Is branding gross?

As a brand identity designer, I meet clients with varying attitudes toward branding. Some are excited. These gung-ho clients know that a strong identity can improve their already-great organization. They’re ready to dive in.

But there’s another kind of client I love, too: the cautious ones. They worry that changing their image will make them look too slick. They’re afraid of alienating their audience. I have a soft spot for these clients because it’s a legitimate concern. Is branding sort of icky?

Maybe branding is deceitful. Like the conniving jewel thief in Seduced By A Stranger. It’s a Lifetime TV movie I watched last night. (Don’t judge. I kept meaning to change the channel…)

Cautious clients, more often than not, are in service organizations and non-profits. They’re not selling widgets to get rich quick. They’re trying to change the world. They’re educating people and caring for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. They care about human beings.

One client wrote: “Our culture is sort of ‘of the people, by the people, for the people.’ If I were to go full-scale branding I could be perceived as too commercial or potentially selling out.”

Yes. That’s a real concern!

But I’ve found that cautious clients are not afraid of all branding. They’re afraid of inauthentic branding. They just don’t want to seem fake. The truth is, you’ve already got a brand if you’re doing anything that’s visible to people beyond yourself. And as you work on your business and create products and services, you’re doing branding, because people are going to think things about you. So the real task is to make sure that what you’re putting out there really matches who you are.

Here’s why I think branding doesn’t have to be gross. In fact, it can help you better serve your people.

Consistent Branding Creates Trust.

Companies whose visuals and messages are all over the place seem disorganized. Even if an organization really can provide value to people, customers will never give it a try. You don’t look reliable. That’s perfect, if you actually are unreliable. But if you offer real value, you’ll be doing people a favor if you can help them trust you. Consistency is comforting.

Authentic Branding Helps People Make Decisions.

If your look and feel accurately reflects who you are as an organization, people can more quickly decide if you’re the right fit for them. If you’re not, they should move on to find what they need elsewhere. Either way, you’re helping people.

Memorable Branding Helps People Find More of What You’re Offering.

Once they discover that they like your brand, they’ll seek it out. They’ll be able to find your stuff among the noise because they’ll know what to look for.

Attractive Branding is Always More Enjoyable. 

A good-looking, easy-to-understand visual system is pleasing. Good design is better than bad design, bottom line. The right brand identity will never hurt. It can only help.

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