Frequently (un)Asked Questions

I’ve been putting a proposal together for a client who’s not commissioned the kind of work I do before, and he’s rightly nervous about the process and the investment (and return) involved.

Writing a proposal for a prospects’ new identity, I started reflecting on how often we use terms and make assumptions about what we sell, especially with all our ingrained knowledge. So, with this proposal I set out to define a few of the reference points, in the hope it would help my potential new client get comfort from knowing exactly what he was being asked to buy – and that he knew that I knew, if you see what I mean.

It was quite useful to revisit a few ‘design-101’s’…

1. Why change anything at all?

Quite simply, ‘first impressions last’. So, is what you have deserving of the reputation you hold?

Reputation is often considered as a component of the identity by academics. We feel so for organsiations also. Reputation’s a highly efficient control with an influence that extends through competition and cooperation, as well as at many levels – individually and organisationally – and a good one’s fundamental to a successful business.

According to economists, reputation can be “managed, accumulated and traded in for trust”. It can command a “premium price for goods and services offered, a stronger willingness among shareholders to hold on to shares in times of crisis, or a stronger readiness to invest in the company’s stock”.

Think of your reputation, then – your ‘name’ – as capital.

Some would argue “reputation is one of the most valuable “Capital” of a company”. You’d no more throw that out than you would drive down the road, pushing £50 notes out of the window.

2. Why a new identity?

Since the 1960’s a widely accepted definition of a “brand” focuses a great deal on the logo that marks it.

A famous designer* has since said the role of identity is to “making business strategy visible”.

Identity plays a central role in the process of making your organisation stand out – and signaling what it stands for.
The identity is the central, and most-used, element of an organisation and not only is a logo a first impression, if it is used consistently well an identity will become a valuable asset in its own right – giving consumers confidence in the products that bear it.

• American Marketing Association
•• Wally Olins, in fact

3. Why an ‘identity’ rather than a ‘brand’?

In approaching this project, we wanted to be clear that what we propose for (Client Name) is the development of an identity and specifically not a brand.
While you can ask 100 consultants the question and get at least 100 different answers, let’s explain what we see the difference as – and why we’re focussing on the former.

Although often, the two terms – brand and identity – are used interchangeably, they are two different concepts.

While branding relates to the whole emotional relationship between customer and a business, the identity is all about the look and feel of the business. The latter helps a customer to distinguish his favorite brand from the crowd of other businesses.

Our interest and your requirement at this stage is for a ‘mark’ to symbolise what you stand for, rather than a wholesale re-invention of the organisation and your culture, operations, places, products and services.

The development of a clear ‘mark’ is essential if our proposal’s aim is to ‘shape the name that we’ve made for ourselves’ and help (Client Name) to step out from the wings, make your presence felt, become a more confident and visible business partner and provider.

4. Why a ‘name’ and not a ‘icon’?

Your name evokes emotional associations, based on experience. Your identity needs to capture those certain qualities, ethics and your focus.

If your course is set on creating a ‘logo’ based on an icon, rather than just the name, the visual shorthand it requires needs to capture the associations – as, clearly your name and identity need to be synonymous with what you stand for.

When we think of the identity of a company the first thing that crosses our mind is the identity and unfailingly, a picture of the name. Your name, we understand, evokes an emotion of trust and reliability and so we need to make sure our resources and efforts are applied to the way we write the name and underscore that – rather than attempting to have that role replaced with, and performed by, some other device in its stead.


Simple and for three good reasons;

Imagine meeting a friend in the pub who’d decided to wear a mask. What would run through your mind? What would you think of a business that did the same thing?

Secondly,  the investment required by an organisation in the ‘replacement therapy’ is time consuming and expensive. Ask anyone who’s been at the receiving end of brand-development projects. They take time and money as you have to invest in the ‘meaning making’, sometimes from scratch.

Lastly, a new ‘brand’ has often been the last refuge of scoundrels. Organisations in a bad place can often use the process to present a new face. Sometimes successfully, if accompanied by the change needed from within. Sometimes not.