If you’ve seen one rock, you’ve seen them all. All rocks are the same and yet, all rocks are different. Same goes for logos, brand identities and websites. (Heck, same for clients and consultants for that matter!)
They all do more or less the same thing. And at some point, every company, whether a startup or legacy company needs some kind of “rock” – a mobile rock, an icon rock, a website rock.
Working in brand strategy and messaging, I’m typically brought into a rock project at one of two junctures:
In the beginning, during the “I think we need a new rock” phase. Here the client senses that their brand, their positioning, their messaging, has fallen out of sync with the company’s own evolution and/or that of the market. This conversation is one I love having with my clients. It’s refreshing when a client has their head up and is paying attention to the shifting sands around them.
The other scenario, just as common, is at the “not the beginning phase.” Which is to say they’ve asked a graphic designer or a web developer to bring them a new rock – and it’s not going well.
As the vendor earnestly presents rock after rock, only to be told by the client, “no, that’s not really the rock I was thinking of…” frustration builds, budgets dwindle and, well, my phone rings (hopefully!).
Too often not enough time and energy is put into defining the project – and I’m not referring only to a creative brief. Deeper work is often in order. Companies – brands – need to get very clear on who they are, what they stand for, and the very reason for their existence. They need to be able to articulate the essential values and benefits of their products and services. THEN, they can write effective “job descriptions” for the marketing and communications tools they need.
The process of working through all of the accumulated assumptions, beliefs and other baggage (especially in the case of legacy companies) has huge value across the life organization – and not only as a short term precursor to a new logo or website. It’s like a fog lifting. Now everyone in the organization – including outside vendors, partners and customers – can see clearly where they are and where they’re heading.
In short, they know exactly what kind of rock they need, from mineral content to weight, so everyone knows exactly where to look for it.
As I write this (late March), I'm lucky to have a couple of name development projects on my plate. I love the naming process - it's both fun and a serious challenge (and don't get me started on REnaming - think "having to rename your child.").
As with any branding or design project there are the tight timelines, the client bias (for or against a particular naming convention), the scramble for an appropriate url, the held-out hope for lightning to strike (by nature, rare), and my own desire to fall in love with the name (see also: lightning strikes).
But I love the challenge. I always believe I can create or assign or conjure or invent or... or... a name that will check all the boxes in the creative brief, elicit ear-to-ear client grins and generally cause the world to stand and applaud. If you think about the evolution of marketing-oriented writing in broad strokes, from the long-form brochure, to the radio/tv spot, to the promotional video, to the blog post, to the social media update, to the tweet - it is an ever-narrowing funnel. Saying more, or at least as much, with less. Naming is a puzzle to be solved.
In that way, The Name is the ultimate challenge. Usually just one word being asked to do some very heavy lifting. Sometimes with the support of a tagline, sometimes not (more on that later). This is also one of those creative challenges that can never fully be set aside. It lurks in the back of my mind when I'm supposed to be focused on some other important task.
In the world of "how does creativity work?" this is an oft-cited dynamic. Turning attention away from a problem, so it can marinate in the unconscious mind, sometimes leads to new ideas if not actual epiphanies.
Either way, working within these tight parameters is a place that doesn't so much feel like work. It can be delightful. And it gives me a huge appreciation for businesses that launch with compelling names. Whatever industry you work in, I think one occasionally happens upon work that makes you say, "I wish I'd come up with that."
And so it was for me tha other day as I was walking through the Ballard Farmer's Market and came upon a new stall. A baker specializing in gluten-free pastries and such. I love the double-entendre (or is it a triple?) and the relative risk / risque nature of it, and there's also a certain Jane Austen old-fashionedness inherent in the expression. They told me they came up with it on their own over a bottle of wine. Good for them. I could imagine this naming being a challenge to "sell in" to a client.
It just so happens, their stall was positioned a mere 10 steps from one of my favorite bakeries: Fresh Flours. Inspiration can come from anywhere.
Click on the image to visit their site.
While spinning around Maui (a trip we've "branded" SpAM), the 3-Hour Think Tank site went live. Finally. The process - of developing the site, not riding the bike - reminded me anew what a powerfu advantage it is to be somewhat removed from a creative challenge. As a writer, let me try some math (and irony):
Distance + Interest + Experience = Valuable Perspective
What I can't do so well for myself, I can do with great effectiveness for my clients. As a riff on the old lawyer saying, I've always said the person who sells their own house (FSBO) has a fool (and a cheapskate) for a real estate agent. I fear the same is true for me here.
Look for regular posts here about all things design, branding, creativity and the totally random stuff that catches my eye.