Strategic creative—how do you know when it’s right?

It’s daunting—sitting in front of hundreds of logo options, a myriad of colors palettes, font treatments, photo styles, patterns, illustrations, graphic doodads that do this and that—all bundled together representing the various ways that your brand strategy can come to life.

So, how do you make the right choice about your brand identity?

Brand Identity Choices

There are many factors that influence this decision. More times than not, it’s a group decision, which includes compromise on many levels. So, it’s important to let the right people share their knowledge early in the development process. For instance, we engage key stakeholders in interactive design thinking exercises to gain a diverse range of insights. We challenge people to think broadly and deeply and engage them in robust conversation about where to take the brand visually.

For example, during a series of design thinking workshops with a real estate investment trust, we learned a valuable insight about the new company name. A simple nuance changed the way we looked at articulating the new name visually. What might have been overlooked in design development became a key driver that led to a distinctive and ownable identity that connected creative strategy with brand strategy.

Finding this connection is key. Gone are the days of throwing a brand strategy over the wall and hoping for the best. Getting involved early with the creative development helps, but critical to a successful outcome is connecting creative back to the research that fueled the brand strategy.

Sounds simple, right?

Very often than not this is not so simple and where a critical breakdown can happen in the process. I’m sure you’ve seen this happen—creative work enters the ether of possibilities losing its connection to critical strategic underpinnings. Thus, the work often spirals out of control, extending beyond its place and exchanging strategic rightness for aesthetic rightness. But here’s the thing, you can have both.

Strategic Thinking and Creative Work

Great brand identities should be strategic and creative. Or put another way, part art and part science. This same yin yang principle can apply to selecting a visual direction that’s right for your brand. Clients will often ask us to test creative concepts. We are certainly advocates of testing work. The simplest and most straightforward reason? It helps validate the direction.

It’s critical to define a clear goal before you test so key stakeholders understand how the research findings will influence next steps and acknowledge that implementing these findings doesn’t necessarily guarantee success or even need to be followed.

When we tested logo designs for a new midscale hotel brand, we found out quickly that a favorite design tested lower than expected with consumers. Even though the data said otherwise, there were powerful reasons to keep it in the running and ultimately be selected as the brand logo. The client used our data (science) to understand the baseline and industry knowledge and instinct (art) to find the right solution for them. This gave them a solid strategic rational and foundation that was stronger than selecting a logo simply based on the data.

Delivering strategic creative requires a shift in process. By getting the right stakeholders involved early, finding the right mix of art and science and testing for the right reasons, your decision making about your brand identity will be less daunting and the outcome will be more successful.

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