At Underbelly, we're always looking for ways to up our craft. Going to the Brand New Conference reminded us why we avoid complacency at all costs. Designers Matt Scribner, Scott Jones, Brad Edwards, and Dave Keller took NYC by storm for the two-day event featuring all sorts of cool ideas, perspectives, and tips on branding everything from a professional football team to a mysterious city on the edge of the world. Here are the biggest nuggets of wisdom we took away, from our team to yours (or you, solo. We love you, too).
Tires are functional. They aren't incredibly compelling, fun, or memorable. But most people know and maybe even love the Michelin Man (whose given name is Bibendum - who knew?). He's a prime example of how character + personality can help a brand stand out and stand the test of time. Personality brings people in; character brings them back. Michelin gave their brand character by creating an actual character with major personality. In addition to Bibendum, James Greenfield of Koto had some thoughts about their work on Fat Llama. They created a mascot whose personality attracted customers to the online marketplace for peer-to-peer rentals, making a seemingly straightforward business fun and lively.
Don’t Be Afraid to Mix Things Up
Sue Murphy of Wieden + Kennedy said they threw accepted branding rules out the window for their work on KFC: “There’s a time and place for consistency and a time and place for ‘dress up.’” When most of us think of a brand refresh, we think consistency is king. However, we should really think about the overall brand and how to bring it to life. That’s exactly what Wieden+Kennedy did from a hilarious Colonel Sanders pillowcase to apparel and even a chicken sandwich made out of a meteorite.
Don’t Be Afraid to Push Your Ideas Beyond the Brief
When Jon Contino worked with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on an identity refresh, he pushed the pro football team’s brand to the limit—and when they said, ‘Don’t push any further,” he pushed some more. His goal: really pull out the fun and wild element of the existing logo. Make the skull more prominent. They didn’t bite on his craziest pitches, but they wound up blessing ideas that might have otherwise never surfaced. All thanks to his bold approach. The lesson; show your clients every possibility that you can think of so that when you inevitably reel the idea back, it’s still dope. Fulfill the basic requirements and then forget about playing it safe.
Place Branding: Stakes Are High
What could be more daunting than doing an identity refresh for an entire city? Every city has so much history and so many different faces. Capturing and defining its diverse personality seems like such an exciting and interesting challenge.
Dr. Natasha Grand of INSTID does this for a living. She is particularly well-suited for it, having worked as a political risk analyst before diving into the tricky business of branding locations. Place branding can be the difference between a city prospering or facing hardship. Now, more than ever, places are competing for human resources to boost culture and economy.
A good brand can help showcase what makes a place interesting, unique, or exceptional. Take Irkutsk, for example. The small Russian town has a history of harboring educated outlaws, revolutionaries, and political agitators. Those characters, combined with Irkutsk’s God-like lake, intense sky, and unique culture, inspired INSTID to create designs that are loud, bizarre, polarizing and inarguably compelling. The rebrand helped raise awareness and generate buzz around a forgotten corner of the world.
The entire branding team at Underbelly would love to make our mark on a distinct location. Few places are in greater need of a refresh than our own dear city of Salt Lake. If anyone from the Mayor’s Office is reading this, please get in touch.