Building a brand out of bricks and mortar – or – the stupid way to think
I recently read an article on Fast Company, which asserted quite controversially that branding is an artifact of the past. To check this article out, read: Why Branding is an Artifact of the Past.
Quite rightly, the article kicks off by stating that “you can’t build a brand simply by setting out to build a brand” and that “in fact, thinking too much about brands can actually get in the way of the real business of your company.”
There are several quick points the article makes very early on about becoming too clouded in your brand. It outlines consumers who specifically have an agenda in mind which transcends (or even subverts) branding entirely, searching for a specific product which does X better than competing products. For such a consumer, branding is of little or no concern.
In entertainment, a brand is a promise, as has been said many a time before (usually by brand managers). It represents the entirety of your pledge to the consumers who purchase your product.
As is often the case, neither extreme really works, but both make valid points.
When creating the Flat Earth Games logo (and indeed coming up with the name), we set out to create something which did two jobs for us:
1) Made fun of silly people
2) Was a throwback of sorts to 90s games
3) Didn’t take itself so seriously that we’d be afraid to think of a third thing and add it in in spite of prefacing this section by saying it had two jobs to do
We considered the brand thusly:
1) People who neglect to believe that the Earth is round (who we have no problem with on an individual level) serve as a brilliant symbol to represent what collectively we’re able to achieve! How marvelous a feat is it that we’ve been able to take such an overwhelming bunch of facts and turn a whole group of people against them in the face of staggering evidence to the contrary? Our flat-topped top-hat is hereby tipped to you, Planet Earth.
2) Our first game will contain, as did countless titles upon which we wasted countless hours as kids, a flat game world. We love flat game world. From Jagged Alliance to Civilization, Transport Tycoon to Toejam and Earl, we couldn’t get enough of them.
3) We created a symbol and font for the logo which could easily be mistaken for some kind of law firm. Nothing is more hilarious to us than the notion that people consider us to be stuffy, uptight professionals (in the traditional sense).
So yes, we thought about our brand for quite some time when coming up with it. Our VERY close runner up was ‘Full Screen Games’. The 90s reference is obvious, but what really sold us on that title was that we’d settled on a tagline. A similarly silly tagline.
It made us laugh. With muchness.
But I digress.
The point is that for obvious reasons, it was important for us to create a brand we felt belonged to us personally. The logo and name are something we’re both invested enough in that we find it energising. It may not scream all the things it means to us to your typical consumer, but it sure gets us out of bed in the morning (along with our corporate sponsor Nescafe).
While creating a logo is far from the same thing as creating a brand, it’s pointless to create a logo which symbolises something when you don’t have a ‘thing’ to symbolise.
To us, Flat Earth represents our collectively oddball outlook on life, as well as a giant list of things we hate. This may not seem like much, but in our travels we’ve found that there are many a person who agree with a few of our pet peeves to the extent that they’d gosh darned enjoy a beer or three with us so we could collectively rant about said things.
Of course, ‘building’ that Flat Earth brand means nothing. Embodying it does.
It’s been of the utmost importance to Rohan and to I (What’s that, then? Busy programming. –Rohan) that we at all times seek to communicate using whatever hair-brained style our coffee-addled minds choose to use, with relatively few restrictions, but ensuring that we don’t stray into boundaries we don’t like. (Can you get me a coffee? –Rohan)
As a person with somewhat ristretto-strength opinions on many topics, I’m often engaging with any new web site, comedian, brand or
whatever else while lying in wait for it to off-handedly mention something I find disagreeable (give charitably to anti-Gay marriage organisations, offer a poor response to a legitimate grievance or concern about the company’s business practises, become Nazis, disapprove of the works of H P Lovecraft etc etc). At which point, I’ll tune out and stop engaging with the brand. (White with no sugar. –Rohan)
‘Building’ a brand takes a huge amount of time and doesn’t involve having the right logo or name primarily, nor ‘getting the name out there’ primarily, but it takes an intrinsic understanding of the core values which drive the brand.
I firmly believe that our quest to create a Flat Earth ‘thing’ out of the Flat Earth ‘brand’ which is epitomised in the Flat Earth ‘symbol’ will be marked by the passage of time and our unwavering commitment to simply being who we are, and in all possible cases, working with people who fit with us personally.
Our brand is only as good as the culture we nurture from day one, and our culture is made up of the people we work with. Everything else is secondary. I can’t outline what Flat Earth is in one article. The things we love, hate, stand for and agree with will be an act of maintenance, not creativity at one particular moment.
So yes, Fast Company, I do still believe you can ‘build’ a brand. Just not manually in a vacuum by creating more letterheads. Brands are fueled by consistency, not coal.
(Yes! Coffee! I want coffee! Of course I want coffee! I always want coffee when I watch radar. –Rohan)