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Why I use the one concept approach

The one concept approach is definitely the single most important discovery I have made in my design journey.

Honestly, it’s changed everything – I feel more confident. The designs I produce are more coherent and powerful. My relationships with clients are so much improved. I’d like to tell you what it is and why it’s so important.

After the strategy phase of my process, we should have a pretty strong idea of what sort of brand we’re going to move forward with. We’ll both agree about what kind of brand is going to connect with those ideal clients and we’ll have a good idea of how the new brand should feel. At the end of the strategy I will detail an approach, complete with a mood board that makes sure we both know where we are heading.

So, I’ll go away and start sketching and toying with a bunch of ideas for logos and design elements, and usually this process throws up several options for the primary logo, for example. Up to now it’s all pretty much normal, right?

This is where it gets different. It sounds so odd, but I’m only going to show you one of those ideas! I know! All that effort and most of these designs will never see the light of day!

The trouble is, we humans are funny things. Hands up if you’re like me: You love the idea of having options, but you hate the idea of having to make choices! Before I adopted a one concept approach, I found that the design meeting, which should be all about the feel of the brand, instead would always be about all the tiny details and comparing how much we each like the options.

But here’s the thing: This isn’t really about how much you like the designs. It’s about how good they are for your business. Anyone who runs a business knows that making decisions is hard work. Well, you’ve gone to all this effort to hire a branding expert – why should you still be having to do branding work?! I don’t want to present you with several options when I know that one of them is the best for you and your business.

Honestly, after the hours I’ll spend on Pinterest, competition research, Pinterest, and studying your client homework, social media feeds and content (followed by going on Pinterest), I’ll usually have a fair few ideas about what would make an effective scheme for you. I could spread those ideas into a group of ideas that each have a slightly different direction.

Oooorrrr…. I could just take all the best ideas, work out what the best direction is myself, and make one really great scheme. A scheme that will work. I often say “branding is not just a logo”. Well, if that’s true, why would one sample logo be enough to decide whether a direction is right for you? With my concept presentation, you get to see a suite of complementary components that work together, feel coherent, and truly tell your story.

Moving to this approach wasn’t easy – I felt like I’d be shortchanging my clients, especially when it’s pretty normal to present 3-6 options in this industry. But I have to say, I have been so overjoyed by the feedback I’ve had since doing it this way. Presenting a full, developed concept really allows you to get a feel of the brand we are creating together – but most importantly, to have the confidence knowing that this is a design that is incredibly considered and the right look for you.

Is it worth investing in brand design?

Yes.

That’s probably quite easy for me to say, being a designer and all. The full answer is actually a little more nuanced – read on if you’ve ever thought “Will I really get my x-hundreds back from this?”

I recently had a conversation with a client who runs a fashion outlet who found a store selling the EXACT same products as her store, but with the price tags doubled. Most of us have been there: whether you sell products or offer services, there are some professionals who are neither better nor more established than you, but somehow they’re asking (and getting) more money for it.

These businesses have found ways of elevating the perceived value of their offerings. When clients (or customers) look at what they have on offer, what is influencing their beliefs about what they’re getting? I have a few ideas:

  • Most simply, the price itself. Contrary to what might seem common sense, a high price tag might actually increase the sense that it’s worth a lot. Imagine your partner saying “let’s go to that expensive restaurant tonight” – they almost certainly think it’s better than the other one. Surprisingly, price is actually a crucial element of branding as it communicates something to your clients about what you think your product is worth.
  • The environment and atmosphere in which they saw it is absolutely key. For physical products, this will be about the ambience of the store and the way products are presented. Ever been in an Apple store? Apple have really mastered this idea, presenting their products individually, using space, white surfaces and many other tricks to draw your attention straight to the product and make it easy for people to focus on how good the products themselves are. This idea applies to the way your services are presented on a website too – if you’re a florist and your website has lots of small photos of your work surrounded by complex shapes, articles of text and many colours, the eye isn’t drawn to any one of the photos and therefore isn’t drawn to ANY of them no matter how great your work is.
  • Finally, the actual design elements can be a great help to showing your product in its best possible light. This is about finding subtle ways of communicating the ethos and values of your brand to your customers. I’m a fan of Masa Bakery for this:

 

Luxury bakery product packaging

 

Do you think it looks like a luxurious, hand-crafted product? I do. Everything from the structure and type of the logo to the particular shades of teal and yellow helps to communicate this to people.

In my opinion, if you’re not doing one of these, then you’re having to work extra hard to convince people to pay what you know your service or product is worth. Your branding should be working at least as hard as you are.

You shouldn’t have to justify to every client that you’re the perfect fit for them.

You shouldn’t have to tell every customer that your products are hand made with love and care.

And especially, you shouldn’t be having to convince anyone that you’ll take their needs seriously and give them a damn great service. That’s what you always do!

That’s what branding is about. I’ll be honest: at it’s heart, this process is all about ensuring that your clients perceive you to be worth what you KNOW you’re worth. For many business owners, that means getting booked out or selling out at the prices you want to be charging.

 

Now for the second part of my question: is it worth it?

Well, the good news is that it’s a reasonably easy question. This is a little different for service providers versus product sellers.

If you’re a wedding florist, photographer, events planner or similar, providing relatively high-cost but usually one-off services, it’s just a matter of looking at your calendar. Have you got slots that didn’t get booked out when you could have been earning? How many of these would need to be filled to pay off the $1800 or so you paid for great brand design? Chances are, it’s a few or maybe less. Everything else is a bonus.

If you sell products in relatively high volumes, I’d recommend a different approach. How do you feel about your current branding? For me, this is a huge part of what drove me to produce my recent rebrand – I found that, because I wasn’t happy with the old scheme, it was causing me to lack confidence in putting myself out there and I probably missed some opportunities as a result.

If you’re more practically minded, take a look at your analytics (if you don’t have analytics on your website, I strongly remind installing some – so useful if you want to know what people are doing when they look at your site!). How does the number of people buying your products compare with the number looking at them? What would it mean to you if that ratio doubled? Now, trying to predict the effect your branding will have on your sales is like trying to predict next month’s weather: We can’t say how much warmer June will be than May, but we are fairly confident it will at least be warmer. You have to use your instinct here. Does it feel reasonable that two, five, fifty extra people will be persuaded to buy? Make a guess, and see what it’s worth.

Whatever you decide to do, take your time and evaluate your feelings as well as your thoughts. It’s easy to get carried away with the figures, projections and statistics in business – all very important, but if you’re like me, and your business is a labour of love, then we absolutely can and should focus on what we want and how it makes us feel. After all, you deserve a design that shouts out the truth: You’re great at what you do!

/ Image credit: Siegenthaler&co. /

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