‘What does the Nicolas Cage / Friends meme have to do with branding’ I hear you cry? You didn’t ask? Just me? Ah, well – I’ll explain anyway.

What struck me about this, is how much of something you can alter before it loses identity. And there’s a good reason we call it ‘brand identity’. Brand ‘guidelines’ are just that – a guide – but it shouldn’t limit creative freedom.

In this case, matching expressions to an otherwise unaltered image remains familiar, but only under certain circumstances. In this example – crucially the hair and environment keep it anchored to Ross / Chandler.

But as it’s a man’s face, and fundamentally the facial structure is quite different, it doesn’t work with Phoebe. Though I’m sure I’ve experienced Nicolas Cage with long hair, it just doesn’t sit right with Phoebe – too much has changed.

We look at this with branding too, and what we call the Creative Platform. Typically this consists of:

  1. Logo (generally leave this alone – and try to resist adding a Santa hat on it during December!).
  2. Typeface – this usually operates as one font family with different faces (bold, ultra light, condensed etc for variety) but can often consist of headline font and body font.
  3. Colour palette – usually 2 or 3, but can be broader, particularly in group structures with multiple services / divisions.
  4. Graphic elements – this could be an illustration style, or bold shapes (we use the angle from our ‘D’ icon for example), sometimes a photographic image treatment.
  5. Tone of voice – this is often understated but can make a big impact, particularly on ‘stealth’ campaigns that have a brand reveal. You brand tone of voice could be playful (Innocent, Compare the Market), aspirational (Nike), upbeat and confident (Apple). Just as an actor or singer’s voice is instantly recognisable, so is a brand voice.

There are other aspects such as audio branding (McDonald’s whistle) but these are the most common.

Our view, is that you need to have at least 2 or 3 of these in your creative comms to remain ‘on brand’. Too few and you risk losing your identity.

Be brave and use a different headline font for a campaign. Switch the colours up for Festive seasons. Maybe leave the logo alone unless you have a REALLY compelling creative approach – Google is one of the notable examples here with their ‘Google Doodle‘ which has become an engagement tool in its own right.

Of course, if you DO want to move in a different direction, making a change to one or more of these core elements can change track without completely losing identity. You have to know the rules to break the rules!

Our point here, is that just as a new haircut, or adding glasses and so on can change someone’s look, it doesn’t necessarily change their entire identity. Unless, of course, you want it to…

Need some steer with you campaign creative, or want to reposition your brand? Give us a shout!