Opinion

Branding Isn’t Dying

17 June, 2015 Share socially
Although we think of brand as a modern concept, it’s part of thousands-of-years-long thread of continuity, from Ancient Egyptians marking their livestock to the potters of Ancient Greece signing their work to Venetians of the Middle Ages patenting their glassmaking methods. The Industrial Revolution, followed by the invention of graphic design, brought even greater formality to these concepts.

By the mid-20th Century, a few companies realized that the consistency of manufacturing processes made it difficult to differentiate themselves from similar brands. These companies conceived the brand management discipline to

 solve this problem. They developed or learned techniques that allowed them to target customers and create experiences. We continue to fine-tune these techniques today.

What’s the next step?

Mass customization. First there was just the customization available by going to the NikeiD or the MINI website. At NikeiD you can completely customize and order a pair of shoes that fits your exact specifications. At the MINI website, you can spend hours customizing the options on your next vehicle.

Knyttan, a knitwear company, allows even more immediate customization. Customers can create bespoke knitwear at the company’s factory, going from designing their sweater to wearing it in as little as 90 minutes. It’s a tremendous change, and as the company’s founder, Ben Alun-Jones, says, it really is “transforming the role of designers.”

How the role is changing

For designers from the branding industry, their new roles are an extension of what they already do. Currently a branding designer has to have top-level design skills and an ability to create systems and rules that the client’s teams can understand and apply to produce similar designs.

As Alun-Jones notes, now, the designers he works with need to create

style-guides rather than finished pieces. This is precisely the skill set designers in our industry bring to this new world of product development branding. A branding designer can identify and outline the core elements required for a design concept to succeed as a web page, a logo, an interior, a book, packaging or almost anything else. They understand that clear rules are the key to making the system live after they’ve done their work.

Even more radical is the work at Francis Bitonti Studio in NYC. He’s a former architect now working in clothing, jewellery and accessories. What’s truly unusual is his use of computers and 3D printers to create most of his work. Imagine entire dresses made of pieces printed on a 3D printer, which are then assembled and worn. Once again, the key is high-level understanding and an ability to create guides that others can understand and apply.

Beyond brand experience

Branding isn’t dying, but—once again—it is changing dramatically. Brand first went from indicating ownership (of products or techniques) to being a way

to differentiate and target. Now it’s moving in a new direction: It’s way to develop systems that allow customers to co-create highly customized products that are on-brand.

This is not something to worry about, but it is a sign that it’s time to adjust to new realities and make them work for us. Brand designers are the best equipped to thrive in this new world. We need to embrace these new opportunities and understand the potential applications.