What’s the difference between brand and branding?
Hemphill: I feel it’s important to differentiate between “brand” and “branding.” A brand is the outside face you’re presenting to people, whereas branding is the actual strategy of putting together that brand.
Where does a business start when it comes to branding?
Riffner: The first thing you have to do is research. We start by interviewing the business. Find out why they want to change their branding. It could be something negative from their past, or maybe they just need a refresh. It could be that they don’t need a change at all. Our process is to do some research and investigation and find out what it is they feel their current brand is lacking and why they want to change it. We also research what competitors are doing in that space and how we can help visually separate them. Also, how do we talk about this brand moving forward? I think that’s one of the more critical factors in a brand that gets lost. The visuals take precedence in a lot of people’s minds, but a lot of it is how you talk about it. We want to make sure we’re representing the brand as best as possible.
What are the elements of a brand?
Hemphill: First, we have to identify who they are and what they do. If we don’t know that, we can’t build anything. Then, who’s your audience? Who’s your target demographic? You have to know what they like and respond to in order to develop something they want to engage with. Then, there’s all kinds of theory behind what we’re doing as well. We talk a lot about color theory when it comes to designing logos and coming up with an entire brand guide. For example, Hurrdat has this kind of orange, salmon-y color that’s very youthful and energetic. We’ve had a brand in the past that used blue, which was more of a trustworthy, stable, fixed color.
Riffner: I really think about the color and the typography. I spend a lot of time researching typography and why it may fit with a certain brand. I look at the historical context of how the brand was developed and if that’s appropriate and leads into the brand more. We’ve had to rename brands, too. That’s the most difficult part, because that’s the most abstract and subjective piece. What’s in a name?
Hemphill: With names, you’re thinking about URLs and search engine optimization at that point, too. The name has to work for so many different things.
What brands are missing the mark for you?
Riffner: There’s the recent Petco rebrand, and it’s like “What were they thinking?” Maybe the old logo wasn’t the best, but it at least had some personality to it. It’s just become the equivalent of a 2006 Hyundai Elantra.
Hemphill: For people who don’t know what we’re talking about, Petco’s original logo was a red color, and they had a dog and a cat in the logo itself, and the font was pretty cute. They updated it recently. They dropped the dog and cat and made their logo this blah navy color. It would make so much sense for an insurance company, but you’re Petco! You work with pets! That’s such a fun, cute business. Why flatten it to be boring? I don’t get it.
Riffner: I think that’s an example of being scared to update their look in any meaningful fashion and not wanting to alienate anyone, which is silly because it’s a pet store.
Hemphill: There’s this whole trend of modernizing everything. We’ve seen it with apartment buildings and logos and everything, where everything is getting really flattened and has no color whatsoever. It’s so weird to me that they’re doing this across the board. Why? Why wouldn’t you want to stand out and get people’s attention?
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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to I’ve Heard That, the podcast from Hurrdat Marketing that discusses digital marketing trends, tips, and more.
Welcome back, everyone. I’m Meghan Trapp. I’m agency director at Hurrdat. And today, I have Bailey and Max with me, and we’re going to discuss branding and what that means. So welcome, Bailey. Welcome, Max. Share with us what you do at Hurrdat.
Max. You want to go first? [inaudible 00:00:28].
You want me to go? I’m the creative director at Hurrdat.
And I’m the content director at Hurrdat.
Well, welcome both. So share with me. What is branding? And what does that mean?
I feel like it’s important to differentiate between brand and branding.
[inaudible 00:00:53] I noticed gets kind of confusing for people? A brand is the outside face you are presenting to people. Whereas branding is the actual strategy of putting together that brand. So the identity, the look, and feel of it. Max, would you agree with that?
Yeah. The implementation of the brand would be brand.
Makes sense. So, where does a business start? So they come to you and say, “Hey, I need a brand,” or, “I need to work on my branding.” Where do they start with that?
Boy. Well, first thing you have to do is research. Interview them, find out why they want to change their branding. It could be something negative from their past. It could be, they just need a refresh, could be that they don’t need a change at all. And that’s happened with us a few times where they’ve thought, “Well, we’ve had this logo for 50 years,” and you take a look at it, but it’s actually kind of a cool logo. It’s not broke. There’s no reason to do it other than like, “I feel like we should.” That’s probably not necessarily a good reason it can be, but you don’t necessarily have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Our process is basically just to one, do some research, do some investigation, find out what it is that they feel like their current brand is lacking and why they may want to change it. And then also just researching what competitors are doing in that space and how we can help visually separate them with the brand. Where Bailey comes into of play is how do we talk about this brand moving forward and why language is important.
And I think it’s one of the more critical factors in a brand that gets lost. The visuals take precedence, I think, in most people’s mind, but a lot of it is how you talk about it. And that’s something that we take a look at together. Make sure that we’re representing the brand as best as possible.
Yeah. I agree with that.
I was going to say, so break it down. What are the elements of a brand you mentioned low go, and you’re referencing voice and the language around it? But tell me, what are the elements that we go through.
There’s so many. First you need to identify who they are and what they do, because if we don’t know that, we can’t really build anything. And then I think the one that’s most important and this kind of gets into what Max is saying about language is who is your audience? Who is your target demographic? Because you have to know what they like and what they respond to in order to develop a brand that actually is something they want to engage with. But then there’s all kinds of theory and stuff behind what we’re doing as well.
Max, we talk about color theory a lot, too, with designing logos and coming up with themes for an entire brand guide. For example, Hurrdat has this kind of orangey salmony color that’s very youthful and energetic. Whereas we’ve had a brand in the past that used blue, which was more of a kind of trustworthy, stable kind of more fixed color, I guess you could say. That’s getting a little deep, but it’s part of it.
Absolutely is part of it. What preoccupies my time a lot is I really think about the color. I really think about the typography. I spend a lot of time researching type how or why it may fit with a certain brand or what I’m thinking a certain brand is going to be working for. And I look at the historical context of how it was developed, whether that’s appropriate, whether that leans into the brand more work itself.
We do probably between 100 to 300 thumbnails and then winnow it down from there until we get to kind of a top 10 final marks that we often end up developing and illustrators. So it’s a little bit were polished. We want to make sure that it works in black and white because if it can be faxed and still look good, then that’s a sign of a good mark, even naming. Well, we’ve had to rename brands too, and that’s probably the most difficult part because that’s the most abstract and subjective. What’s in a name? It could be anything.
You’re thinking about URLs and search engine optimization at that point too. So you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this name has to work for so many different things.” So it’s like, “Let’s start with the most basic parts first, which is interesting.”
And the growth over time. Because it’s not just what we’re starting with now, but it’s like, will this grow? And grow with that brand into where they want to go. Tell me a little bit more about obviously Hurrdat. We just rebranded ourselves. So tell little bit about what went into that.
I feel like Max and I, did that for years.
It’s been a long time coming.
We literally worked on it for two years and sort of fits and starts. But we got there eventually. The mark actually came really pretty quickly by one of our designers, and it was the first one, and I knew right away that that was the best one. And no matter what he was going to come up with after that. That was probably going to be the one. Let’s just get some variety in there just in case, and maybe something else would strike us, but it was just so strong right out of the gate that I was pretty sure that that was what was going to be approved, and it was.
And then it was a question of choosing type. The color was unique. Getting kind of the identity system down was fairly easy. It just took a while, but the process took a while, but once we got there, it was implementing that, but fairly straightforward. And then it’s just kind of everything around that.
That’s what took the longest.
Bailey and I talking a lot. How we wanted to visually represent it, how we wanted to verbally and written, communicate how this was going to go, picking kind of a mood board and the types of illustrations I wanted to use the types of stock that I would allow. Everything had to have a point of view. If we were using stock, it had to be the complete opposite of what if we were doing a blog post about, I don’t know, content marketing, for example. And if you typed in content marketing into a stock search engine, everything that would come up, ignore it.
We would just throw that all out the window. Anything obvious is gone. Everything had to be kind of wink or a nudge or a little bit ironic but have a point of view and sometimes be snarky. We’ve been doing this for a long time now as a company and there’s a way forward, and I just don’t want it to be the most obvious answer I would just from an art direction standpoint for those graphics to help support those articles in a way that helps people think.
And even sometimes, it’s just little stuff that I don’t think people necessarily get. I recently did a blog graphic about Instagram copying TikTok. It was a retro photo of a lady and the dog mimicking her on the beach. No one caught it. It’s just little stuff like that, where if you do catch it, it makes you smile. We just really wanted to have a point of view and to separate ourselves out from other agencies that I think that’s been a trend for the last few years is not just agency, it’s just as companies in general, just trying to-
Blend in and be as generic as possible so as not to offend anyone, which is silly. You can have a point of view and not be offensive as well. But for the whole goal and so far we’ve been working with this brand, our new brand, for about a year, and it’s gone well I think.
I think the hardest part of developing it, though, was just getting the story down because the look and feel came a lot faster, but actually nailing down how to tell a story over the course of 10 years in a single paragraph about our mission, our values, that’s really hard to develop because obviously, you want to say as much as you can to get people on the side of your brand, but you have to be really careful in choosing words and also kind of picking the vibe that you want to put off.
So that I think honestly is why it took us so long to come up with it is we were just like, “Okay, we know how we want to look and how we want to present ourselves, but how do we actually tell our story? How do we tell people who we are?” Because if we’re just like, “We’re a media marketing and an entertainment company.” And people are like, “What is that?” How do you even define that? So it really did all boil down to storytelling. So we were talking about just using storytelling as a means to create memorable experiences. So that’s kind of the base of our brand foundation.
And we knew that fairly early on with how the logo was designed but then actually getting down the brass tack and like, “Okay, so what does that mean?” I think that did take us a while to kind of figure out how are we telling stories? It was clear that we were, but it was-
How does it fit.
Putting it into words, putting our feelings into words.
Merging, we had several different companies that had kind of all come together over the course of the year. So we had to find an identity that fit all of them in a way that felt natural. People who are just creating a brand for the first time, people who are rebranding, people who are trying to combine a bunch of companies, it is very possible to do it. We’ve done it.
Well. It’s like getting down to our elevator pitch of how we project ourselves, whether that’s in the imagery or our logo or the voice of our blog article or the image we selected for our blog article or how we talk about ourselves, even on this podcast, it could be the first time that someone’s coming into contact with our brand. And so, how is that consistent from medium to medium and across time?
So I think you guys did an awesome job, really nailing that down from the abstract back to what it would be in a more concrete way so that whether its different writers or different channels or mediums that we’re using are or showcasing our brand, it’s consistent and is so rings true and authentic to who we are. So nice shop, guys. Share with us some of your predictions for 2021. What does that mean for brands?
My prediction from the year prior was that it was going to kind of go in this route where people are going to start producing work with more of a point of view and a little moving away from kind of the generic illustration and the soft colors and really start to put a stake in the ground visually to see what they can kind of come up with. And I think the pandemic has just supercharged that because now you’re seeing a lot of creative work happening, and those designers and artists are learning new skills because they’re stuck at home, and this is the perfect time to do it.
And so they’re also getting down to like, “You know what I really like,” or ’60s Psychedelic Posters, and I’m going to design everything like that. And so you’re really seeing this eclectic style kind of come through. So there’s the psychedelic poster kind look, there’s kind of the ’70s aesthetic of flat design, which is a Burger King just rebranded. And it really encapsulates that like ’70s so reminds me of what it kind of looked like when I was a young boy, which I did a lot.
What were some of the other ones, surrealism, comic art, and pop art, especially you can kind of see these trends starting to happen if you go to Shutterstock or Adobe Stock, you can start to see more and more of those are filtering into the results. And that’s a kind of a good barometer of where things are headed. But to me, that’s a sign that just the public at large or business at large are looking for more unique, be it commission be it stock. We’ve been kind of stuck in this flat design for, I don’t know, since 2013. 2013, 2012.
And so I think there’s a reaction to that. And so you’re starting to see a lot of grit, a lot texture on things. There’s a little bit more of a DIY punk rock, Riso printing. It’s been big in the Zen circles in the comics. I’m starting to see that kind of look and feel become more prominent, digitally recreated. I think a lot of people have taken the time during the pandemic to learn a few new things. Maybe let themselves get their hands dirty with using actual analog materials, getting covered in ink, getting covered in paint. And it’s starting to show work that is being produced.
If you go out on Instagram, if you go out on Dribble, you can just kind of tell there’s just a little bit more experimentation and a lot of attention to craft. I’m seeing some really difficult to pull off techniques that you wouldn’t have expected. And haven’t been in really been seen the last few years. So it’s exciting.
Even what you’re saying too translates to the kind of messaging that people are bringing as well. There was a lack of substance for a while, and I think consumers are starting to notice that especially after everything that happened in the summer of 2020 with the protests and just more social activism, a lot of brands started coming out and saying, “We are taking a stance.” But then consumers were like, “Okay, cool.”
What are we actually doing to back up that stance? So I think there’s going to be a shift in kind of what Max was saying, where people were so worried about saying anything that, excuse me, that now there’s going to be pressure to actually kind of have a personality, have a place, have a position on stuff. So that’ll be really interesting to watch.
The other thing I’ve seen is people of color putting their work out there, especially in June during the protest. I feel like Instagram just exploded on African-American artist or people representing different people of color and culture in their art. And it’s nice to see that finally start to happen that representation matters and that it’s getting out there in the world. And people finally feel free to share that point of view, again comes down point of view and those are strong points of views. I haven’t had an opportunity to shine.
Well, it’s interesting too, because I know a lot of businesses and brands were worried about kind of putting themselves out there in that sense. Obviously, you always want to be cognizant of that, but there is a sense of you could potentially gain more customers by actually saying things that matter to you, sharing your values with your customers. One of my favorites is Ben & Jerry’s, great ice cream, first of all. But they’ve been very adamant about sharing their social activism opinions, and it’s been paying because they have tons of followers and fans, and I’m pretty sure it gave their ice cream sales a boost last year.
One of the brands that comes to mind for me is ALTER because they also just released their own skincare line that’s vegan and cruelty-free. Connecting with that audience and another post that I just saw was for their black own skincare line. So they’re connecting on multiple different levels with multiple audiences, but they’re putting their stake in the ground, saying, “Hey, here are some causes that we support, and here’s how our brand connects with them.”
Max mentioned the artwork, but thinking how that translates into what a brand is selling or messaging or what they’re doing. Awesome. What are other brands that are either connecting with you and doing it right? Or brands that are maybe missing the mark for you?
Well, we both talked about with the Burger King rebrand. We both-
Gushing over that, but then we also, both of us saw the recent Petco rebrand, and we were like, “What were they thinking?”
Oh God, I have thoughts.
Maybe the old logo wasn’t the best, but at least it had some personality to it. It’s just become the equivalent of a 2006 Hyundai Elantra. It’s so bad.
So for people who don’t know what we’re to talking about here, Petco, their original logo was kind of a red color, and they had a dog and a cat within the logo itself. And the font was pretty cutey, I’d say.
It was very like 1982.
Yes. And they updated it recently. They dropped the dog and cat off of the logo and made their logo just this kind of blur Navy color, which would make so much sense for an insurance company if you’re like, “Yep, just insurance.” But you’re Petco. You work with pets.
They’re so cute.
Yeah. It’s a fun, cute business. Why flatten it to be boring? I don’t get it.
I think that’s an example of just being scared to update their look in any meaningful fashion and not wanting to alienate anyone, which is silly because it’s a pet store.
There’s this whole trend of modernizing everything. You’ve seen it with apartment buildings and logos and just everything where everything is getting really flattened, and kind of has no color whatsoever. She lives in a home that’s exactly like that. It’s so weird to me that they’re doing that across the board, and it’s like, why, though? Why wouldn’t you want to stand out and get people’s attention?
Even the blue for the logotype is I wouldn’t even call it blue. It’s just like blah.
I can’t even tell you. It’s kind of got a little green in it, and it’s kind of got a little purple in it. So it’s just kind of there. It’s just weird. It was a total missed opportunity. Hopefully, we’ll change that.
We’ll see how long it sticks I guess, right?
On the flip side, as far as brands that I really like, two that I’m a big fan of both in consumption personally. And in terms of how they present themselves on their social media platforms. Netflix is one of them, and SparkNotes is the other. SparkNotes is the well what we all used to use in school. And we’re like, “I didn’t read that chapter of that book. Summarize it for me.”
But both of them really have this understanding of internet culture and especially memes. And they’re connecting with their audiences through meme messaging on a level that I have not seen other brands doing as well. So that is definitely a understand your audience because SparkNotes is catering to high school and college students, Netflix to all of us at the moment because what else are we doing? You can share so much more when you have kind of an understanding of what it is you all enjoy. And I get this meme, you get this meme, we all get this meme.
Netflix is funny too because that’s kind of what I’ve been saying is that I think we’re going to be railing against the algorithm, and Netflix is the algorithm. And they’re able to do a really good job of connecting to their audience regardless of that perception. They’re an interesting company.
Well, they actually changed their title cards in their homepage in their user interface based on what you click on. So that’s really interesting to me too, because they are totally studying what images, what screen grabs do you like? That’s also what they’re doing on their social media page, too, is they are looking at the screen grabs that people keep liking. Interesting.
Thank you Netflix.
It’s all data.
Yeah. They know how to use our data for optimal enjoyment. That’s really what you want your brand to be, algorithms aside, but you want it to resonate a feeling at the end of the day. What you say about Netflix other than I like Netflix? Ultimately, that’s what you just said. You know exactly what you’re getting. You feel good about that choice, and that’s ultimately what a brand should do. There’s that intangible feeling of like, “Yes, this is the right choice despite logic or whatever else.”
Apple is the ultimate example of that where you just feel good with an apple product sometimes, depending on how you feel about Apple, of course. But it’s about design, like an iPhone is about design phone and it’s a tiny little computer and unless it’s an emotional response, either positively or negatively in some cases, those people running or those Samsungs, but those Samsungs are still basically some extent purposes. They’ve just put that design that’s been copied because it does elicit a reaction, an emotional response.
Well, even think about some of your top brands right now, so like your Googles, your Amazon’s. People have used those brand names as verbs because they have completely dominated a space. So if someone’s getting a delivery and they’re like, “Oh yeah, I’m getting it on Amazon to my home.” Well, is it actually from Amazon? Or are you just saying and same thing with Google? You don’t say I’m going to go type a question into a search engine field. You’re like, “I’m going to go Google that.”
Kleenex is the same way Tupperware. It’s so weird how certain brands can build up this kind of identity to the point where it is the thing within the culture. So not that everybody’s going to have that you’re not going to be a Google necessarily if you’re like, “I only work in a local market,” but you can dominate your local market by really being out there and having people get the name recognition and know your face, know what you care about. So that’s what we recommend is make sure people know who you are.
And what you’re not.
And what you’re not.
That’s almost as important too in some regards.
Yeah. That’s a great kind of segue. So, where does a small business start? Or how do they know if it’s time to reevaluate?
Well, that’s a good question. So we’ve given a lot of answers about big brands for small brands and those who maybe have a small business or are thinking about rebranding and have listened to this podcast, thinking that’s a money for all this. It doesn’t have to be that complicated. The amount of work that goes into it depends upon where you’re at in the marketplace and what are you trying to accomplish?
And if you’re just somebody owns a small business, maybe one or two employees, and you’re just like I kind of feel like I need logo refresh and maybe a little update in how you write copy, but I don’t need a brand guy that seems like a lot like, “Hey, no problem. We’ve got a solution for you.” All those steps would still apply.
But in a lot of cases, especially as a small business, the research that goes into it isn’t necessarily as much because oftentimes, those small businesses are kind of niche already. And so that makes it the research time gets cut down dramatically from that point, you can kind of start to look “Okay, here’s after talking with them and knowing their budget, here’s a good solution for you. We think this would be great. What do you think?”
And at the end of the day, it is subjective, and it is how it makes them feel as well as how it makes your customers feel. So if they can get behind it, their customers will get behind it. That’s important. And we also don’t want to give them anything that they’re [inaudible 00:29:06]. I always want them to have 100% satisfaction with what we’re delivering because if it’s even just 90%, I don’t think we hit the mark then. It’s not good enough. In my opinion, it needs to be 100%. It needs to please them.
A lot of times, it’s a give and take. It’s a discussion. It’s a debate. We go back and forth in the merits of all of it. And there’s some things that I think, this will be a home run that they’re uncomfortable with. And then it’s like, Okay, well, it’s time to reassess.” You have to be comfortable with it.
I think there are ways too, that even before you would look at rebranding or creating a brand for the first time, is just kind of going through some basic exercises, like pick five words that define your business. That’s a really easy way to start. So if you’re like, I want to be trustworthy, reliable, authentic, fast. Let’s see one more honest, if you go with those that gives you kind of a starting point where you’re like, “All right, I know I want to come off of as this.”
Whether it’s through surveys, audience, research, competitor research, then you can kind of look at what is your audience or target demographic responding to. And you can kind of start to see how those five words that you chose could align with how you would present yourself to them. And then, from there, it’s what Max is talking about. You start looking at designing and picking out typography and everything.
Well, we did it ourselves too. We did a little brand exercise near the beginning of our project where we did the kind of define I think it was 10, actually. I think it was 10. 10 we aren’t, and 10 we are. And we did it as a director-level group, if I remember correctly.
That was two months ago. So long ago then, we kind of chose a group, the 10 that we were in the 10 that we weren’t. Five is a perfectly acceptable number. I think 10 can get a little overwhelming. But I think it is important to define who you aren’t.
Well, and I think to that point to get everyone on the same page too. As we grow and scale, maybe you just mentioned, like, “Hey, you’re a small business, and you only have a couple employees,” but you’re looking to grow and scale, making sure that it’s defined so that everyone is representing it in the same way. It’s not just my perception of our brand is these five words. And not these five things, but your perception is this and that. Then it’s not really representing the same thing. It’s actually two separate versions of your brand. So how do you define those things? So you can represent yourself in an authentic way, a consistent way. I think you guys have mentioned some great exercises to at least start.
Another one that I’d recommend too is also thinking about your unique selling point. So that’s a huge one that I feel a lot of people miss, and it doesn’t have to be like, “I’m a Google.” You don’t have to be a big brand to do that. Your unique selling point could be like, “Hey, I can respond to you within 24 hours. If you submit a message to me,” that’s huge. Whatever your audience is lacking currently in their market, whatever service you provide, that’s huge. And if you can get that out there to them, that can do a lot for your brand.
Awesome. Well, great takeaways you guys. Anything else you would want to share with potential businesses listening to our podcast?
Don’t be boring own it.
Yeah. Don’t be boring. Don’t be afraid to try something new, but also don’t be afraid to stick with what you have in some cases, it’s fine.
If it’s working for you, it’s working for you, but if you’re feeling like you need something to change it up a little bit, lean into the weird.
I’ve actively talked people out of doing a redesign on their brands before. It’s fine. Just stick with what you got. You’ve already got a good brand, especially if the longer they’ve been in the market that longevity matters, and sometimes just weird enough. It’s unique enough. It’s fine.
Nice. Well, thank you guys so much. I really appreciate you guys joining me today. Remember to like, and subscribe to our podcast. So thank you, Max and Bailey.
Thank you, Megan.
Speaker 1 (34:02):
I’ve Heard That is a part of the Hurrdat Media Network. For more information, follow Hurrdat on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram, or visit [email protected]
Speaker 5 (34:11):
A Hurrdat Media Production.