You probably first learned about icebergs in elementary school and more than likely most often associate them with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.
Regardless of your background knowledge, I think there’s one thing we can agree on: icebergs are amazing spectacles.
Perhaps what is most baffling about them is that as large as they appear above the water (some can be as tall as a 55-story building), only about 10 percent of an iceberg is visible above the water. That other 90 percent of mass? Well, it’s hidden beneath the murky waters of the ocean.
Icebergs Are a Great Way to Think About Successful Brands
Fonts, color schemes, logos, websites, marketing materials and other visual elements are what people most commonly with brands. Since humans process images 1000-times faster than words this isn’t very surprising.
This makes a brand’s visual identity vital to success and promotion by its target audiences and the public in general. You have to ask yourself though, where did that visual identity originate from?
There’s a Lot More to That Visual Identity Than Meets the Eye:
For the strongest brands, beneath that 10-percent peak is 90-percent narrative development and strategy that determined what that visual identity even looks like.
This is the part that often goes unnoticed by observers. In all honesty, if you’re someone who is enjoying or observing the brand or brands then you’re in the clear. Enjoy away and don’t get caught up evaluating what’s beneath the surface if you don’t want to.
If you’re someone looking to build your own brand without knowing there’s more to the metaphorical iceberg, however, then you’re in serious danger. You’re sailing into treacherous waters.
A Visual Identity is Only as Good as Its Narrative Strategy
If you’re looking to create or refresh a brand that hits the mark, you have to understand the full extent of a brand.
Yes, a visual identity is important, but it’s only what bobs to the surface. An effective visual identity is the result of intense narrative brandstorming (as we call it) and strategy. Inherently, all things come stock with a unique story. A story alone, however, isn’t enough on its own. You have to pull it apart, explore every piece and reassemble that story into a compelling copywritten narrative.
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Through your narrative strategy, you’ll uncover who you’re looking to reach and the kind of impression you’re looking to make on this world and all of the people in it. You’d be amazed what brands learn when they really take time to dig into their existence and their offerings. What’s most inspiring are the insights that brands tap into about the people they’re trying to serve.
The intentional and careful brandstorm and refinement process draws out emotions and epiphanies that directly influence the design process and final product that nurtures narratives into visual delight.
The Trouble with Starting with the Surface:
If you really wanted to, yes, you could start with the visual identity first. In fact, it happens quite often, but this is a dangerous approach. Sometimes its done out of ignorance (of the bottom of the iceberg), other times its done out of haste or simply out of arrogance (thinking you know everything fully without researching).
The trouble with starting with the visual identity first—without a narrative brandstorm, strategy and cultivation process—is that you have a much greater chance of missing the mark. You might be lucky enough to hit it on the first try, but what happens if your entire visual identity doesn’t appeal to the people you serve or doesn’t reflect your brand’s true narrative?
What happens if your visual identity is the opposite of the adjectives and spirt filling your brand? Perhaps, maybe you created something luxe, but in reality your target audience and the story of your brand is more rugged.
If that’s the case then you have to start over or risk having an inconsistent brand. Having an inconsistent brand will confuse everyone related and involved in your organization including your employees, your viewers and those you’re looking to reach most. Most likely, however, you’ll likely fall flat.
You Can’t Afford to Miss the Mark:
From a business stand point, the trouble with starting with the surface is that if you miss the mark then you’re going to be paying.
If you have a flawed visual identity then you have to go back to the drawing board (which may require hiring a graphic designer) and even if you get it right then guess what? You have to take the time to transition into the new identity, which takes a careful hand and a savvy campaign to ease the change.
… Especially If You’re a Start Up:
If you’re a start up then you really can’t afford to miss the mark.
You’re just beginning your business, so the effectiveness of your visual identity, and the underlying story driving it, is going to be vital to your survival. You can have a high-quality service offering, but if people are turned off or confused by your brand then it’s going to be hard to be perceived as a high-quality provider.
The first step to a better brand is understanding what makes a brand great and the process for creating one from start to finish.