By Stephen Izatt, Managing Director of strategic branding and campaign agency Thinkfarm
When we talk about brand, marketing and advertising campaigns, we’re not talking about colours, logos, audio and visuals. Not at first. We’re talking about taking an imaginative and innovative approach to a specific business challenge, and coming up with the right strategic solution. One that will drive growth and help that company reach its goals.
Only when we have properly interrogated the business in question, looked at where it is and where it wants to go, what it stands for and who it’s targeted at, do we think about the artistic articulation. Because any creative expression will only resonate and endure if it’s rooted in rigorous thinking and strategy.
One of the biggest issues that professionals in our line of work face is perception. Everything starts with brand strategy, but ask a group of people to define what that means and the vast majority will start listing off design elements – graphics, logos, colours, fonts, imagery… Even those that enlist the services of brand and campaign specialists like us are sometimes surprised when we join them in the boardroom and start asking about objectives, forecasts, goals and so on. ‘But you take care of the frilly stuff, the icing on the cake.’
There’s a lot more to it than that, and it’s worth the time and investment.
Establishing a brand’s truth should be the launchpad for any strategic creative campaign. Branding provides the foundations for your business, so it needs to inspire, offer flexibility and be with you for the long haul. It’s important to get it right from the start, too, as chopping and changing down the line is expensive, risks coming across as a lack of commitment, and sucks the energy and momentum out of your endeavour.
Most of the time, your brand identity is already there, it’s just not evident yet. When you’re very close to a project it can render you less able to step back and see things clearly, or to get to the core of who you are and what your target consumers will get out of your offer. Partnering with brand strategists helps to draw all that out and make it tangible.
We went through this process with Bauer Media recently as it geared up to launch its expanded station, Greatest Hits Radio, an unapologetic celebration of the biggest hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s. A big part of our role involved defining the target audience, and then creating a bridge between people and product. For Greatest Hits Radio, we focused on the fact that we could all do with a bit of cheering up right now – and being reminded of our favourite tunes as we go about our day-to-day is a good way to achieve that. Our brand proposition – ‘the good times sound like this’ – summed it up perfectly.
The creative expression of that evoked memories of when times were good, when rock was new, when we were free of responsibilities. There are scenes depicting young lovers, a family enjoying free time in lockdown, and friends gathering together, all set to Elton John’s Crocodile Rock, Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics and Good Times by Chic. The creative also featured iconic images of pop and rock legends – Bob Marley, Madonna, Brian Ferry, Tina Turner, Debbie Harry, et al – taken by Mick Rock, the infamous 1970s photographer, which sums up the playlist and the ethos perfectly. It’s a deliberately flexible, layered reflection of the underpinning strategy.
And that’s important because a brand needs to be able to evolve over time and still make sense. This was very much the case with a campaign that we devised for Banking Circle. Established in 2015, it was originally launched as Saxo Payments, a cross border payments business. But the founders had every intention of turning it into a fully licenced bank down the line. How do you create a brand for a bank that isn’t yet a bank without getting into legal hot water?
We had to develop a brand strategy that would evolve as Banking Circle morphed and grew. Our approach future-proofed the proposition – introducing the words ‘banking’ and ‘bank’ in a way that made intentions clear without contravening regulations. With Banking Circle, businesses can ‘bank on growth’, ‘bank on profitability’, ‘bank on speed’, etc. And the word ‘circle’ reflects the ecosystem in which it operates.
Brand, marketing and advertising campaigns should be hardworking and bring clarity and resolution to complex business challenges. They let your target consumers know that you’re the one for them. And they can be the difference between success and failure. Yes, the graphics, logos, colours and fonts are crucial, but they’re just part of the story.