Many people think that the most important part of branding is designing the logo. They’re wrong.
While a great visual identity, including a logo, is an essential part of a strong brand, great design, on its own, doesn’t create your brand. Nor does an evocative name, a pithy message, or an exquisitely told story.
Every day at Mission Minded we create all of these things on behalf of our clients: messages, names, taglines, logos, visual identities, websites, and videos. So how can I claim these aren’t the most important parts of branding?
Because great brands are built over time. Yes, they are reflected in how you look and how you sound, but brands are also made based on how you act, and what you do. Brand is a synonym for “reputation,” so in order to create a great brand, you have to commit to building that reputation. And that takes time.
We’ve worked with hundreds of nonprofit organizations over our 16-year history, and while we’re proud of all our work, one client who particularly inspired us is the Children’s Museum of Denver.
We guided the museum to a clearly-honed strategy, evocative messages, and an award-winning visual identity. But after their splashy re-launch, what’s made the branding work such a stunning success is what the museum has done with it over time.
The brand strategy of the Children’s Museum of Denver is to convey their promise to “Open Doors for Young Minds,” and their executive team lives that brand every day. It is as evident in the entryway to the museum as it is in the bathroom.
Fundamentally, great branding demands that your actions match your words. For the Children’s Museum, this meant that they reconsidered their monthly free-entry Saturday through the lens of their brand. They realized that many of the families that would most benefit from free entry often worked on Saturdays.
So they challenged themselves to find a way to open the doors to more young minds. They now offer entry for $1 to any family that presents a SNAP card (the modern form of food stamps) so that all low-income families can visit the museum any day of the week. The result: instead of the 3,500 families they anticipated serving through this program in the first year, they were instead able to reach more than 15,000. That’s living the brand.
On its own, one act doesn’t shape the brand of the museum. But together with community outreach, multi-lingual signage, and a public art exhibit that used doors to welcome in the city’s refugee community, each successive experience multiplies the others. Over time this has built a clear, consistent, powerful understanding of what the museum stands for.
The hardest part of branding is also the most important. It takes commitment, consistency, and time to build a great brand. While a great name and stunning design are essential elements in the branding process, those words and images must point to a bigger idea, an idea created through what you do.
To succeed in branding, you must live your brand—every single day.
Zach Hochstadt is a Mission Minded Founding Partner and runs Mission Minded’s Denver office, leading the company’s creative teams in the areas of message development, writing, graphic design, and web design and development.
See all posts by Zach Hochstadt