Saatchi & Saatchi Design

Brand identity, positioning and design communications.

Who is your identity for?

Photo by f.e.m.k.e on flickr.

Identity is at the core of our being. Defining who we are as individuals, groups or organisations seems simple, but is in fact complex and ambiguous.

Ask yourself, who am I? Other people may give you different answers. As father, son, partner, friend, colleague, client, provider, supporter, citizen?

Our identity is rarely fixed, we play different roles according to the context and project different faces to different audiences. Often we reappraise how we behave and adjust expectations accordingly, adapting our responses to different needs. This is a natural, but it’s not simple.

Organisations too are complicated: audiences and stakeholders are mediated through the organisational brand, products, employees, distribution and communication channels.

The other great intermediary is the media, who shape perceptions of us all. Perhaps the rise of social media reflects our need to express ourselves and manage our identity, but it may also represent another milestone in our absorption into mainstream media.

For now it’s the platform for self expression, identity and individuality, let’s keep it that way.


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Identity theft? Protecting our stories in the information age.

Alan Garner spoke at the Oxford Literary festival about the persistence of folk legend as an expression of identity. He referred to the legend of Alderney edge as told by his grandfather. It’s an Arthurian legend that incorporates Iron Age and Saxon information encoded in its DNA. The people around Alderney relate the story, and in doing so they lay claim to their identity and the land.

Alan has deciphered the references to specific places on the edge. They inform archaeological, geological and linguistic features that add up to a clear historical narrative, based on Iron Age boundaries, metal working and ancient belief systems. Stories, for preliterate societies were the means by which information was passed on.

Today we have computers that record our information, but, how much of our identity will remain once we wipe the programmes or trade up to the latest devices? Already the British library is trying to preserve some of our earliest websites, less than 20 years old.

We are also transferring our identity to brands and technology in the way our ancestors did to place. People are already defined by the brands they keep, their social media community, postcode and buying patterns on a loyalty card. But this raises questions of ownership: how this information persists, who owns it and if our identities are defined by other people – research agencies, retailers, media and government? Are they today’s story tellers and how do they describe us?  Could we even become invisible to future generations? Perhaps identity theft comes from those we least suspect.

If we forget our stories, and allow others to define our identity we will be complicit in identity surrender. Make the effort to reflect how you can retain your sense of personal and cultural identity in the information age and create your own stories to offer the future.

Filed under: Digital, , , , ,

Good brand guidelines are a springboard, not a straightjacket.

Today’s smartest companies are led by their brand values and beliefs. A strong brand identity leads and reflects the company’s values and reinforces these qualities through brand guidelines. But guidelines do more than mark out rules and regulations, they tell a brand’s story, focusing everyone together in the same direction.

Brands are becoming more open and expressive. This means guidelines also are becoming more emotional, less rigid and more flexible, enabling brands to adapt their tone and to address multiple audiences. Good guidelines strike a balance between emotional engagement and continuity and avoid drawing the brand too far from its focus.

Old brands, new tricks

In the past guidelines tended to stamp their brand onto the marketplace, believing that presenting a consistent image would eventually lead to becoming a trusted partner of choice. This worked at the time, because consistency became familiarity, familiarity became trust and from trust came acceptance and allegiance. Today consumers and businesses are more brand savvy and need to see the brand living, breathing, and becoming a part of their lives. Engaging staff and customers becomes an invitation to join in and interact, rather than directives on what to and what not to do. A good example of this new flexibility is Coca Cola. In the ‘70s and ‘80s Coca Cola stamped its red and white branding all over the globe; now, as official sponsor of The Championship Football League, Coca Cola has allowed changes to its brand colours to match that of home teams across the country. Perhaps none stranger than those of Norwich City FC!

Coca Cola Colours

Flexible brands are enduring brands

Brand content and message can also become more important than overall look and feel. For example, Vodafone’s ‘Make the most of now’ message is held in a clear red panel, but behind this can go all manner of illustration, photography or moving images. The brand message is consistent but the visual brand is alive, responsive and adaptive to the audience being addressed. Consequently, the visual elements of the brand work that extra bit harder in all forms of media; extending the brand’s longevity and saving on expensive brand overhauls. Flexibility is the key to successful brand guidelines, and companies need to have the confidence to allow the brand to grow and build relationships with different audiences across multiple platforms.

Vodafone Advertisements

However, one bad apple, especially high up the tree, is all that is required to spoil the brand. This is why it is vital that everyone in your company understands, buys into, and is able to articulate the brand in a consistent way. This is no small task, but it will give you a huge advantage to enjoy over more fragmented competitors. Remember: flexibility, the balance between emotional engagement and consistency, will keep your brand vibrant now and into the future.

See how Saatchi & Saatchi Design have worked with our clients to design effective brand guidelines.

Filed under: Branding, , , , , , ,

Abbreviated symbology: technology is driving brand evolution.

The digital revolution is crunching brands into smaller spaces. Channel operators, phone applications, favicons and social media slots are driving format and, in the case of iPhone applications, configuring logos into Apple formats. Let’s call this process abbreviated symbology.

Icon evolution

You might have noticed that Logos are being stretched across many formats and have to work harder to stand out. We’ve noticed that technology channels are driving brand identity and accelerating icon evolution.

Small is emerging as a dominant form of brand identity, so getting it right as a Microformat is key – Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook. (Y,T,F) have all effectively abbreviated. In time we believe many brands will inevitably adopt abbreviations as their lead format.

Logo - Favicon - Icon

And the winners are:

The most effective brands distil and shape their online presence using the fundamentals of shape, colour and font into a mnemonic or logotype: see Coca-Cola, Facebook, Yahoo or Nike symbols.

Some, like Greenpeace, Disney and Pizza Hut are chaotic; while others, like McDonalds and Cadbury corporate are more cautious of social media. Either way we are observing technology change the face of brands and rewrite the rules of identity and control.


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Why we blog

This blog is here to help us stop and reflect on our work, share insights we find on the way, and extend thanks to our clients who got us here in the first place. Enjoy.