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Dan Johnson writes:

Distilling a company or product’s core essence into a simple, effective brand is never easy. Developing a single icon, colour palette and a few words that convey everything the client wants the world to think about them is very difficult, not just for the agency but also, and probably more so, for the client as it is they who have lived with, dreamed of and been passionate about their business for years.

A client with a successful company or product is obviously doing something right, and so when they approach an agency to help them with their branding the agency needs to work with this enthusiasm and vision in order to create a brand that is both professional and engaging, not just for the target audience but also for the client themself.

Simply presenting a client with what you think is ‘right’ for them will not go down well with someone who has been living and breathing their business 24/7.

This collaborative approach is never more important than when dealing with creative clients, clients whose business is as creative, and sometimes more creative, than the agency.

Creative businesses such as fashion, architecture, gardening, interior design, etc, are filled with individuals bursting with ideas. These people are often highly visually literate and aesthetically astute, and whilst they need the marketing savvy and branding awareness of the professional agency, they will certainly have very strong opinions and ideas about what they like and don’t like and it would be a foolish agency that ignores this.

When we were approached two years ago by Debbie and Scott of the Bournemouth based company Geek Boutique to look at their branding we soon realized that we were working with creative dynamos who knew exactly what their business was and exactly what they wanted the business to communicate to their target audience.

The first thing we did was to listen to and get to know the people, business and their audience. When working with creative clients it is important to understand what motivates them, what plans they have and what direction they want to go in. It is also important to subtly educate them about the practical and business considerations of a strong brand: the need for consistency and the benefits of a simple, flexible approach that allows for creative implementation whilst at the same time maintaining the core elements of the brand itself.

Geek Boutique is the product of two people’s creativity and drive; it represents them uniquely and it is almost impossible to see where the business ends and the people begin; they are one and the same. We had to produce a brand that not only reflected the business but also the people involved. It had to be a brand that they loved and recognized as their own, something that felt to them like it came from their own imagination.

There were two distinct elements to the brief: 1) to create a brand that continued the relationship with their existing audience and 2) develop a brand that could be a launch pad for their future business development.

Geek Boutique deal in retro fashion, accessories and collectables and their branding needed to reflect this whilst at the same time having a broad appeal to a wider market – we had to avoid making the brand and therefore the company look too niche. The original logo was developed two years ago.

The original logo, whilst well liked was becoming restrictive in the way it could be used due to its complex shape. We needed to produce something that reflected this in terms of style and feel but one that was more practical when it came to its application in various media and formats.

The basic shape and typeface where retained as was the primary colour of red; the blue was dropped in favour of reduced production costs and easier reproduction; the whole thing was simplified and reworked to produce a more defined brand logo. The new logo has a keyline around it when used on images or coloured backgrounds as this aids legibility and strengthens the branding.

Several versions of the logo with subtle variations were initially developed and social media was used to gain feedback from existing customers who were familiar with the existing brand logo and who therefore had past involvement in the brand to be able to judge the new style objectively and comparatively.

Once feedback had been received and reviewed we refined the design, predominantly by redrawing the logo typeface to give Geek Boutique a logo that would be future-proof and unique to them and one that could not be easily copied as this uniqueness would allow them to seek trademark protection.

Here at DJCL, because we are both brand and market focused, we are able to develop brand ideas that have commercialism at their heart. We not only understand the need for a strong brand but also the need for a brand that helps sell the company’s product by reflecting its ethos and by underpinning its messages. To us, branding and marketing are one and the same.

As Debbie from Geek Boutique says, “DJCL understood what we wanted but more importantly they understood what we are and where we were coming from. They engaged with us and became champions of what we are trying to achieve as a company – this made the whole process much less stressful as we could focus on getting it right rather than continually explaining what we meant.”

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