How to Innovate with Branding

A good friend put it to me that the way I work with branding is innovative. And he wasn’t the first. Another friend, and someone with in-depth experience of consumer brand research said much the same a couple of weeks ago.


Nice to hear, but it got me thinking; what does it actually mean, and how can I explain that to my clients so they can see the benefits it offers before I’ve been able to show exactly what I can do for them? After all – that level of investment needs to be linked to some kind of return.

So a good place to start, I think is to reframe the question. A technique used a lot by designers to see things from another perspective – usually to understand a problem from the consumer’s perspective, rather than the client’s.

That turned the question into ‘How do you innovate with branding?’. Not how do brands innovate – we’ve all seen examples of that, whether it’s Apple under Steve Jobs’ leadership, or Amazon revolutionising the way we shop.

This is a much easier question for me to answer, so here are 3 ways I’ve helped my clients by being innovative with branding.


1. Driving footfall to an exhibition stand with a viral giveaway.

This was simple, but the impact was profound. When Paperwrk decided to present at WebSummit last year, we knew they’d be competing with literally thousands of other companies. Brands, experiences, even a Red Bull F1 car for attention.

The ultimate DREAM for Paperwrk – as with any startup, is to become as valuable as possible. To achieve Unicorn status. Now that might be a bit far off, but as Dizzee Rascal once said, you gotta have a dream.

Somehow that turned into the idea that became the Unicorn sticker. I know right? That’s an effing ridiculous leap, but it happened. That spark of creativity. The unicorn was designed, it was very colourful, and stickers were made.

They could not have achieved a better result in terms of awareness and footfall, to the extent people were visiting the Paperwrk stand to get the sticker they’d either seen or heard about. More than that, it made people smile, and that was transformative, since happier people are more inclined to remember that feeling.


2. Turning fish-bait into a family event.

I’m not gonna lie, fishing isn’t my thing. I understood none of it at the time I first started speaking to the MD of a company called Bait-Tech. Who make fish bait. It’s produced in Suffolk, and it smells terrible, I know because I’ve been to their production facility. But it works, of course. Our challenge with Bait-Tech was to turn a fairly utilitarian brand into something that had growth potential in what’s becoming a very difficult market.

This one wasn’t even visual. This was looking at the problem from another perspective. And the problem, from my perspective at least, was the utilitarian nature of how Bait-Tech communicated their product. They’re strapline, used on EVERYTHING, was ‘Advanced Bait Solutions’. It’s clear this does a job. But it doesn’t do THE job.

An idle discussion over dinner about the changing landscape of the angling industry and the need to appeal to the younger generation ignited a spark in my brain. “Why don’t you just change the strapline? How about this:”


‘Inspiring Anglers for Generations’


BOOM. It really was that simple. In 4 words we’d gone from utility to emotion, from fact to experience, and from product to lifestyle. I love this example, because it wasn’t about design – which is often the first thing that springs to mind when someone hears the word ‘branding’. But more than that, it wasn’t just about the words, it was about changing the mindset.


3. Going from website to multi-channel media platform

My final example was more about helping a brand sow the seeds for their own plans. I was asked to come in by a client in the engineering sector to talk about their website, which was drowning in content – which is quite a nice problem to have, in fairness. But imagine being a visitor trying to find relevant content, or keep up to date with new content as a regular visitor.

I took on-board the problem and didn’t look at a single competitor website. What I did, was shift perspective entirely, and thought about who else produces masses of content, and how do they make it easy to digest?

Again, it becomes a much more simple question to answer. The most obvious answer at the time, was to look at the BBC, with it’s multiple channels and delivery methods.

My recommendations were put into place, and since then, they’ve been able to branch out into weekly videos, livestreams, podcasts, as well as their regular content updates, and their website handles it all as if it were designed for it (because now, it is).

So you can see how branding can be innovative. It’s often not about the visuals as much as it is learning about the problems a company might be faced with, and working out which questions to ask in order to find the answers that will help to solve those problems. That, and a bit of the ‘spark‘ that ignites the creative magic.


This is how I innovate with branding, and I hope the benefits of what I do have become a little clearer. I’ll leave you with one of the quotes that sums up what creative innovation really is, from the man behind one of the world’s first successful brands, Henry T. Ford.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

This article has been adapted from the original LinkedIn post here.

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