There has always been a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding the term ‘brand’ – what it means and how to create a successful one. Since leaving big agency life in Melbourne to start Shorthand with my partner Amanda, we’ve been on a mission to demystify brand and simplify the process. If we define brand as what your business stands for in the minds of your audience, we have found that there is a simple formula to building a great one, Brand = Style + Substance.
A successful brand is born from the marriage of style and substance, with substance being what your business stands for (what you do, how you do it and why you do it) and style being how you present your business to your audience (what it looks and sounds like). Achieving this balance is crucial for any business – as a brand without substance is an empty promise, while a brand without style is underselling itself.
Have you ever visited a café that talked the talk with a tattooed barista and on-trend fit-out and signage only to be served a milky, mediocre cup of coffee? This is a brand with style but no substance. Their trendy brand identity might get people’s attention, but they will leave disappointed when their experience doesn’t match their expectations. Brands like this tend to have a short life-span as in the world of social media, negative word-of-mouth spreads quickly.
On the other side of the coin, the café next door might have the best coffee in town, but if their signage and fit-out looks tacky or outdated, people will walk on by. This a brand with substance but no style. Their brand identity isn’t doing their offer justice and is sending their audience the wrong message. Brands like this may develop a loyal following over time through positive word-of–mouth, but often plateau and struggle to really grow their customer base.
Before undertaking any branding project, you need to first look inside and find the substance behind your brand. If you can’t find it, you may have deeper problems than a new brand identity can fix. If it’s there, great! You can confidently express it with a considered and consistent brand identity. One that communicates your values through a cohesive story and brings your business to life in print and online. Brand = Substance + Style is the foundation of building a strong brand. Where the ‘style’ gets customers in the door and the ‘substance’ keeps them coming back.
Scott Kirkman is co-founder and Creative Director of Newcastle based branding studio Shorthand. Scott began his career working for internationally recognised FutureBrand in Melbourne, being mentored by industry leaders. He returned to Newcastle in 2014 to open Shorthand and bring his experience back to his hometown.