West Coast Industries
Direct Mail Propaganda
What you see…
How a Brand is not Your Logo
or People Are Watching, Look Smart
There is a lot of confusion and a lot of hype associated with the word brand. Many define brand as a company’s visual presence, and while your internal and face-forward communications do influence your public, in part through aesthetic appeal and, assuming a positive impression, meaningful content, your visual presence is not your brand.1
Some, many, believe their logo mark alone to be their brand. The right logo appropriately and consistently applied can become so prevalent that it replaces your linguistic name with a nonverbal hieroglyphic that takes on the characteristics of your company personified. Still, and acknowledging its importance, your logo is not your brand.
This book addresses aesthetics in detail, both visual and verbal. It provides you with elements and instruction that will help you build a successful brand.2 Consistent application of these guidelines by you and your colleagues bears on your corporate culture, differentiates you from your competitors, teaches you to speak a unique and resonant voice, and prepares you to begin a meaningful conversation with your audience. But no one thing or combination of things in this book is your sbrand. A brand is not so easily had.
Think of it this way. There are two kinds of brands. There is the kind associated with livestock, a logo that sets apart one cattleman’s heard from another’s. It’s practical but has limited bandwidth. A mark alone is a one-pony show.
The other kind of brand has great potential to shape your business, engage your public, and better your bottom line.
Building a brand starts with a dialogue. By composing a shared vocabulary made up of symbols, intonations, and associations, you and your audience will, in due time and after much stumbling, achieve mutual understanding. Understanding requires nimbleness as you negotiate perceptions and inferences, intentions and expectations, expressions and interpretations. The idea is that this exchange brings about agreement, the sweet spot where everyone is on the same page. Commonality brings with it a strong competitive advantage: agreement, a kind of kinsmanship, a promise; this is your brand.
A brand’s appropriateness can be accredited to data-driven market knowledge. Moreover, a brand benefits from an inclusionary understanding of the relationship between commerce and culture. The WCI brand is a product of experiential brand logic.
It’s Not a Brand Until Somebody Else Says It Is
Spread the Good Word
Brands exist as guests of culture. And culture—who we are, what we do, our quirks and our considerations—is restless and fickle. Culture begs for ideas, new and renewed, to capture its imagination, pique its interest, and move it forward. Now consider this: commerce is as much a member of culture as is any individual, and we all bare similar traits. We want the same things. And, we want to be unique.
It’s a paradox. One can say that her new black suede Banana Republic bag will set her apart; at the same time, she will have conformed; inasmuch as commerce holds the same tenet, it mass-produces that same bag. A well-considered brand embraces the inconsistencies inherent to basic human behaviors: the paradoxical pairings of commonality and singularity, individuality and uniqueness.
Contrary to prevailing wisdom, a brand is an expression of complex, fallible, imperfect, susceptible, error-prone behaviors—not of algorithms.
Interpreting, Applying, and Growing the WCI Brand
or How to Give a Table Legs
If you take away one thing and incorporate it into your way of thinking it’s this: Understand that inasmuch as each of us cultivates a unique presence, we are fundamentally the same. That means that a great place to start looking for your audience is in the mirror. Before you bring the outside in, let the inside out. Explore, discover, let yourself think for yourself, and draw your own conclusions. Begin a conversation; begin building your brand.
1. Albeit your most visible asset, a logo mark is only one of the many components that communicate your company’s intended image. But, to disregard its importance is to give it short shrift. Your logo often precedes you. It’s the public’s first impression. In a moment, a single take, it can influence opinion. It lets the public know if you really are different from others in your marketplace. It can be safe but boring, or reckless and meaningless. A good logo takes chances and it takes guts.
2. Many businesses communications guidelines are ridged. Others encourage deviation to the extreme. Guidelines, in the true sense of the word, dictate few steadfast rules and favor interpretation. WCI’s guidelines comprise, to varying degrees of preference, colors, fonts, layouts, photographic and illustrative styles, typing templates, and such other trade dress. They dictate how rigidly each instruction should be applied. They address everything from corporate literature to simple correspondence, every touchpoint that influences your audience. Put simply, consistency is competency.
“Who would have thought an awkward 75-pound chunk of iron to be sexy? More than a few longtime customers who phoned in their approval after receiving our new catalog. Sex indeed sells, well, apparently anything. Dave’s work is a brilliant turn on workhorse industrial products.”—Lise Petra, Vice President Marketing, WCI
The 2001 Admark ADDY® Silver Certificate of Excellence winner
Design: Dave Salanitro; Photography: David Martinez; Writer: Dave Salanitro