It ain’t easy

by Holland-Mark | January 2, 2012

No matter how easy they make it look, all great brands share two things: clear vision and painstaking attention to every detail.

In the early stages of my career I had the privilege of working on a piece of Bank of America business. I thought I had it made. I’m not even 21 and I have BOA in my portfolio. I’m awesome. Thirty seconds later I knew why I was working on BOA: that brand is guarded like Mike Troiano’s daughters. Everything is dictated—down to the millimeter—so that anyone with a computer and basic competency can execute without fail. The brand is the brand. There are no exceptions or deviations. And it didn’t become that way overnight. It took years. And cost many branding folks their sanity.

The lesson I took from that experience is this. Branding isn’t always about scoring a goal, especially at the beginning. It’s about getting the ball down the field, doing a little something that makes the fans cheer and gets the players motivated.

When we partnered with CLOVR Media last year, there was plenty of vision and attention to detail, but none was allocated to branding or messaging. Like most young companies, they were outgrowing the ability to ignore branding and entering into a phase where playing with the big kids meant needing to look like one. The timing coincided with an opportunity to change the company name, and so it was decided that we’d go for it. We’d change the name, craft the message, and see where those things took us in terms of the branding.

The first challenge was just trying to write down–in basic English–what they do. The story is not simple, but it became even more complicated as different people began telling it in different ways. This inconsistency was at the heart of the lack of clarity. In addition to the fundamental messaging work, we developed a Language Map to serve as a bible of phraseology. It comprised various sound bytes that we felt needed to be consistent across all communications.

Linkable Networks (or Linkables), the new name, shortens the distance between consumers, brands, and savings by linking offers directly to their existing credit or debit cards. Customers register their card(s) one time and any time they see the Linkables symbol, they can click it (online), scan it (QR), or text a short code (TV/radio) and it’s automatically linked to that card. Next time they swipe that card at the retailer, the savings will automatically be applied.

Simplicity does a lot to set the tone for a brand. Clear communication is by nature more approachable and it’s allowed us to spend more time exploring the other brand elements.

We’re not looking to score a goal, though. Linkables is young and there is a lot to be gained by listening to feedback, exploring possibilities, and iterating to a place that feels right to not only the company, but also each of the unique audiences. The visual brand is coming into it’s own as we learn more about consumer behavior and expectations. Tonally we’re testing the waters, while keeping an eye on the business and where it is moving. In the technology space, the brand is just the body the technology is living in for the moment. It can iterate or even change, and the brand should follow suit.

There’s something more to be taken from our partnership with Linkables. It’s an understanding that our business, that of branding and marketing, must be as iterative and flexible as the brands we serve. Process is quickly being replaced by constant communication and collaboration and creative is now a transparent flow of ideas, rather than a magic moment in a presentation. The expectation that a client will let us into their world must be met with a promise that we’ll let them into ours. Even though it might reveal more blood, sweat, and tears than perfect processes and magic potions.

Building a brand is like raising a child. I’m pretty sure you’re never done.