Branding for Beginners

We ordered balloons today. 1000 orange and 1000 white with our icon emblazoned upon them. We’re going to a local flea market and the balloons will share the stage. Our brand is leaving the matrix to enter the real world.

The question we struggle with is how to invest our limited resources in nurturing our brand. Our view is that the look and feel of Geddup is integral to how people will experience the product. Our brand sends a signal about who we are, and we want to gain the confidence and trust of our audience.

This article provides a discussion of the key branding decisions we have made on our short journey and why we have made them.

Small beginnings

Brand has been an important part of the project since its inception.

Very early in our thinking, we commissioned an online tournament to design a logo. As the process required iterative development with designers from across the globe, it offered an opportunity to test the core concept with a diverse audience. The winner was a Metallica-loving longboat-lovechild from Norway (A.design).

Design winner logo by A.designWe were then able to use this logo through our market testing. While our JQuery Mobile mockups may have been relatively crude representations of the concept, the embedded logo added an element of cohesion to the process. It made it easier to test for more than the success of our UI – we were testing demand for the concept itself.

The net result is that within a relatively short period of time, the brand of Geddup had begun to take on a life of its own. It had become synonymous with an orange balloon (at least in our universe).

Real men don’t set Souvenir

We like the balloon because it’s symbolic of what we are trying to achieve. We want Geddup to offer an uplifting experience, freeing our users from the shackles of overwhelming, chaotic communication. The balloon appeals to that carefree child in all of us.

But once we had made the decision to proceed with Geddup, we quickly realized that we would need a more refined vision of the brand. This is when the guys from Clear Design joined the team. The impact was immediate.

New Geddup logo by Clear Design

While we were reluctant to lose our balloon breaking out of the box, the easy recognition that the new design offered was clearly superior. Most importantly the new logo worked on small scales and large, and in our new corporate colour and in silhouette. It was simple, clean and light.

The other interesting decision at this time was to choose our font. We had vaguely suggested that we’d like something friendly and early 19th century. Our Creative Director, Russell Mann suggested Souvenir. But there was a problem. It seems that some people don’t like Souvenir. Font scholar, Frank Romano has a particularly jaundiced view:

“Souvenir is a font fatale”…”We could send Souvenir to Mars, but there are international treaties on pollution in outer space”…”Real men don’t set Souvenir“

Souvenir was originally an art nouveau font created in Germany around 1905, so coupled with its homespun serifs it fitted our request pretty neatly. The problem seems to be that in the 1970’s, Souvenir grew in popularity until it reached saturation point. It was everywhere from Hungry Jacks to Playboy, Dungeons & Dragons to the Bee Gees. Another font aficionado, Mark Batty, nails the problem by suggesting Souvenir is – “A sort of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ typeface wearing tight, white, flared pants.”

Bill Gates business card with souvenir and flares

We were taken aback and questioned the wisdom of adopting a font that was ranked 7th in the most hated fonts of all time. But Russell argued differently.

The thing is that our key target audience are parents of children aged 5 to 15 yrs. That means typically they are children of the 1970’s. They are imbued with bell-bottoms, sideburns and crazy big hair even if they were not old enough to have them. In Australia, one of the most recognized brands remains “Life. Be in it”. It was a get-into-life campaign born out of the 1970’s and its font? Souvenir. The light went on, we could benefit from the almost subconscious nostalgic association. We chose Souvenir.

Up, Up & Away

Our brand is now permeating the digital landscape of Geddup. Our website echoes the simplicity of the brand – as does the video that welcomes new visitors to the site. Importantly, the app draws on these same strengths and we like the point of difference that comes with using a font that has gone out of fashion.

It is still early days for Geddup. We are in beta and rapidly evolving to meet prospective clients’ needs. No doubt our brand will change too. Still we’ve come a long way from the single-celled idea we began with. And with balloons soon to arrive, the transition from virtual to real seems that little bit closer. Maybe one day we’ll get to take to the skies in our logo writ large.