Business Of Design Branding
BY BARBARA THAU for ASID i+D Magazine
Introspection and brainstorming are in order when determining one’s authentic brand.
Those questions are fundamental to building a design business, says Axle Davids, CEO of Toronto-based brand strategy firm Distility, and Stephen Nobel, who runs design consultancy NOBELINKS and authors the online "Business Strategy Solutions" courses for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Both subscribe to the belief that the answer is within you.
Getting to the Heart of the (Brand) Matter
By definition, brand essence is embodied unwittingly, Nobel explains. "In my view, the brand almost precedes the business, knowingly or not," be it an individual or a company. "Design professionals or even musicians, artists, or athletes are brands before they are business[es] that create. A brand is what others and clients perceive it to be."
Building a successful brand, however, should be a strategic endeavor, he advises.
Interior designers need only tap their everyday skills when building their own brand. For one, "‘design thinking’ helps to design a brand through somewhat the same problem-solving or creative process designers employ to design interiors," says Nobel. So, "designers are rather qualified to create a brand using some of their design skills."
But, not before doing some soul-searching first. "Successful brands are first and foremost authentic," Nobel cautions. "Some serious introspection is in order."
The critical questions to get at one’s authentic brand proposition are:
What do I/we stand for?
How do my/our personal values align with respect to other people?
How do I/we stay true to those values when tested?
What matters to my/our clients?
Akin to Distility’s philosophy, Nobel says "deep exploration of our clients" is critical to the brand-building process. "How do we empathize with what matters to them? I admire brands that position the designer’s empathy for their clients’ needs and the processes they go through to satisfy those needs."
Too frequently, adds Nobel, interior designers position "great portfolios and prideful résumés" as their brand, rather than as simply benchmarks of their work. They also confuse a style or look with their brand promise.
A truly effective brand, he explains, will "deliver on the brand promise with surprise and delight every time a client interacts with it. Interior design is experiential for the client. And, I might add, more profitable when the designer aims high."
After defining an interior designer’s brand, spreading the message "is a matter of precision," Nobel explains. As successful brands focus on specific customers, "it’s important to determine where current and prospective clients are and through what channels they will be exposed to the brand message. Online, in print, in person are all channels through which pointed messages can be delivered."
Note: this article was shortened from the original
BARBARA THAU is a business journalist specializing in the retail industry and consumer news and trends. She currently is a contributing writer for Forbes.com for which she writes the weekly column, "Minding The Stores." She has been cited as a retail expert for media outlets, including USA Today, National Public Radio, and CNN Money.