The appropriation of brands

—Josep Palau

For those of us who dedicate ourselves to creating brands it would be wonderful to have just one simple channel of communication for a brand, making it easy to control the expression of the brand’s essence, values and personality. In reality, the brand ends up being expressed through a multitude of media or channels, aimed at the specific audiences that the organisation, product or service represents. Every piece of communication has a particular objective, clearly determined by the message to be transmitted, but also influenced by the medium through which it is sent. Buying online is not the same as being attended to personally by a salesperson, but the objective is the same. Digital transactions depend totally on technology; they also offer endless possibilities for interaction which, if ignored, can dramatically affect brand performance. 

The key problem lies in those responsible for a particular channel or medium that doesn’t really care about the brand, that’s not their job. They are more concerned with bottom line results. It is logical that website designers should promise a modern, fast and responsive design; that interior designers should create new offices according to the architectural design and distribution of spaces; that advertising teams would want to create campaigns that reach out to consumers. Without meaning to, and in search of the best results, each of these appropriate and stretch the brand to include new territories, with the inherent risk of detracting from the brand making it almost unrecognisable. 

As we all know, an elastic band can be stretched until it breaks. Similarly, a brand’s means of expression are often stretched until either breaking or being compromised and undermined. The balance is knowing how to discern between those tendencies that are or aren’t appropriate for the brand. What happens to the logo if you have to design large size uniforms? Is it right for the uniform? And is it aligned with the instructions contained in the brand book? What about the icon for the app? Should the corners be rounded or not? Again, the brand book will answer that question. The advice on the correct use of the brand is very important and should be respected, in order not to compromise the correct expression of the brand. I shouldn’t have to add that following a tendency or trend is not good design practice nor a recommendation for successful communication. I would emphasise, however, that adhering to the principles of good design ensures the best and most effective form of communicating ideas to audiences. 

If we want to take it one step further then we have to ensure that the tendencies or attributes have to be the most appropriate. What I mean to say is that they have to be natural to the brand narrative and contribute to its development, its actuality and, with time, to its consolidation. 

We create brands and we yearn for a unique and easy way to control brand communication. Is it an impossible dream? Maybe it is and it wouldn’t actually make that much sense. So, perhaps diversity is the way to go. Of course, in a controlled way, with total respect for the brand and with an eye to the future. Brands are made to last. 

Josep Palau

Partner and managing director

Pep is skilled at managing both left and right hemispheres. A charismatic Catalan, he loves to tell stories that are often lessons of life. He is a partner in Ideograma, a brand guru, and the light that guides Ideograma in Mexico.

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