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Big Orange Slide

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Brand new narratives

October 18, 2011 by Joel Derksen

Illustration by Nancy Ng

Over the past decade, the concept of a “brand” has changed steadily yet dramatically.
With new technologies, media, and methods of engagement, a company’s brand has had to adapt to new terrain in order to stay competitive. The broadcasting model of branding, with the “one true way” and safe-zones defined by measuring sticks, is an early modernist idea. Now, brand standards must learn to reflect the idea of fragmentation, complexity, and constantly changing points of engagement while still remaining coherent.

How does a brand change from a distinctly early-mid-20th century concept to an engaging, believable and sociable entity?

The answer is succinct and deceptively simple: Brands are for cows. Stories are for people.

Look at novels, fables, myths, legends. Each a testament to how a compelling narrative can transcend generations, ethnicity and geography. The same can be said for mediums — Homer’s poetry bridged the gap between the written and spoken word. The parallel can be drawn to a compelling brand narrative. A good story is transcendant, no matter what the medium, the time, the place, or the way we engage with it.

Which leads to the next question. What does that mean for the modern company? For the past 50-odd years, the brand has been limited to a book that defined typography, whitespace, and printing colours. It was seen as a fixed, immovable monolith in a world where a brand projected into the ether.
It means that we have to let go of our concept of the almighty corporate identity standards that dictate each and every measured movement, and a shift from the prescriptive to the descriptive.

By opening a brand to the idea of narrative, we also have to consider what this implies: A narrative has ebbs, peaks, flows. A narrative has a personality. A beginning, middle and end. It is also potentially flawed.

Creatively, it means development of an authentic voice, one told over years. Even decades.
And it means the willful bending and breaking of pre-supposed “brand standards” to retain an authentic perspective.

Crafting a proper story may take a lifetime. But patience, in this case, will be well rewarded.

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