Whenever I’m in New York, I like strolling through my old neighbourhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn. I spent the summer of 2007 living there and it really does feel like a second (or third, now) home.
I had a 24 hour layover in the city a few weeks ago, and stopped by Gorilla Coffee on 5th Ave for a quick drink.
I like Gorilla Coffee. It’s a hangout spot for students and freelancers and has nice atmosphere. This is going to sound strange, but the other thing I love about it is their branding. Take a look:
Photos courtesy of Shinya Suzuki.
Their branding is bold (just like their coffee). They use a LOT of red– it’s their colour, but they use it to stand out from otherwise neutral tones of brown, wood and beige. There are red lights adorning the big windows at the front. The table tops are red, but otherwise very simple, metal. The chairs are black, plastic and uniform, the sort of chairs you might find in a classroom. The gorilla image is featured prominently along with the red.
What does all this tell us (besides the fact that sexy branding works)?
The Role of Branding
Most people think of branding as the “face” of a company. That’s a really obvious interpretation. Effective branding goes a lot deeper. Branding isn’t just the “face” of your company. What it is, is the communication of your theme.
Let me repeat that:
Branding is the Communication of Your Theme.
Remember that overarching theme we discussed? The vital core philosophy behind your business which ties all your interests together? Yeah, that. Knowing that theme is not enough. In fact, it’s only the first step.
In addition to knowing your overarching theme, you also must also communicate that theme to your community in a clever way.
Step #1: Coming up with an overarching theme
Step #2: Communicating your overarching theme
Knowing your theme and communicating your theme are two separate steps. A lot of people confuse them or smoosh them together (and yes, “smoosh” is the technical term).
The “Unclothed” Theme
Imagine a website called “Gratitude” or “Happiness” or “Natural Living.” You’ve seen sites like this, I’m sure. No offense, but don’t these businesses sound a little lame and generic? That’s because, while they might have worthy themes (and who knows, maybe really great content too), these themes haven’t been communicated well. They haven’t been “clothed.”
The Communication of a Theme that doesn’t Exist
Similarly, if a business has great branding, but they don’t know what they stand for (other than making money), they will struggle. Sure, they might get some customers with a slick image. But in the long run, interacting with them will feel empty and disingenuous. Something will feel off.
A business that doesn’t know what it stands for does not attract a rabid fanbase. Take Apple’s “think different.” versus pc’s– umm… what’s their theme? I have no clue what they stand for. No matter how much the PC people work on their branding, no matter what hip designers they hire, it won’t change the fact that they lack a core theme. (Or if they do have one, they haven’t don’t a good job of expressing it, since I have no idea what it is.)
Branding is the communication of your theme. If you don’t know your theme, your branding will ultimately fail. It’s really that simple.
What does “Communicating Your Theme” Consist of Anyway?
When it comes to Renaissance Businesses, I like to break the communication of your theme down into three important elements.
Behold, what I call…
The Magical Triad of Clarity
Your title, tagline and design are the three elements that prospective customers will see instantly upon visiting your site. Content is of course “king” when it comes to long term growth, but without a good first impression, it’s unlikely that a new visitor will even stick around to read your content.
These three elements (title, tagline, design) when added up should communicate your theme to your people. Each element doesn’t need to communicate your theme individually. Rather, it’s the cumulative effect that matters. This means that a title that is less descriptive and more catchy in nature (say “Puttylike”, for example) needs to have a tagline and design that are more literal and express the overarching theme more overtly.
Similarly, a highly descriptive title can have a more playful tagline. All that matters is that, when combined, the title, tagline and design get that theme across.
How Gorilla Coffee Communicates Their Theme
Gorilla Coffee’s theme is all about being local, independent and proud. I know this because everything in their branding communicates that idea. For goodness sakes, their tagline is:
“BROOKLYN BORN AND BRED”
Gorilla coffee IS Brooklyn. They’re local, fresh and proud. They’re the powerful underdog (err..gorilla) who thrives, despite being the little guy. Design-wise, the gorilla graphic and the colour red alongside neutral tones, absolutely communicate this theme.
Now I’m not saying that you need to be this bold with your branding. Only do it if “boldness” is part of your theme. My point is that you can’t just figure out your overarching theme and stop there. You need to take that next step and find a clever way to “clothe” your theme.
In the upcoming Renaissance Business case studies, we’ll look at the process two multipotentialites took to turn their overarching themes into a title, tagline and design.
Do your title, tagline and design work together to communicate your theme?
If you’d like to learn more about turning all of your interests into one business, check out Renaissance Business.