful, colour scheme, fulfills the brief of making it “stand out from its competitors”. It is also a very clever way of demonstrating that NatWest’s roots go back to a simpler time, when banks were still trusted parts of the community.

FutureBrand’s executive creative director Dan Witchell explains how the logo gave rise to NatWest’s newest branding device – a colourful, narratively rich, blocky form of symbolic story-telling:

“We used this as a jumping-off point, using the cubes as a storytelling device to create illustrations and build stories. It was a gentle evolution of the brand rather than a reinvention.”

Do you like NatWest’s new look?

natwest_story_image

Describing why he thinks the new branding works, Witchell continues: “if you look at most of the competitors in the banking sector, they use a full bleed, nice crafted photography and a white sans-serif typography – they’re all quite similar. We wanted to create a brand that was different and which stood out.” 

NatWest’s new look combines a stable past with a colourful future to create a playfully visual identity that the bank hopes will appeal to new and old customers alike. But has it succeeded?

The Rise of Design-Led Businesses

By Andy.

Over the last few years there has been a noticeable shift among many businesses, as they have looked to place design at the very core of their decisions. Many large brands have integrated design as a strategic tool and let it shape how they operate, but how does this work and what are the benefits? We thought we would take a look…

Placing design at the heart of a business is a bold move, and one that can completely shift how they are set out, how they function and even who they employ, but why is it needed? Recently, Design Week, as part of their Age of Design series, held a roundtable to discuss the recent trend.

Speaking at the event, Mat Hunter, strategy director at the Central Research Laboratory, said: ‘Digital technology has been a huge lubricant of change. It’s causing fierce competition and when you have that, you have to use every tool in the box. Design is part of that toolkit. No amount of organisational information or technology alone is enough. You have to understand how to be creative.’

I thought this was a really interesting point, because Hunter chooses to describe design like any other tool (efficiency, costing, marketing etc) which can be used to fending off competition.

In an interview with Airbnb founder, Joe Gebbia, he details why him and his fellow founded Brian Chesky decided to put design at the heart of their business which now operates in 34,000 cities across 190 countries.

After describing how they both actually come from a design background (they worked on a joint project together at Design School!) he elaborated. He said: “Design is in our DNA, it is not something that you think about adding on afterwards, it’s not something that we hired for eventually, it is something that has always been a part of who we are.”

Of course, not everybody can afford to have the most expansive, highly-equipped and beautifully inspiring offices like Airbnb, but their approach can be taken by any business confident enough to embrace design.

Mastercard opt for simplicity

By Mike.

We believe that a simple brand is a powerful brand, and so when one of the world’s biggest and most recognisable companies decided to strip back and simplify their branding and logo, it really grabbed our attention!

The concentric circles of Mastercard, the multinational financial services firm, can be spotted in television adverts, billboards, and both retail and online outlets all over the world. These two little circles have, since 1968, provided a symbol that re-assures customers of reliability, security and ease-of-use.

mastercard_story_image

Re-designing a logo that is used across more than two billion plastic cards worldwide is no mean feat, so the new design by Pentagram, was always going to make big news. While the interlocking circles that are known from Nepal to Naples have, of course, been retained, the horizontal lines that framed the word ‘Mastercard’ have been dropped.

The company name, which used to run across the middle of the logo, has been replaced by an orange intersection, to show the coming together of the brand’s two primary colours.

Showing just how important it is to keep your branding up to date and in line with what your country is doing in the present, Chuck Bruel, vice president of brand marketing at Mastercard offered an explanation:

“We’ve expanded all of our products and services and that’s really accelerated over the past few years, so we took a look at the logo and said, ‘I think we can do some things to have it more closely reflect where the company is’. To make it simpler, more impactful in a way, but still instantly recognisable.”