Global branding expert Landor Associates shares its experiences, insights and insider tips for creating excellent brand strategies, in this exclusive five-step branding masterclass
From Apple to Zippo, branding is key: it defines what you are, the way you work, what your products should be and how you present your public face to the world. In return, creating a brand helps you attract the customers you want to serve, gain their trust and keep them coming back for more. In rare cases, branding can even be rewarded with love, devotion and a quasi-religious zeal. But just like good product design, good branding is about more than surface good looks. It goes right to the heart of everything you do.
Just ask Landor Associates: the creative agency established by branding pioneer Walter Landor in 1941, which now spans the globe with 21 offices located around the world. Landor Associates has been responsible for the creation of some of the world’s most iconic brands: Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Alitalia Airlines, Del Monte, the World Wildlife Fund and many others, and the creative agency continues to work with hundreds of big-name clients including FedEx, Volkswagen, Microsoft and Rolex. Over the next six pages, you’ll gain an exclusive insight into the way that Landor sets about creating iconic brands, whether the audience is local, national or global.
Step one: problem-solving
One of the reasons why many clients choose to come to branding agencies like Landor is to receive expert help with a commercial problem or opportunity. “Rarely do we get someone who says: ‘We’re already very successful, give me more success’ – it has happened once or twice, but this situation tends to be the exception,” begins executive creative director of Landor’s London office, Peter Knapp. “Typically there’s a shift in the marketplace, a shift in the commercial paradigm that they need to respond to, or there are new products or new technologies that they’re adapting, which means the brand is subject to scrutiny, to see whether it’s still in good condition to express that change. That’s what happens normally,” he continues. “People will come with a commercial problem or a commercial opportunity and they need to see whether the brand is fit for purpose.”
To solve the problem, Landor’s creatives first embark on an audit of the company or brand to find out where it’s at in terms of its commercial prospects, its appeal to its audience, and whether there’s a mismatch between what the company or brand thinks it is and what opinion-formers, consumers and other influencers think. For Landor, carrying out a brand audit is fundamental to its whole approach: to get a brand to where you want it to be, you first have to understand where it is, and then create a strategy that helps bridge that gap.
This is exactly what Landor did when it created a new identify for Russian airline S7, as Knapp explains: “You can’t pick a colour, pick a logo, have your fingers crossed and hope that it might work. We did an extensive competitive analysis, we did a lot of customer interviews, and we did a lot of data analysis to see where the business was going and to look at where the society of Russia was changing. What were the new influences for the audience they were trying to attract?”
S7 was trying to attract a young, upwardly mobile audience to its airline. To create the brand, Landor looked at the kinds of things this audience was attracted to: “That meant not by any means looking at other airlines,” says Knapp, “but looking at fashion trends, retail trends, what hotels were doing, the automotive sector – and asking what are the cues here? What are the trends? What are the things that we can learn from in order to deploy a brand that’s going to be attractive to these guys?” In the end, Landor created a bright green livery and branding for S7 Airlines that was a world away from the conservative image used by its rivals.
At Landor, there are four tenets that define its branding and rebranding work: relevance (to audience), differentiation (from competitors), preference (among audience) and loyalty (from customers). They’re also key to any brand’s commercial success.
Step two: defining the brand strategy
Once you’ve carried out an audit into your client’s brand, the next step is to define what the brand is and what it stands for. Landor combines the data it has gleaned from its audit and field research with a series of client workshops that help both sides identify the brand’s self image and values. Landor asks a series of questions based around visual metaphors – such as: if your brand were a car, what kind of car would it be? – to really get to the essential truth, or truths, about the brand.
These can then be used as a springboard for the creative expression of the brand – the visual, design and voice cues that trigger recognition, preference, loyalty and so on among the target audience. “The whole point of brand strategy is to limit your options and to laser-focus the brand, so that it is really clear about what it stands for; what the intent is,” Knapp says. “A really good brand strategy helps you land on a pinhead creatively. That’s the point of brand strategy. If not, you’re just doing cute design.” In other words: if you find yourself presenting dozens of wildly different options to your client, it means you haven’t got a handle on what the client really wants, and you both have more work to do before you can get on with the fun, creative part.