A branding blog


Thoughts, information and tips about how to design your business and the business of design

Too close for branding comfort?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Ara logos

There has been recent talk in the media regarding the new brand for the integrated Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) as it merges with Aoraki Polytechnic taking on the new name "Ara Institute of Canterbury".

The talk has been regarding the similarity between an existing brand, ARANZ Geo. While ARANZ Geo has not laid a complaint, and nor is it reported that they intend to, the discussion brings to light the necessity of researching a logo design thoroughly, and outside of your intended industry.


At the same time, a new report has come to light that one company has taken a brand to task. Red Bull has taken a Christchurch drink manufacturer to court over a breach of copyright regarding the Red pre-mixed vodka, in which Red Bull has lost based on the ruling that Red has not intended to pass its drink off as Red Bull.


There are several points that these discussions raise. They're not ones of right and wrong, but more about, regardless of whether you're legally breaking copyright conditions, what are the consequences to your brand that could come about from not doing due diligence, no matter how within your rights you are to create a similar brand, or product, in a different market.


What is the onus on the design agency that is working on their behalf to identify any potential commonalities with similarly named businesses, regardless of intellectual property classifications, to ensure there is no risk of duplicating another brand? Though the legal ramifications are outside of my expertise to comment on, in Ara's case, a simple Google Images search would have brought the similar logo to the attention of the agency and client before the client fell in love with their design. 

Our job is about managing our clients expectations, and this extra step, taken throughout the process, needs to ensure the client feels secure in their decision for their new brand identity, regardless of the size, or resources of that agency. Any change is a huge undertaking, and an unsettling time, which is why clients feel more secure spending a larger amount with a bigger agency, than trusting a smaller company with perceived lesser resources.


The article published in The Press (Christchurch) does a great job to address the emotive fall out of the perceived brand infringement, and how this oversight has put a stain on the exciting launch of rebranding a new entity. The article reports that both parties are not looking to take legal action, but it would have been preferable if both brands did not get dragged into the spotlight for a negative reason for the lack of a simple process of discovery.



"Canterbury polytechnic's new Ara logo has a software firm lookalike", Martin van Beynen, The Press, April 5 2016



"City drinks company beats global giant Red Bull", The Star, April 7 2016


Why 'Click to learn more' doesn't measure up

Monday, November 30, 2015

With less people watching their TV show as they screen on air, advertisers must think they've hit the holy grail of advertising with TV 'On Demand' websites.

Because it's easier to watch your favourite episode via the internet through a television network app, the ability to fast forward through the adverts has been eliminated. TV advertisers can now ensure you watch their advert because a) there is usually only one or two playing per break, and b) they cannot be fast forwarded." At last", they say, "A captive audience". TV stations can better report how many views the advert has to their clients while being close to sure that their valued viewers haven't popped off to make a cup of tea instead of being transfixed to their promotion.

But unfortunately for them, they've tried to push it too far with the addition of a "Click to learn more' button appearing on the advert. While this superman of measurement tools may look invincible, one thing that hasn't been considered is the human nature factor.

When a viewer tunes in to watch their awaited show, tuning in when they finally have time, time poor as they are, then they're moderately irritated by being 'forced' to watch an advert. But if the are intent to watch a show, why would they delay their viewing by travelling away from the show in question to go and visit another website by 'Clicking to learn more"? Those seasoned in the OnDemand ways also know that if they navigate away from their show, they do it at great risk. For if you come back to watch your show, often you cannot skip ahead to where you left off, without having every advert that you missed racked up to watch, before you can find your place.

Some apps allow you to continue where you left off, but with the wonders of New Zealand's regressive broadband, you don't often get that option.

I don't mind watching the odd advert or two, but when you're made to watch it, then it leaves a bad taste in your mouth – and not with the TV network, but their customer.

OK, so you may be able to measure 'click to learn more', but your results will be severely biased against you. As an advertiser I'd find that pretty disheartening, when it seemed so easy in the media sales pitch. 

If you're ready to accept that there is no magic bullet to market your business, but there is a load of common sense, please contact us to see how we can apply that common sense to your business.  

The Magic Beans

Monday, October 19, 2015

Nespresso have done an interesting thing.I don't just mean by changing the way we buy coffee, although that is true. Or by making us spend more on coffee, which is also true. The one thing that stands out to me is how they have taken two standard, unexciting production models, those of selling coffee and of selling hardware, and turned them on their head. They've switched out the business models for each, and changed the way they do business.


Let's look at the two parts as we are used to seeing them:


1) Coffee Machines

This is the thing you make your coffee in - from a plunger, to a full 'grind your beans,put the grinds in a pressurised machine and espress your coffee'.

Normally, once the machine has been sold the transaction is over, until five or more years down the track when you need to buy a new machine. These machines are made and marketed by manufacturers and sold via appliance stores, like most appliances. For the top end machines, these are sold via distributors. 


2) Coffee

This is the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) flavour part of the coffee making marriage. It is sold by the bean, grind, instant, or those sachets that make a fluffy coffee. These are sold at supermarkets or coffee bean specialists and rely on the best shelf positioning for them to sell.


So what has Nespresso done that's different? Most people view of being in the business of 'coffee machines'. We refer to the machines as 'Nespresso's. However, Nespresso don't actually manufacture machines. They've spread this between Breville (a known home coffee machine manufacturer), and DeLonghi (a known appliance manufacturer) - and worldwide, also Krups and Magimix. So by the time the manufacturer has made these you can see there is not much room for Nespresso to make a lot of money on them compared to if they'd manufactured the machines themselves.

These machines are available for purchase directly from Nespresso, but also from appliance retailers.

Let's talk about the other side of the business, the coffee. The only way to buy Nespresso coffee is through their own retail chain! Either through their online store, or by going into a Nespresso store. Each 'coffee' serve (or pod), is $1, and you can only buy them in lots of 10. So the minimum purchase for any customer is $10. But, because you have to make a special trip - online or to a physical branch - you're going to stock up. In fact, for 'mailing purposes' you have to buy a minimum of 50 coffee serves online. That's now an average spend of $50!


Why do we keep buying $1 coffees that we drink at home?

You can have the option of buying 'other brand' coffee pods, and many people will take that option. But the quality of the Nespresso coffee pods, and the choice they give in flavours, married with the buying experience of going into a Nespresso store keeps the customers coming back. The packaging is beautiful, and the experience of cracking open a sleeve of pods, and popping a pod in the machine surpasses the feeling a no-name pod can give.

The price point is interesting as well. We can justify our spend by comparing it to a cafe coffee, it's one third to one quarter the price of a cup of coffee. It's also consistent, so we know what we're getting, so as a consumer the price objection can be overcome. They make sure it's not compared to an instant coffee, that's for sure - making it all about controlling our perspective.    


How can you make your company better through letting go of parts of your business, while strengthening control of other parts?

The first step is to get an outside perspective of your business. Then through a little bravery, and some business modelling before you make any changes in your business can help ensure that you have a plan, know that it should work and identify any parts that just don't fit.

Take a look at the business model canvas below for Nespresso, and witness how simple it is. For those of you that are not familiar with this type of business modelling, contact us on the form below. We can walk you through it, and also help you see how this tool could be applied to your business.


Nespresso Business Model Canvas


Nespresso BMC source:

Why content should never be an after thought

Friday, September 11, 2015

The design process of your website is the exciting part of creating new website as you are lead through a process of discovery, brief writing and design. Once you're past that initial phase however, you're often flummoxed when the project is deemed 'done' as far as the web developer is concerned, and it is thrown to you to ‘provide content’.

Let's be honest, it’s blimmin' hard to write content about your own business. I know, because I often struggle with writing about my own ’stuff’, and I do this for a living. Then it gets even harder when you then have to figure out some new software in order to upload said content to the site.

Technology has now caught up with what we want our website to to for our clients. We develop the ‘map’ and design of the site at the same time as the content. With this strategy process we can then tweak pages to work to our advantage, and not be constrained by a framework that has already been created, signed off and charged for…

PLUS the price is far less than the traditional staged approach because the strategy fits hand in glove with the content and design. So you get a finished (yes, completed, launch able, written) website for the same, if not less than an empty shell.

Let's get to the nitty gritty

OK, so you’re still with me – then I think you’re on board with what I’m saying, so I can be a little more open.

I’ve had a month of people approaching me for website content. The site framework has been built, and the agency has thrown the job back to the client to ‘please supply the content’. This approach is a bit like building the framework for a house, then asking someone to come in and move it to a different spot. A house is planned, designed and then built to incorporate the needs of the customer, plus the section it will stand on, the budget of the customer and also to allow them to put their personal stamp on it. Sure, you can move a house later (usually), but it’s always going to be a bit glitchy.

In this digital age, why are we creating websites by building a framework for them, without even looking at what it need to do. If you’re trying to capture peoples attention, it’s not going to work if your site looks like a spreadsheet because it’s too hard to engage the images with the content.

We've broken the web developer mould!

You can then understand my excitement now that we’ve broken down the secret IT walls of the web and can now assist our client with website creation services – from the planning to the foundations, to the build, while approaching it with an organic and realistic process to best reflect your business online.

We can still work with your existing web designer to work with what you’ve got, but if you’re at that place where you’ve been meaning to do something about your site for far too long, we can also supply you with options to ‘move you across’ to us, and take that opportunity to do an audit of your site, match it to your business strategy (yes, even, no, especially those ones in your head) and put a plan in place to develop your existing site organically to where you’d love it to be.

Is imitation a sincere form of flattery, or just human nature?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

We have a very strategic process when we help our clients' to develop a look for their business. It's quite intimate, in that we delve into what the business stands for, and who will love it, and who won't. It's reliant on an open communication between the business owner (client), the brand strategist (the boundary pusher), and the graphic designer.

The designer wants to create something unique and different, the strategist wants something that sincerely tells the businesses story, while the client wants something that feels familiar.

You see, the client is not a plagiarist, a copy-cat, or a wanna-be, they simply gravitate to something that is familiar, and safe. It takes a lot of backbone be the different person on the block, and in fact we spend most of our impressionable years, our teens, trying to fit in – or stand out just enough to fit in with the other people who stand out just enough. So it's not surprising that we all feel the need to fly under the radar, in the land of tall poppies, it takes a lot to stick out.

Our job is to hold our clients hand and help them to discover what makes them different, but then to help them communicate it to a bunch of people who are on the same page, who feel that they can trust this business because they feel the same way. Someone to forge ahead and zag, when all others are zigging. This is what makes a good brand. And once our client can confidently know why they have their particular different logo, then they can go forth, with gusto, and lead the way for others to embrace their difference.

It's all very easy, and human nature to look like the others, but if you've got a good cause, and a great business, break with that human nature and do what's right (and different) for you.

Help your customer to be a success

Monday, June 15, 2015

When we take our clients through our interviews and workshops, we often ask the question "Who are your clients' customers?". It's something we should all know the answer to, and can be the difference between creating a 'me-centric' board-pleasing, shot in the dark campaign, and a successful 'client-focussed' investment in your business advertising.

Here's a little story to explain what I mean. I'm a keen, mad coffee drinker, and I have two coffee establishments that I go to that are an extension of their roasting factory. They've put a cafe in place for anyone to be able to drink their coffee as it should be made.

The coffee industry is an interesting business model, but for any coffee supplier to be successful, then need to do more than supply great beans. They also need to ensure that their product is provided to the end user (ie, their customers' customer) in the best way possible. My two favourite coffee roasters have these cafes to a) their direct customer knows how to make the best coffee with their product, and b) to ensure the end consumer knows what a great coffee should taste like.

I was recently in a small town when we stopped into a 'tearoom' for a coffee. Always weary of the fact that a barista is a learned art, and not just anyone can use a coffee machine properly, we decided to buy a coffee - the tearoom in question did in fact use one of our favourite beans. As I ordered, my eye landed on several certificates sitting on the wall displaying the credentials of the baristas advertising that they trained under the watch of the coffee supplier. True to their certification, the coffees were fantastic - just like we'd got them straight from the suppliers cafe!

The moral of this story is two-fold:

Help your customer to be a better business!

That's right, build a loyalty to your product or service by helping your customer be the best they can, which is done in turn, by you understanding their customer.

Help people understand more about their problem

By simply displaying their 'accreditation' and telling me they did in fact understand that being a barista is a learned skill, I felt better assured that my $4.50 was being well spent (let's face it, everyone charges that much, whether they can make a coffee or not), and took away my learned fear of getting served a bad coffee from a good machine. They advertised that they knew how to use the machine, and they backed it up with a great coffee.

By supplying the cafe with their branded signage, and then ensuring that their customer was trained properly in how to use their product, I'll now always look for that brand coffee when I'm away from my usual haunts.

How anyone can illustrate their point

Monday, June 08, 2015

Infographic example

We've all heard the old adage that "A picture says 1,000 words", however we underestimate how true (and important) it is. When you're trying to convey something to someone in a conversation, more often than not, you reach for a napkin and draw a sketch to better illustrate your point (pun intended)?

There is a rise on the internet of infographics, which are a compilation of ideas with a common thread, that use a long diagram to visually lead the user through a series of thoughts, and facts. Each part can be read in isolation, but they encourage the viewer to wander around the information at their own pace, picking out parts of the data that best stand out to them.

Imagine if you could get your existing or potential customer to spend time wandering around your sales pitch, absorbing the information and becoming convinced that your services or product can help solve their needs.

Sales Versus Education

Now let's get back to your sales tactics. The most effective way to help sell a product or service is to educate the consumer. In sales we talk about WIIFM (What's In It For Me) for our customer. That is, stop telling them all the features of your product or service and simply listen to what their problem is, then get that paper napkin out and start sketching how you can solve their problem!

But let's take a step backwards and discuss your marketing. The WIIFM also applies for your marketing. To be effective, and without the added advantage of being in front of your customer, listening to what they need, you have to guess (assume) as to what the driver is that makes them pick up the phone, or visit your website in order to have that problem solved. This involves getting all the information about your product or service and putting a heirachy together to hope that the most important issue to them appears in the main headline.

This is where the infographic can add so much value. As I mentioned, they allow a lot of information to be presented at the same time, but give the viewer (or potential customer) the opportunity to be drawn to what is important to them, and then explore the rest of the information that encompasses that information.

I know this sounds wonderfully simple in an ideal world, but the trick is to be able to work hand in hand with a creative who can help you put those thoughts into images.

How to build a visual story board (infographic)

There are tools on the internet that allow you to start putting these ideas into a visual infographic, including and Even the most graphically challenged can use these tools to put together a professional looking infographic or innovative presentation.

However (sorry for the belated warning!) you still need to approach these applications with a plan, or you will (yes you will!) get stuck in a vortex of playing with the widget, sketching out some ideas, and then needing to start over (digitally screw up that piece of paper and toss it in the bin). There is also the risk of 'death by PowerPoint syndrome', where you add so many bells and whistles (just because you can), that the actual point is lost in a sea of spinning, coloured and over fonted (is that a word?) thoughts.

Once you have had a play though, and are ready to sharpen your thoughts it's a good time to talk to your brand architect, barrel them with ALL your ideas and let them help you to clarify and assimilate these tools into a cohesive brand and marketing message

Before you spend money on marketing, read this!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Many people shy away from marketing (and marketers) as a way of promoting their business for fear of the financial cost to their business, then to be landed with a flash in the pan marketing plan with all the bells and whistles but no substance to go with it. This may arise from the fact that the marketer is a fly-by-nighter looking for a way to make a quick buck – your quick buck in fact. Most marketers worth their salt these days will however, now present you with a way of testing and measuring to make sure you are getting a return on your investment. In fact they’re getting darn good at it, but not-good-enough.

The problem with this type of approach is you may be holding them back from doing the best job. A marketer can only go so far in ways to present you to the outside world. From there it is still up to the consumer to decide whether they will spend their hard earned dollar with you. Your consumers need to know who you are, trust you or your product and ‘know’ that you are the best service, or product, to fulfil their need.

But, what if, before your market bought from you, just because it is you. In other words they have bought in to your values, your ‘story’, your good keen, trustworthy home grown company. They already ‘get’ you. All they need to know is what’s the deal and where can I get it.

So I ask the question: Do you know who you are? Sure, you know what you sell, you know all the features off by heart, but who are you and what do you stand for?

Who cares, you may be thinking. So what if I don’t have a ‘mission statement’ isn’t that soo 1990’s? But, if you don’t care, why should your consumers? If you don’t know whom you are and what your business stands for, how is anyone else going to know? And if no one else knows then why would they buy off you. Your company has no meaning to them. You are a blank paper that provides them no benefits.

Let’s start from the ground up. Firstly you must remember you are in the business of selling something to a person, a living, breathing, thinking and – most importantly – feeling human being. Here we go, you say, fluffy, airy-fairy stuff, how do these warm feelings affect my bottom-line? No matter what you are selling, and what company or group of consumers you are selling too, somewhere up the chain of purchasing decision making is one of these living breathing people. Because these people are human beings they will make these decisions based, not just on the facts – does your product solve their problem, is it cost or time effective – but also by how the feel about your company. Their emotive decision is between 30-80% of the decision making process! That’s a big gap, but is it safe to ignore and let someone else pick up?

So here’s the good news, you can help guide how your consumers feel about you and this whole experience is tied up with one thing – your brand. No, not your logo, stationery or nifty website, although all these are mitigating factors, but the whole look and feel (their feeling) of who you are. Though the word ‘brand’ is thrown around daily the actual use of it is not being used for the meaning that it was intended. Think about the first time you meet someone. Almost instantaneously conclusions are drawn as to who you are, are you trustworthy, easygoing or a bit uptight, funny or dead serious, or, to sum it up, if they like you. As you know, if they do like you, it opens the doors to a longer conversation, and they will invest more time with you. If they don’t like you (and you want them to) you still have the chance in your ensuing conversations or meetings to build a rapport or trusting relationship, especially if you know what appeals to them. This is essentially your brand as a person.

Running a business is no different. Your business is a living, breathing, growing (we hope!) entity. It needs to appeal to your consumers so they like it straight off. And if they don’t, or it’s not possible, your company can have the chance to build itself up in their mind, which is easier, and quicker, if you know what it is that appeals to them. And to do this, just like a person, it needs to know what it is and what it stands for.

Have you paid for a logo design only to find that you don't own it?

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

There is an unspoken, but potentially costly issue with the designer and client relationship. That of the ownership of artwork. We have had many clients come to us over the years who have changed designers as their needs change (and for other reasons, of course) who have found, once their relationship with their designer ends they have to pay for the release of their own logo. Is this legal?

Unfortunately it is. Under the Copyright Act the designer of the artwork, namely your logo, brochure or design legally owns the copyright to your company’s logo. This is unless there is a written contract at the beginning of your engagement to specify otherwise.

What’s worse is that the client, as the newbie to the process, has no idea to ask the question of ownership. Should the designer bring this up in the initial meeting? Legally no, but ethically I believe so. The issue of ownership generally only comes up when all is said and paid for by the client and they wish to go elsewhere. The designer then can get a few more dollars from their client before they leave. It also undermines the integrity of the industry by being seen as taking you for everything they can. This then builds mistrust for the next relationship that will inevitably be formed with their new designer (if they use one again at all).

What can you do?

Ask your designer what their policy is on artwork ownership. At least then you can take this into consideration when choosing a designer who you want to work with. At the very worst you know where you stand, but at the best you can then come to a written agreement as to ownership before it ends up costing you more than you bargained for. It also gives you an oversight as to the type of business you are dealing with.

Ok designers, what are you afraid of?

As designers, and business people what are we afraid of? That unless we are tied to our clients artwork they won’t be able to leave should they want to? This is ridiculous. Our client has paid us to produce an identity for their company. To give their business life and soul. We have an open door policy at our brand company. If your client wishes to go elsewhere, then by all means let them go. (If you love something set it free…?) I don’t want a client who a) does not believe we can be of benefit to their company, and b) feels trapped with us because they know if they leave it’s going to sting them. It’s not fair on them, and it’s not fair on me and the staff who have to deal with them.

Why every small business needs a brand manual

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The ‘big guys’ have them – 2 inches high sometimes, bound and sent whenever their logo is sent for a new advertising medium. I’m talking about brand manuals. For anyone who has worked for a large company, you’ll no doubt be familiar with these bibles of dos and do nots. They demonstrate what you are not allowed to do – stretch your logo, change the background colour, how much space it needs around it – to ensure the brand remains consistent. It also talks about the ‘brand story’, this is the background information of the business, what it stands for, what it means to it’s consumers, often written like it is a living, breathing person.

These large companies have invested thousands creating, and millions building their brand and as the logo will be used by so many people in their company, everyone needs a clear understanding of how it must not be tampered with. But how does this relate to the small business, where the number of staff can fit in one telephone box, and you can simply check over someone’s shoulder to make sure the logo is not being abused? A small business needs consistency in presentation even more than the big companies!

So you’re trying to grow your business, and every cent you spend promoting your business must be deliberate and thought out. You go to your signwriter, and they take your logo (in whatever type of file format you can dig up) and sign write your car with their interpretation of what your business should look like. Now you create a website, and again send your logo to the web developer, and they in turn present your company to the electronic world in their best interpretation of your business. You’ve now booked some space in the local newspaper. They offer to design your advert for free, and so again you send your logo to them, tell them what you want the advertisement to say and their design wizzes create an advert for you with the information you’ve provided.

Now, take your advert, your website and your car and put them side by side and ask yourself (honestly now):

1) Does each of these say exactly the same thing?

2) Do they look exactly the same?

3) Does the colour look exactly the same from one to the other?

4) Hmm, why does my logo look blurry blown up on the side of my car?

Each of these businesses have done a great job presenting your business, the only problem is you’ve told them a slightly different message about your business (we all get bored saying the same thing over and over, even if it is the first time they have heard it), and they’ve done the best job the can with the information you’ve given them.

Imagine now if you’d given each of these design companies exactly the same message. Say a book which dictated the exact colours they should use for your logo in the medium the use (pixels on a screen, 3M adhesive, ink on newsprint), that told a story of your business, and displayed previous work that’s been done to match it to.

What that would give you, who is so careful about spending marketing money, is strength in repetition. That when your consumer sees your business for the first time they don’t take too much notice, but then again they see your car, and exactly the same look, then find your website when they have a problem that your business can provide the solution for. Before long the accumulation of the exact same presentation of your company builds memorability, and with it report and recognition of your services.

The electronic file age has brought with it a new language, and so also in the design industry, as we talk about dpi, jpeg, eps, bitmap, cmyk, process, rgb, spot, pms and so on, unless you’re dealing with these file types and settings daily the average business should not be expected to know what’s what. This is why you also need an electronic brand package somewhere, with these listed and easy for you to grab and send off, without the need to know what they mean.

Finally, as the business owner, and the one closest to your branding, you see your logo day in, day out and can be the worst offender for “ahh, let’s mix it up a little, I’m bored with how it looks”, a brand manual can remind you as to why you present your business in the way you do, and remind you of the importance to not change it around just because you are bored. How do you think Richard Branson feels about his Virgin brand? He’s had decades of staring at that red scrawly text, but has the discipline to leave it intact, and remembers that it’s about what his consumers think of it, not whether he’s ‘over’ a red logo.

I suggest if you’ve not got a manual in place, have a read of your business plan, to remind yourself why you’re in business, then sit down with your designer and start putting one together, for the time it takes to do this, it will be an investment and adding value each time you spend money on advertising.

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If you'd like to talk about the business of design, or the design of your business, you can call us on +64 3 366 3690.

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Call us: +64 3 366 3690

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