Think about how easy it was in the ’80s to choose a product when the brand’s claim was about quality and effectiveness. Now ask yourself how many brands offer the same quality at the “best price” nowadays. You probably won’t be able to think of any since, because of this strategy of competing on price, many brands have become irrelevant and gotten out of the race.
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Today, the real challenge is to stay in the ring.
Standing out is the goal for brands that understand that in order to gain relevance and get in the ring, they must bring value to their consumers through a larger cause; that they need a purpose.
An appealing logo and a good product are but logical things. The extraordinary aspect appears when brands show their purpose.
This year, we had the opportunity to meet the team behind the clothing brand Urban Rock, based in Medellín, which has become a reference in the local market, in terms of women’s casual clothing. It currently has several outlets in the city, and it found commercial strengths in a versatile and flowing way thanks to its organic growth.
“Whether you’re into rock, boho or streetwear clothing, you can come to Urban and you’ll most certainly find something you like and that looks good on you.” — Natalia Zapata
Urban was in the process of making important decisions as, due to the empirical conception of the brand, some issues had emerged along the way. The main problem was the way people perceived the product: it didn’t look like something made in Colombia, they thought it was imported and relabeled.
Thus, the next step gave us the opportunity to build a new identity, consistent and aligned with the brand. The goal was not only to mitigate issues related to the product but also to bring out the brand’s essence, that was always there but had dissolved over the years.
Of course, the reason we wake up every day isn’t something we can create while developing design projects. Creating and strengthening a purpose takes time and effort. Nowadays, people’s great dilemma is the same as the brands’: what is my purpose?
In one of the most viewed Ted Talks on YouTube, Simon Sinek explains the golden circle theory, which shows how the most superficial part of a brand is represented by its products, and how the emotional part lies in the most internal layer. With that in mind, a brand such as Coca Cola positioned itself as one of the world’s most valuable brands, not by selling sodas, but by selling happiness.
A lot of brand directors or managers wonder what the purpose does and if it really generates sales. It’s too emotional for them to want to invest in it, but they need to consider the fact that the new generations’ consumption behavior is very different and changes suddenly with the boom of social media. Today, people would rather consume brands that establish lifestyles or embody more noble causes.
During the project’s initial phases, we found ideas that led us to the conclusion that the brand’s pillars are human quality, very diverse products and an incredible ability to mix garments in order to create season outfits fitting the audience’s preferences.
We also found it would be relevant to use the claim “a brand for rockers” to designate the people who shine thanks to their positive attitude towards life. It was clear to us that this had always been the brand’s standard, as “the attitude you have towards life will make you happy and bring value to all who surround you”.
Transforming all of these thoughts and conclusions into a new identity can bring about uncertainty, given all the risks of redesigning when a brand is already recognized by its audience. Redefining is part of the process and responds to strategic changes related to a purpose. Criticism will always exist but it cannot justify half-hearted changes.
This is why before the designing phase began, we consolidated a manifesto that became the project’s conceptual base, aligning all the brand’s pillars with a more noble end:
“We choose the ideal of feeling good, leaving behind any stereotype, belief or preference, using our style’s versatility to create clothes aiming to dress and convey positive emotions.”
During a short conversation before the sketching phase, we asked ourselves: what did Urban Rock represent to us? “Urban is like a closet where you can find anything.”, “It’s about clothes that make you feel like a rockstar.”
We also wanted the brand to visually appear as neutral, as opposed to feminine or masculine, in order to open the way for new audiences. So, recovering a bit of its history, we started sketching with a “star” in mind to represent the brand’s attitude. We eventually landed on the idea that at Urban, what matters “isn’t the clothes but the hanger”, as suggested by a popular saying in Colombia.
It led us to connect with the feeling that Urban is a closet — a place where people keep their clothes as a symbol of their identity — and that these people become the hangers, taking the garments to another level and filling them with positive emotions.
This element naturally became a powerful and distinguishable symbol, connected with the brand’s essence, making it visible through an idea that was simple yet linked to Urban’s DNA.
Urban’s new identity keeps the ROCK aspect that was always so present, in a more impactful logo and a recognizable icon, giving it character and making it memorable.
This way, and drawing on the strategic branding, we were able to dig deep into the brand in order to refresh its identity entirely, not only to make it beautiful but also to reveal a meaning that had dissolved over time, giving it a lot to say and bringing back a certain purpose: people.
“Clients will come to us and say, ‘We’re stagnating. How can I grow? Where does my brand have permission to go?’. “When you’re living in this really malleable back-and-forth relationship with consumers, you have to be so true to who you are, what you believe in, why you exist in the world, and that has to manifest itself deeply and authentically everywhere.”
_Kristin Krajecki, strategy director, Frog.