What’s appropriate and appropriable for a brand

For those of us who dedicate ourselves to creating brands, we would love to have an exclusive controllable channel for a brand, where we would be able to perfectly express its essence, values and personality. In reality, the brand is expressed through a multitude of media and channels, all aimed at different audiences where the company, product or service has to be represented by the brand. Each moment of communication seeks a particular objective, clearly determined by the message to transmit, and also influenced by the medium through which it is delivered. Even though the objective may be the same, it’s not the same to buy on-line as it is being attended to by a salesperson. The digital environment depends on incredible technology aimed at promoting interactions that, if permitted, can dramatically affect the company’s performance. 

The central issue lies in those responsible for whichever channel or medium of communication is used, where concern for issues that directly concern them is greater than their interest in the brand. It is logical and reasonable for the creators of the webpage to want it to be modern, fast and responsive; the interior decorators who want the new offices to be aligned with the architectural design and the distribution of spaces; the publicists who want campaigns that profoundly touch the consumers. Without meaning to, and motivated by the need to produce results, each of them stretches the brand into new territories, with the inherent risk of detracting from it until it becomes almost unrecognizable. 

I remember a joke at school (better in Spanish than English). What did the elastic band die from? From being stretched too much. The same thing applies to a brand. Stretch it too much with the risk of stretching it out of shape, almost breaking it. The balance is knowing the difference between what is appropriate, or not, for the brand. Oversize clothing may or may not be right in uniforms, or even aligned with the brand narrative. Should the icons for apps have rounded corners or not? The answer lies with the brand’s visual language recommendations. The brand will be around for a lot longer than these requirements so it’s important to work with the brand and not against it. Of course, following trends is not right for either design or communications. The principal purpose of both these disciplines is to communicate ideas to an audience in the most effective way, using primarily the main principles of design. 

If we want to take it a step further, it’s important to ensure that the trends or attributes are appropriate, but also truly appropriable. In other words, that they be incorporated into the brand narrative thereby contributing to its expansion, actualization and, over time, its consolidation. 

I return to the impossible dream of those of us who create brands: to have a unique and controlled channel of communication dedicated to a brand. Sadly, there is no such channel and, to be honest, I don’t think should there be. I am in favor of diversity, of course, but in a controlled, respectful kind of way in terms of the brand, and with an eye on the long term. Brands are made to last a long time.