Why design commoditization is a big problem
At Brand Academy, our opinion is that commoditization is the biggest problem facing graphic design firms today. Thanks the the web, design has been reduced to a price—and with that, anyone with a computer thinks they have the wherewithal to design. With the advent of templates, any bozo can put together a pretty reasonable website at ridiculous prices.
How can we get around the design commoditization challenge?
Designers world-wide are looking for answers to this problem. How can we become relevant again? I shouldn’t over simplify—of course there are many design shops that are flourishing, but even they are seeing the commodity issue eating at their edges. Their small business sector, for instance, is feeling the pressure. These are clients who don’t traditionally have large promotional budgets but are valuable in numbers.
Are you asking yourself, “how can I differentiate my firm from my competitors?” It’s one the of the most challenging questions we as business people agonize over. To answer this question, most design shop owners often choose the low hanging fruit: unique design. While true, your designs may be unique in the way they solve a communications problem, so are your competitor’s designs. Maybe it’s your service? Nope. Your competitors are pretty good at that too, or they wouldn’t be able to continue in business. Price? Don’t go there, anyone with deeper pockets can bury you. So what’s the answer? How can you beat the design commoditization problem? How can you differentiate your firm?
The answer to differentiation is strategy
Take a look at how most design shops promote (including you, and including how we used to do it, too). First we push our creativity (portfolios), then we offer strategy as a sub-brand if we offer any strategy at all. Most of us don’t even offer strategy, really. We use strategy, sure, but we don’t offer it for sale—we give away it to our clients for free, as part of the cost of doing business. That’s right— (more…)
Why to Change the Conversation from Design to Strategy (if you want the big projects)
If you’ve had your design firm for awhile, you’ve gotten used to selling design. It’s your comfort zone. You love design and understand how powerful it is. You know design can really help your clients.
But you also know that selling design doesn’t differentiate you from all the other designers out there who are also selling design, especially when what you really want are the big branding projects. And you know that your high-level clients are looking for proposals with more depth. To them, design alone sometimes just doesn’t cut it. Like it or not, many clients see design as decoration.
What can you do to stand out from the crowd and show prospects that you really can help them solve their marketing challenges?
You can change the conversation from design to brand strategy
If you are actually offering branding, and you’re digging deep with meaning and messaging instead of just giving them a new logo or delivering the design flavor of the month, then you need to find a way to talk about this with clients and prospects. And you need to do it in their language, so they’ll understand and want to know more.
Clients want to know what you know, and how you can really help them with their business challenges. The clients you want are not looking for order takers when it comes to branding. The best clients really don’t want to tell you what to do—they want to hire experts to tell them how to brand their businesses successfully. You have to take the lead if you want to gain their trust. And you don’t want to go about it like a showy account exec does with smoke and mirrors, either—you want to gain their trust authentically. You do this by talking about brand strategy instead of design, because strategy is more comfortable to them, and it shows the true value of branding. The best clients value and understand strategy.
Clients want you to lead
The clients that you want, want you to lead. They are getting pitches from designers who say, “Tell us what you need and we’ll do it.” Often clients don’t know what they need, and even if they think they do, (more…)
What Makes Branding Work?
I love poking around and trying to understand not only how the brain works, but also how we can take advantage of how it works for our clients. And branding is one of those things — it takes advantage of the way our brains work naturally, and that also means the brains of your clients, and your client’s customers.
Here’s what happens: The brain really wants to be efficient when it comes up against new information. It makes sense of information by grouping and forming associations, and branding really helps the brain with this grouping and sorting.
Your eyes vs. your brain
What you see here looks like a random set of elements. Your eyes see them in a certain way, just kind of out there, mixed up, all over the place:
However, while your eyes see things in one way, your brain is working hard, trying to do this: (more…)
How To Leave Same-Old, Same-Old Design Firms Behind
What does every graphic design firm have in common? Well, just about everything.
If you happen to bundle a group of graphic design firm websites together and analyze them, you’ll quickly see they all appear very much alike. It’s as though they’re all singing from the same song sheet. They’re all using the latest web dynamics, all have a portfolio section, and all tout that they do branding. Not much differentiation here.
Designers see branding as a visual solution
Let’s hit that branding link. What you undoubtedly find is they all will show their belief that branding is a visual solution. We know this to be the case, because it’s apparent most design firms see branding as a logo. Re-branding to most design firms is changing the logo and marketing materials. Right? The conversation is the same with everyone.
Strategy is more valuable to your clients
If you really want to stand out among your peers, you may want to consider being a strategic design firm. Positioning yourself as a strategic thinker places a great deal more value on your work, in the eyes of your clients. Decisions you make regarding branding are based on using strategy to define your clients’ differentiation in their markets (with design to follow, of course). Being a strategic thinker opens up opportunities with higher value clients who need leverage to compete. (more…)
Confidence: Do You Need It to Be Great at Branding?
Last week I heard a well-known newscaster talking about what it takes to become great in the news industry. Although he said he doesn’t often give advice about success in his field, a friend had asked for some pointers for his college graduate son who was just starting out in the business.
After thinking about it, he decided he didn’t want to rehash the “work hard, make great connections, always be learning” mantra so often heard by newbies in every field. it occurred to him that the MOST important element for his own success—as well as that of his strongest competitors—was confidence.
It takes confidence
He said, “I told the kid, ‘You’ve got to communicate so that what you say, people feel that they haven’t really heard it until they hear it from you—even if they already have heard it.
‘You have to be so sure and convincing that people stand up and listen. I’m not talking about arrogance or pomposity or presumption, it’s different because it’s backed by your sureness.
‘This confidence comes from the fact that you’re prepared. That you have researched your subject matter, that you know what you’re talking about. This confidence convinces people that you can be trusted, because what you’re talking about is true, and real, and can be backed up.’” (more…)