10 amazing brands

As the creative director of a small creative design agency, my duties run the gamut of directing everything from print design to web development. However, my favorite area in the design and advertising world is a little niche known as brand identity. Wikipedia defines brand identity like this:

“How the brand owner wants the consumer to perceive the brand – and by extension the branded company, organization, product or service. The brand owner will seek to bridge the gap between the brand image and the brand identity. Brand identity is fundamental to consumer recognition and symbolizes the brand’s differentiation from competitors.”

The path required to be taken while developing the brand identity is always wide in scope. The brand is built or destroyed by the public’s perception of the goods or services that the brand represents. Although customer service, sourcing, quality control, human resources management and a host of other things are vital in building a great brand, my focus is primarily on the good design of the brand—namely, the logo, tagline and color palette.

So, here—in no particular order—are my picks for 10 amazing brands. Before I start, please recognize these aren’t necessarily the 10 best brands, and in several years, they might not even still be amazing. These are simply some brands with which I come in contact nearly every day, and they stand in my mind as being great.

Coca-Cola. Certainly, no one can deny the strength of the venerable Coca-Cola brand. These guys own the cola category. Sure, there are a few others, including Pepsi with the ever-evolving logo (currently a knock-off of the presidential campaign winner), but Coke is, as they say, “the real thing.” With the bright red and white colors, and the distinctive logo, it presents an image of being both classic and timeless. Now, anybody would admit that the logo is a far cry from anything that today’s designers would attempt, but in the day it was developed, cursive lettering logos were all the rage. But that is part of the appeal of Coke—nothing much has changed in all of these years, and paradoxically, that may be one of the biggest reasons it’s still so relevant today.

BMW. Out of all the great cars, particularly the European models, there is none like a BMW. Sure, there are better, cheaper values. Sure, there are flashier, faster cars. But nothing, in my opinion, says sporty, luxury and downright cool like a BMW. I’ve owned a BMW Z3, the best and most fun vehicle I’ve ever owned, and incidentally, I’m in the market for a 5 or 7 series now. Although this company doesn’t have the most spectacular logo, it’s still an appropriate design. More importantly, the brand experience is smooth, consistent and feels great.

Apple. This is one of my favorite brands by far—and I’m certain it’s not just because I work on one every day. Buying an Apple computer, setting it up and using it is such a seamless and breathtaking event that it makes you wonder how PC’s are still even sold. Of course, if you use an iPod, iPhone or any of the other “i” products from Apple, you’ll quickly realize the ultra-high priority that these guys give to great design.

ING Direct. If you know anything about ING Direct, you certainly recognize the great experience they provide across the brand. Obviously, this isn’t your grandpa’s bank—no gray, green or slate blue colors here. Anything ING Direct does is very orange, very electric blue—and very, very sweet. Everything from the website, the debit cards, the brochures, to the customer service toll-free number is cohesive and perfectly branded.

Google. This might be the least pretty of all the brands, but hey, everything they do is so consistent with their implied “hi-tech, easy-to-use” familiar face. With a literal wealth of online services and apps available, and the majority of them as free as air, Google certainly understand how to take something that is confusing to the average computer user and create a well-integrated experience. No one wonder their sites are the most visited on the web.

Target. Now, big box stores often get a bad rap, but when it comes to a mass-merchandiser, you can hardly beat the great branding that Target has. I can still remember the first time I walked into a Target store. I was immediately grabbed by the unified “feel” of the store, and I still love what I see every time I return. Makes me understand why Walmart is jealous, and why they’ve now abandoned the old wild-west logo for something that pretends to be chic. They still don’t have anything over Target in brand experience.

Starbucks. With the current economic crunch, luxury brands are particularly feeling the pinch, but Starbucks still has a strong, loyal following. Who would of thought that someone could have taken a forgotten, almost boring category like coffee, and created a brand experience so intriguing that people would pay five bucks for something that cost 15 cents to make? The power of the brand. Everyone knows to be cool you have to drink Starbucks every day—at least, that seems to be the consensus of opinion.

Burger King. I think McDonald’s might have them beat in providing a (relatively) consistent experience, store after store, year after year, but Burger King has the edge on a great design experience. This is one of the few places I go where I find myself reading the French fry box, the paper bag, the sign on the drink machine—even the sign on the door. This place is fun, smarty, and very memorable.

Vineyard Furniture. Okay, I am a little partial to this one. Not the oldest brand by far, but from the view as agency of record, and more importantly by what their customers are saying, Vineyard Furniture provides an experience that is unprecedented in the furniture industry. Right now, they are a middle player in the crowded category of wood case goods and, more recently, upholstery. However, due to changing industry and economic conditions, as well as a plenitude of amazing, fresh designs preparing for launch in the not-too-distant future, I predict Vineyard Furniture will become a major player within a few years, particularly in the upholstery category.

Nike. Probably among the most powerful brands ever, and it all started as a shoe. I suppose nearly everyone could recognize the great logo and quote the tagline, “Just Do It.” Nike has now become the name in sportswear and equipment. It only takes a few minutes of looking through the ads, browsing the website, or using the product to realize Nike is a company that values brand and design higher than the average company—and they reap the benefits to the tune of over $18.6 billion last year alone.

Well, that’s all for now. If you’re ready to take your company to the next level, consider a brand evaluation—and get in touch with us at NewBirth Creative Design Agency.

Best regards,
Micah Touchet
Creative Director

How important is market research to an ad campaign's success?

The defining property for success for any advertising campaign is the ROI (return on investment). Of course, the ROI is inversely dependent on several cost factors, including producing the advertisement, the media buy and so on. Moreover, if the cost-to-benefit ratio is not correctly proportioned, then the ROI is not very high—and the campaign was not very successful, bottom line. A great ad is not one that simply wins awards, or even is played a million times on YouTube. Certainly recognition and visibility are crucial, but if the ad doesn’t deliver profitable and measurable results, then it was less than what the client needed. Clearly, to understand the ROI, the results have to be measured and analyzed. After all, if you aren’t keeping score, you’ll never know if you’re winning—or losing.

What’s the best way before creating and launching a campaign to ensure success? The answer is market research, and lots of it. Just as you can’t speak to a foreigner if you don’t know their language, so you cannot communicate with a buyer unless you first understand their culture, lifestyle and habits.

But the paramount aspect of the market research is quality. If your research is not right, then it probably worse than none at all. How is this so? Let me illustrate with a simple, slightly ridiculous, analogy… Someone hypothesises that the color yellow causes engines to accelerate. This is based on an observation while standing at a traffic light. So, a research firm spends millions of taxpayer’s dollars to study this issue. They set up expensive cameras and monitoring systems at thousands of traffic lights and then analyze the results. Shockingly, they conclude that when the light is yellow, 87% of engines immediately rev. They also find that green doesn’t seem to significantly affect engine speed, while red causes the engines to idle.

So, now we have petroleum companies wanting to sponsor yellow lights every five miles along highways. Would a blitz of yellow lights still cause vehicle acceleration? No—in fact, it would likely dilute the perceived effect at a traffic light, and all because of incorrect market research. What the researchers did not account for is that engine revving is caused by acute increased acceleration, which is directly controlled by the driver. The idea that the yellow color being important is only minuscule at best. After all, traffic control system designers could have chosen any color for the traffic light.

To conclude, before beginning a campaign, make sure you have the proper market research. This will help to make your advertising effective, memorable and very profitable.

Questions or comments? Get in touch with NewBirth Creative Design Agency. We provide creative design services, ranging from branding, corporate identity, package design, print advertisements, website development and much more.

Best regards,
Micah Touchet
Creative Director

The power of connotation in branding

Recently, I was in conversation with a marketing guru at a large corporation we have as a client. We were tweaking the direction of a crucial project and he brought up an interesting point about which I’ve always felt strongly. He made the statement that what we were connotating through this particular media was very important.

I heartily concurred and replied that, oftentimes, what is implied is as important—and usually more memorable—than what is said directly. In everyday life, we all realize the significant role that body language plays in a conversation. I’ve heard the joke about the many meanings of the words “fine” and “okay” when used by a woman. And we’ve all heard the cliché, “Actions speak louder than words.”

What is interesting to me is how indispensable a role this all plays in brand identity development and marketing. Here at NewBirth Creative, as a design agency we provide a wide variety of creative services, but at the forefront of every creative project is a focus to strengthen brand identity. We realize the vital function for marketing and design to be memorable—yet never doing so at the cost of the brand.

So, in everyday terms, how does this apply to your brand? Well, the aspects are many and varied. Take, for example, your company’s color scheme. If you are in the business as a mortician, don’t expect people to love your magenta and lime green colors. No doubt, you will be instantly recognizable and unforgettable, but the bottom line is the bottom line and you won’t be taken seriously. The same is true if you are the proprietor of a candy shop—nobody thinks your steel gray and deep navy look cool or exciting.

Or consider font choices. People will not take your business as a serious investment management company if your logo is based off of Gigi. Likewise, if you are trying to portray a light-hearted, whimsical childcare facility, don’t draw your logo with the font Haettenschweiler.

Now, I’m not advocating connotation such as subliminal messages flashing or backmasking or any other dubious means of persuasion. What I’m talking about is the subtle, yet powerful, expression of thoughts and ideas that invoke memorable cues deeply ingrained in us all.

Most of what I’ve discussed thus far has been sight related. However, as Martin Lindstrom has pointed out, every one of the senses can be utilized to create a powerful brand experience. Consider the sense of smell. I was with a colleague at a semi-fine dining restaurant about a week ago, and the first thing we noticed when we walked in was the very fragrant aroma of some freshly-baked, cinnamon flavored delight. Partially out of curiosity, but mostly out of sheer hunger, my friend questioned the manager about the source of the fragrance. The manager admitted that what we were smelling was nothing more than plain waffle mix, a large amount of cinnamon added, placed on a hot stove to fill the air with the delightful scent. He said that they did this only to make customers order dessert.

Perhaps the intricacies of these ideas will be beyond some people. But when correctly implemented, these cleverly indirectly implied insinuations can connotate a compelling, convincing and cogent brand experience that will be absolutely phenomenal and prodigious. And profitable.

Questions? Leave a comment or email me. And as always, if you are looking for creative design services, then remember NewBirth Creative Design Agency.

Best regards,
Micah Touchet
Creative Director