A couple years ago, I was interviewing for a job as digital design director at a (well-known) branding agency. After the usual pleasantries, we landed on the details of what the role would entail. To my dismay, the agency's interpretation of "digital" was simply putting a new logo onto website mockups at the tail end of an extensive guidelines document. It was clear that digital was very much an afterthought in their branding process and that the position was not for me.
This lack of understanding about the role of digital was disappointing, but unfortunately it was not surprising. Most friends of mine working at branding agencies use the same top-down, siloed process. And let’s be clear, I have a lot of respect for their talent and the great design work they do. But, I believe that the old way of doing things—developing the strategy, then designing the brand and then the application—is in desperate need of a rethink. At a time when brand experiences are often based upon touch, sound, and voice, how can a branding process that starts out from a purely visual perspective ever possibly succeed?
With that in mind, here are the three big topics that branding agencies need to address to stay relevant in a digital world:
1. DON’T TELL ME, SHOW ME
Increasingly a brand is defined by what a product actually delivers, not by how the marketers tell us how we should feel about it. Don’t tell me, show me. Spotify gives me easy access to a world of music. Do I care what it looks like? Probably not, once it has a great user experience. In fact, it would probably work equally as well as a white label app. For the user, the brand is defined by what it does, not by its logo or color palette.