Business development / Marketing

Here’s a quick primer on how to be a branding rockstar

Nick Matarese has the branding 411.

But not this kind of branding. (Photo by Flickr user Anne Worner, used under a Creative Commons license)

Last week, we told you about how branding guru Nick Matarese approached branding for the upcoming coworking space The Mill. He also shared with Delaware what exactly branding is, and how to do it well.
“Branding is guaranteeing someone quality through visual cues,” Matarese said. “It has a lot more to do than just a logo. A brand is the full iceberg, and a logo is just the tip of the iceberg that’s out of the water.”
Branding, he said, is storytelling. It conveys an idea without requiring further explanation, and if it’s done well, it makes some kind of emotional connection with the viewer.
Every part of branding, Matarese said, should be deliberate. “Never put something in a design because it’s pretty,” he said. “That’s not branding, that’s decorating.”
And a brand should answer one important question: “What do we stand for?”
Here are some quick examples of branding wins and fails:

  • Tiffany’s use of its signature robin’s egg blue has made that color synonymous with high-end luxury.
  • The NHL Nashville Predators’ uniforms make several connections that locals appreciate. The mascot emblazoned on the front is a sabre-toothed tiger because of a notable downtown discovery in the ’70s of sabre-toothed tiger fossils. On the shoulder is a guitar-pick design that contains the three stars from the Tennessee state flag. The numbers look like guitar strings, and the inside of the collar features a piano-key design.
  • That time Lululemon yoga pants kept falling apart, but women kept buying them anyway because they’ve been branded as a gym status-symbol.
  • You know how you think warm, cuddly thoughts when you think about the Snuggie? Matarese said the same concept was on the market six months prior, but never really took off, probably because it was called the Slanket. “My brother jokes that it sounds like a torture device,” he said.

First impressions matter too, and a brand should be built with the expectation that it’ll last for decades.
Investing in a branding strategy from the outset is important, he said, because if you delay, people already have a crummy first impression of what you stand for. Matarese noted it’s also exponentially more expensive to re-brand everything in your business, particularly if it has grown considerably.
He said first impressions are everything: “If you have to change (your branding) every three years, that means your first impression is horrible.”


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