Creativity Pays: Why Branding Requires Much More Than a Logo

With news this week of the sudden and unexpected Twitter rebrand to ‘X’, Nicki explores the fundamentals of ‘Brand’; why it’s much more than a logo, and how being truly creative requires courage and innovation.

Friday 28 July 2023
By Nicki Field

A wise person once said, ‘Brand is long-term, advertising is short-term'. That not very ancient but very excellent proverb came from our co-founder Chris Page in one of the many conversations where we muse on the ever-changing tides of being a business in the commercial creative industry.

Well, also what we’ve seen play out very publicly this week is that thinking about what “brand” is can be short-sighted if creative expertise isn’t harnessed in the right way. I may eat my words, as will the outpouring of many industry peers commenting, mostly aghast, as the Elon Musk / Twitter / ‘X’ branding affair has dominated the headlines since the weekend.

To state what feels obvious, a brand is so much more than a logo. It’s a system; a sum of parts whose job is to transcend beyond what a designer can envision. Its visual representations are tangible assets that exist across the far too many platforms and touch points required these days, but beyond that, it becomes about the meaning users connect to a brand and its product. Brand underpins everything in establishing a successful business, service or product. The very foundation of it is essentially figuring out who you are.

"Rebranding is a bit like therapy, if it isn’t challenging you or your perceptions, then you probably aren’t doing it right."

Nicki Field

I’m not necessarily here to talk about Twitter, or ‘X’, but seeing one of the wealthiest men on the planet publicly disregard design process for a crowd-sourced interim logo made me feel desperately sad, because I’m so passionate about the richness that design and creativity can bring when it’s valued, respected and engaged with thoughtfully.

Widely acknowledged research from McKinsey shows that companies that are creative leaders outperform their peers on key financial metrics. Using creative awards as a measure, they found that of companies who were the most highly decorated over a 15 year period 67% had above-average organic revenue growth, 70% had above-average total return to shareholders, and 74% had above-average net enterprise value. So in other words, creativity pays.

For a brand, this creativity might manifest first of all as a logo, tone of voice, a typeface, a colour palette, its visuals, its copy-writing. How it asserts itself in its marketplace. It’s how all of these visual and written ingredients come together and connect with your audience or users that builds your brand. Think of the richness in the exceptional conceptual and executional quality of the Channel 4’s recent rebrand. Through a clearly defined lens of knowing who they are, it is equally clear in the audience's mind who Channel 4 is and what defines them, their values, what they represent. Their programming, the service they deliver, their tone of voice, the idents, the design system - it all aligns. Now think of Musk and ‘X’. I’ll let you draw your own conclusion there.

"Brand is long-term, advertising is short-term."

Chris Page

Brand is never just a logo and the visual language and all the seemingly invisible things you build around it is essential to its success or demise.

Older and wiser, through the richness of our experience and our network of talent, we recognise the value of creativity and the need to engage in the process richly, willingly and thoughtfully from our clients.

And you cannot do it without building in strategy into the early process. That’s the absolutely necessary part that is, surprisingly, easy to ignore. We’ve learnt this the hard way. We’ve hopped onto visual exploration or development directly with brands who’ve skipped this stage and we’ve shrugged it off, willing to take their development money after they were unwilling to take our advice. And it fails. Every single time.

To scratch away at the very core of who you are, develop insights and leapfrog from these into the visual solution is the only way to achieve uniqueness and a brand that successfully connects. The extra ingredient needed is also the will to be as brave and innovative as possible to deliver something new and unique. This afterall, is the very nature of creativity.

And, like with everything I end up feeling strongly enough about putting pen to paper - ultimately it’s about craft. Clients who are up for the journey and respect creative professionals enough, will recognise their gain if they engage and use the expertise available. And if you’re in doubt of that, the research says so...

Nicki Field

Joint MD & Head of Artist Management, Global