14 June 2010

On Monday 17 June we will be participating in the National Council for Voluntary Organisation’s annual event, Evolve, in central London.

By Ben Brookbanks


We want to cut through the busy marketplace on the day and connect with the hundreds of leading figures from the charity sector who will be attending. We feel passionately about the positive impact branding can have, so have decided to stage a ‘protest’ against ‘blanding’. Hopefully recruiting a few believers in the process.

We have put together a mini ‘manifesto’, printing copies to distribute on the day (please get in touch if you would like one), and have created protest placards featuring the eight principles to get people talking. They’re all listed below, I’d love to know where you stand.


01: Our campaign for great branding

You might find it odd that a profession with roots in something as sober-sounding as ‘corporate identity’ has the capacity to evoke something as strong as a protest.

So why do we think it’s worth making a scene? Because branding has the power to create change, and we think that can be put to good work. But more than that, done differently — with intuition, honesty and conviction — that good can be turned into great.

We’re fed up of bland branding. The stuff that offends nobody, but nobody notices. We’re not advocating militant posturing (this is a peaceful protest), but audiences are tired too, numb even, to the proliferation of stifled clichés and blandisms, so this is our call to arms.

02: The power of great thinking

All great revolutions start with an idea. And we think brands need big thinking to rally the troops.

With us, ideas always come first. We work hard to find the spark in a brand that has the potential to trigger a chain reaction — that elusive insight that will get to the essence of what makes you tick and why people should care; that differentiates you from an army of imitators; that articulates a vision for your future; and connects it back to the moment.

We say that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then an idea is worth a million pictures. Ideas inspire imagery and shape messages. And brands built on powerful ideas have the potential to deliver consistently powerful campaigns, communications, products and services again and again and again. Branding without ideas is vacuous, aimless, bland.

It’s the passion behind brands, that isn’t always on the surface, that inspires what we do. So tell us about your ideas and we can tell you what we think your ideas can do.

03: The power of integrated branding

Marshall McLuhan said ‘The Medium is the Message’, but that was in 1964 — what about 2013, when a brand lives across a vast array of mediums?

Brands need to be integrated so that messages are joined-up and experiences are seamless. But not exploiting the inherent qualities within the mediums that it lives is a missed opportunity.

It gets us down when a great brand falls down online (often the front-line in today’s media mix), because the thinking is all spent on the static. United brands take careful planning, and an integrated approach considers all touchpoints.

We start with thinking that transcends medium, but quickly deploy the discipline expertise to exploit the best that digital, print and even spatial design has to offer audiences: the medium amplifies the message, but the idea comes first — united brands are stronger, more compelling, and relevant to their context.

Today’s brand landscape is complex and fast moving, but armed with tools tailored for the terrain, your brand will stand united.

04: The power of great relationships

Branding is an experience. We’re not talking here about the interaction between you and your audience — of course this is essential and should be an ongoing concern for any brand — we mean the act of developing or creating a brand. It’s the shared experience of the people involved that shapes the outcome of a branding project.

A dull, formulaic process results in blanding. Detached and disengaged relationships result in blanding. A lack of trust and poor communication results in blanding. We’re making a stand against silence.

Great things are built on great relationships — trust, intuition, shared ambitions and dreams, dialogue, understanding and empathy. Powerful stuff, that we believe empowers the potential of people and great brands alike.

05: The power of words

Words have the power to say it how it is.They speak in black and white. Words cut-through ambiguity, anchor ideas, and inspire action.

We’re protesting against brands that neglect words. All too often we’re in thrall to the image, special effects and visual fluff at the expense of clarity.

We do words before pictures. We think it makes sense to figure out what we want to say before working out exactly how we are going to say it. And when you know what you’re talking about, you say it so much better.

06: The power of clear objectives

Compelling words, beautiful pictures, moving image, sound and music are all great, but nothing speaks louder than results. There’s no arguing with numbers.

When we work with you we share your business objectives, they’re the only real measure of success. The clue is in the ‘objective’ bit — if decisions are reduced to subjective preference, we’ll get stuck on a conversation about our like for red or green, instead of what response we want from your audience.

Yes, intuition is important, but we believe every design decision should be made with good reason. And what better reason than to get results — increased income, more visitors, greater participation. There’s an art to great branding and it’s grounded in good business.

07: The power of change

We believe that blanding is blighting our craft, but it is also blighting businesses, with bland billboards and brochures that are scared to say anything that stands out, so end up saying nothing very interesting.

It’s a battle against the brand bureaucracy.

More than this though, we think great branding can drive real, positive change in everyday lives. We want to work with people who share this belief and will fight with us for the principles that we think can make a difference.

We know it sounds bold, but this manifesto has been published to make a case that it is not led by blind conviction. So join the brand protest and let us know how you would like to change the world.

08: The power of digital

We know that today’s digital-savvy audiences are sophisticated users of the internet. More than just ‘au fait’, they expect instinctive online experiences.

We also know that digital is in rude health — it is a mature brand channel, with countless examples of exceptional creativity and effectiveness.

So why have we singled it out for revolution? Because all too often we see a disconnect between brand and digital. Digital that does digital great, but does branding bad — function at the expense of form, or feeling. Why shouldn’t it do both brilliantly?

A website is increasingly the first (and most important) touchpoint of a brand, so we put it at the heart of brand thinking. Digital development is fluid and fast-moving, so sound brand principles, grounded in the demands of digital, are essential to success.


To find out more about what we stand for and how it can add value to your brand, please get in touch.