The Elephant in the Room
Most days, I take a lot of care when I’m dressing. I wear make up, I make sure my hair is right, match the colours of my outfit and shoes, add a little jewellery and finish with a spray of Chanel. I’m guessing that most of you make a similar effort, and why not? You are presenting yourself in a controlled way to your colleagues, customers and suppliers. You smile, make eye contact, use good manners and try to be punctual. If you were smartly dressed without these personal skills, you wouldn’t be presenting your best self. If you were polite and friendly, but wearing tracksuit pants and an unwashed T Shirt, the same would apply.
In exactly this way, a brand is not just a logo. However pretty it is, it doesn’t represent your whole business. If it’s rushed through a printer that’s low on ink, if its colours clash, if it’s paired with jarring fonts, if it’s roughly taped onto a plastic bag, it has the same impact as a designer jacket over the aforementioned tracksuit pants.
A brand is the sum of a carefully planned whole, a combination of your name, your product, your customer service, your core values and your personality. It is represented by your logo, but needs the rest of the outfit and a smile on its face in order to properly present you to the world. It sets you apart from every other company and represents you and what you stand for, engaging your customers and giving them confidence in you. It communicates your essence.
Let’s illustrate this with an elephant. Why not?!
To explain exactly what a brand means to a small business, I have found an example of a brand identity that ticks all the boxes. Pak Pao Thai Food, (brand created by Mast studio in Denver), is a restaurant in Dallas. Its owners defined their business as being welcoming, grounded in Thai culture, with textural & colourful food and a design-led interior.
The lettering for the logo was derived from traditional Thai typography, the elephant and patterns from Thai symbolism and the colours inspired by the clothing of Thai monks. Tradition is paired with contemporary design, so the brand is clean and beautifully laid out. All the elements of the brand reference each other and are reflected in the stationery, menus, packaging, product photography, website, interior design and the atmosphere created by the staff. It is consistent and definitely not half-hearted, because the brand is present in everything the customer experiences.
And consistency is the key word here. Imagine that the business had this great logo, but wasn’t consistent with it. What if the menus were printed on flimsy crumpled paper in Times New Roman? What if the waiting staff wore whatever they wanted instead of their beautiful orange aprons? What if the Facebook page (no website) had phone snapshots of the food and the interior of the venue was painted bright blue?
By being consistent, Pak Pao have made a promise to their customers, a declaration of what they stand for and a statement of their intentions. They haven’t just made a first impression, but have kept that impression going until the last bill is paid and the last full-bellied customer has closed the door. They have created a successful brand that appeals on a visual, emotional, rational and cultural level and this has guaranteed their success.
They’re not unique. Thousands of companies, from market stall holders to large chain stores, prioritise their brand to set themselves apart from the competition, and do so in innovative and successful ways.
Over the next weeks, I will be exploring more examples of what makes a good brand and identifying ways to study your own business and define it, so you can apply a consistent visual approach to your public face, giving your customers this confidence. I’ll leave you to decide what to wear though.