Branding made simple [Part 7]

This is the seventh and final (finally!) in a series on Branding drawn from my “Branding Made Simple” presentation at The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (Manitoba) Design for Business luncheon series. Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6


Great stories are told by tying words together with images. So when telling your story, choose images that represent your brand’s personality and that are true to your values. Like colour, images may carry different meanings across different cultures. If your audience is international, be aware of what you’re communicating. Should it be tailored to fit your various branches and locations?

If you vary the image, don’t do so at the sake of going off-brand. It still has to follow branding best practices.

I use a shot of my son for my company thank you cards: A simple, light-hearted image that relates a tone of joy and appreciation. And although not everyone will immediately recognize him as my boy, I like to think that the image itself implies that family is an important part of who I am as a person and as a business owner.

But if you vary the image, don’t do so at the sake of going off-brand. It still has to follow branding best practices.

Sometimes a brand can be defined by it’s images. In the early nineties, Italian clothing retailer Benetton, gave photographer Oliviero Toscani carte blanche to capture images for their United Colours of Benetton campaign. The images, although striking and controversial, were completely unrelated to anything the company actually sold.

Benetton - Kirby

In this example, we see AIDS activist David Kirby on his deathbed. Another shot from the campaign included a bloodied, unwashed newborn baby with umbilical cord still attached, which was highly controversial. According to Wikipedia, this ad prompted more than 800 complaints to the British Advertising Standards Authority during 1991 and was featured in the 2000 Guinness Book of World Records as ‘Most Controversial Campaign’.

Did it represent the brand? Yes and no. It did nothing to advertise their product but it raised public awareness (even outcry) around social issues that Benetton stood up against. One could argue it added immense value to the Benetton brand.

Want a tip? Don’t use stock photography, hire a photographer. The image has to be authentic.

Sally Ann - More than you expected

Over 3 years of working with the National Recycling Operations of The Salvation Army (Thrift Stores), I leveraged custom photography to build the “Sally Ann” brand. We used a staff person (it was intentional she not be blond-haired, blue eyed). Yes she’s cute and bubbly, but we wanted her to also be real, and to represent both the retailer and the customer. Simple colour pallet and treatment were combined with the More than you expected tagline to complete the campaign. It think it worked rather well for Thrift Stores, as it was a distinct effort to carve out an identity outside of the parent sponsor, which allowed Thrift Stores to gain solid footing as a retailer in Western and Atlantic Canada (the segments that adopted this strategy). Unfortunately it wasn’t embraced nation-wide – a move I feel would have only strengthened it’s effectiveness.


Published by

Carson D. Samson

I do stuff. All kinds of stuff. And I really, really like Star Wars.