At Hardly Square we love getting new branding projects. These are some of our favorite projects. We feel branding is more than a logo design and some corresponding marketing collateral though. Branding is about creating meaningful and specific experiences for an organization’s customers, supporters or end users. That means zeroing in on the essential connection between the brand and its business. Don’t get me wrong, design still plays a huge role in creating awareness, credibility and visualization of the idea of these experiences. However, branding relies heavily on offering a better product, service and concise methodology within the market/society; day in and day out. This is where we’ll start every time.
We can establish this methodology with our clients. We can identify and create supportive systems. And we can design the brand to clearly display the ideas behind the business. However, often times it’s up to the client to protect the brand experience we’ve set up down the road. Recently there was a video I came across that was a perfect example of a company protecting its brand experience. The company was the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. On their website they claim:
Our attention to detail in film presentation and programming has made us a second home to movie fans all over the planet and earned accolades from the likes of Entertainment Weekly (#1 theater in America), Wired.com (Coolest Movie Theater in the World) and Fandango.com (One of the Best Theaters in the Country).
This is for serious movie goers only and that’s their niche. Don’t even think about talking or God forbid texting during the movie’s screening. They won’t think twice about throwing you out. In fact, they show this disclaimer before R-rated movies.
Good for them! Sure this type of behavior may discourage a good amount of people. And yes, they will probably lose these people as paying customers. Although, that’s not who the Alamo Drafthouse is. That’s not the brand experience they are cultivating. Actually, the audience that would text during a movie hurts their brand and no amount of short term profit will out weigh protecting the experience their actual target audience wants and expects.
A recent client of ours, Post Prohibition, has a similar situation. Post Prohibition is a Baltimore-Base movement, celebrating the craft of the cocktail. If you’ve already gone to the website, you’ve seen Post Prohibition takes cocktails very seriously. That’s its niche. Post Prohibition is a sensory step into a bygone era, everything from classic cocktails with a modern twist to prohibition era style music softly playing in the background. Their events are optimal for enthusiasts who demand more of their bar experience. You won’t see flavored vodkas and saccharine ingredients. Only seasonal handcrafted libations with an attention to detail. If you’re looking for Bon Jovi and a Miller Lite this isn’t the place for you. They understand that not everyone is going to be interested in listening to Duke Ellington and Billie Holliday. And some customers are going to be turned off by the amount of time it takes to make a proper cocktail. However, their target audience fully understands and expects this.
If you plan on pleasing everyone you’ll end up pleasing no one. The brand experience we created with Post Prohibition is fragile. If Post Prohibition doesn’t protect it and starts playing Lady Gaga and dulling down their cocktails to pump them out faster they’d lose their niche customer base. They’d also lose the very thing that separates them from every other pub on the block. Setting up brand experiences and protecting that experience at all times will carry more weight than a pretty design every time.