Wednesday, 2 December 2009

On brand or off?

I was involved in a very interesting discussion today about whether or not particular pieces of work in a creative review session were off brand.

Technically they were. But I argued that the question of whether or not they were off brand needed clarification.


Because an agency’s definition of on brand is often very different to the client definition.

And if you drill down further the definition will probably vary between suits and creatives at an agency. As well as between clients in marketing and the people working in the client legal department.

For a creative person the brand is communicated through so much more than just a bunch of mandatories attached to the back of the brief.

A creative believes that a brand is expressed through tone of voice, emotion, expression and relevance to the consumer.

Agency suits may also follow this belief but if pushed will also say that use of a designated font or stylistic device makes something on brand.

Clients tend to follow the same definition as agency suits but with a strong focus on fonts logo treatments etc.

When I began my career it wasn’t like this. Well not always.

It used to be that agencies, their creative people and clients were all pursuing a similar goal. To connect and communicate with the consumer.

So what’s changed and why is the definition of on brand so variable?

The legal department.

Their primary aim is to ensure that nobody can possibly take offence and to protect intellectual property.

This stifles creativity. It also stifles communication.

Body copy and headlines riddled with asterisks, registration marks and the ubiquitous TM is not conducive to communication or conversation.

But legal people demand it. Clients comply with it. And agency creatives have to give in to it or find ways to work around it.

Which is why a headline that I believe is on brand is deemed off brand.

Not because it’s actually off brand but because some guy whose expertise is law not marketing or communications says so.

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