Making brands sustainable.
As with a new building, all nature wants to do is make it collapse. It may be beautifully designed and engineered, built from excellent materials and made with care and attention, but already soon after it’s construction, it’s on its way down. It may take decades, centuries or millennia but eventually it will be reclaimed by the earth.
Gravity, climate and lack of maintenance are the biggest existential threats but there are many more attacks it needs to repel to keep standing up. Even very recent buildings, no longer seen as relevant, have the shortest life expectancy. They’ll suffer from neglect lack of thought and financial investment and won’t be around long.
The same can be said of brands. A misguided, all pervasive misconception our industry has not been able to explain well is brands are not static. Possibly because we bang on about consistency, Pantone references and other fixed protocols quite so much. And possibly, because business finds it easier to fund what may be considered tangible and more problematic investing less quantifiable growth.
Brand conventions and guidelines of course are important but these need to dovetail with creative thinking and care. Ideas conceptually rooted in the brand’s core and conform to its principles but are dynamic, engaging and meaningful. Over time brands should get better, not worse. They should wear in and not out. Like old buildings, they will need investment, will require patching up occasionally and they will contain blemishes and stains. This is the patina of experience, worldiness and gives soul. As with important, older buildings, they may not be perfect and have transformed their utility over time. They’ve needed thinking, maintenance and investment but they’ve remained relevant – and not fallen down.
Making brands sustainable, mostly requires care and protection from the top. Bland homogeneity rolled out across all touchpoints is highly controllable but destroys joy and more meaningful engagement. It needs someone at senior level who understands its importance and value both in style and substance and the need for variety within consistency. It must have regular evaluation, creative thinking and bravery. And it needs investment and maintenance.
As with buildings, from the moment of conception the existence of a brand is under the peril of falling down from both internal and external threats. Looked after well though, they’ll flourish being more meaningful and more engaging all the time, in turn fostering loyalty and trust with an important place in the landscape.
Jack Owen, Creative Director
Ice House Design