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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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.

Links

www.twitter.com/saatchidesign
www.saatchidesign.wordpress.com
www.twitter.com
www.facebook.com
www.yahoo.co.uk

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It pays to be virtuous in social media

Social media works because people self select what is of interest to them- it’s a system free at the point of use.

Like any activity people are motivated by a few psychological drivers: the need to belong, to be engaged, and the need to grow. We know that people interacting with brands on line do so to fulfill their own needs, rather than the needs of the brand. Brands thinking of using social media should consider what consumers might want from it, and how their brand can adapt to fulfill audience needs.

Like it or not users are beginning to drive brand agendas in social media. Brand positioning and responses therefore ought to be robust enough to accommodate digital turbulence. If you are prepared to let the outside in, be generous, virtuous and interesting and willing to interact with people on their terms, you’ll get the benefit. On the other, it’s not hard to identify sectors and organisations struggling in this new landscape, but at stake are reputations that can be made or lost. For once, it pays to be virtuous and empathetic.

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Youth culture & the evolution of social identity

I was alerted to the work of Michael Hulme of Lancaster University through our client, YouthNet. Professor Hulme researches how young consumers interact using mobile telephony and social media. His findings offer insights into the growth of social media and how young people project their social identity.

I loved the concept of Hybrid life – the idea that people no longer distinguish between their life on and off line. Rather, it’s all one vast continuum with the virtual world as real as the tangible one. We see examples of this like:

  • The couple who divorced because the husband was spending too much time with another avatar on Second Life.
  • New opportunities for all of us – from the professional to the 16 year old – to construct an idealised identity online. Everyone wants to present their best face to the world – a modern form of branded propaganda, like the official images of Elizabeth I.

I wonder where all this is leading? What impact is social media having on our sense of identity – on and offline?

Do we have multiple identities adapted for different purposes – subtly different for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn? Are we witnessing an accelerated evolution of the virtual and individual self towards hybrid personalities?

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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.