Selling Unicorns: Design Firms Need to Stop Using the Term "Brand Development"
October 1st, 2013
Let's say you think of yourself as a funny person. You go around telling anyone who will listen that you are so very funny. Your mother tells everyone she knows that "her baby is so funny." You even wear a T-shirt that advertises "I am a funny person." But, the moment you are not funny, the people around you will stop believing the claims that you, your mother, and your T-shirt make. Perhaps you never were funny. That's why I cringe everytime I hear a designer or design firm claim that they offer Brand Development services. I cringe because this claim is overselling and undervaluing what we actually do.
Let's be clear. A company's brand is whatever someone or group of people think about it and those opinions, or brand perception, can change from person to person. A company's product or service might be perceived by some as "high quality" but "expensive" to others. This perception is built upon many factors, like marketing, the actual experience with the product or service, how the customer is treated by employees of the company, what other people say about the company, and many other factors. As designers, we play a role in some of these, but not all. In particular, we have no control over the actual customer experience and, most of the time, no control over the actual product or service.
So, like the funny person above, we can make claims within our incredibly designed websites, collateral, videos, ads, or anything else. But, the moment that the company falls short on the claims, the "true" brand development cycle begins to break down. To claim that you offer Brand Development services is just ridiculous.
Most importantly, when a designer or design firm makes this claim, they are overselling and undervaluing what we actually do. Ask any business owner or Marketing Director these questions about their marketing campaigns:
Do you want to stand out from the competition?
Do you want your message to be remembered?
Do you want the look, unique selling points, and tone of voice of all marketing communications to be presented consistently?
Do you want to present a simple, yet highly effective and compelling message?
The answer to these questions would be Yes, Yes, Yes, and YES. ANY DAY OF THE WEEK. Let's focus on these incredibly important benefits and stop overselling the impossible and unrealistic.
So, stop selling unicorns.