I think I know what branding is now. Mostly I've been thinking about interfaces lately, but as we rethink the Fast Forward branding to better fit within Cloudera, I've been thinking again about just what branding is and does. Part of my recent thoughts are based off Ben Pieratt's Pre-Brand
concept and discussing the idea with some co-workers.
I'm especially thinking about this slide
, which diagrams how a start-up may disregard several early identities before settling on a stable identity. The diagram is missing some things that I think are implicit in the rest of idea, but not drawn out. I think the diagram should be more zig-zaggy, and the branding is a marker for where the group wants to go. And it travels along the path towards the idea in that brand for a while, before reorienting towards a different idea, discovered during the work on the previous. Maybe sometimes the course is reversed, but mostly it's probably a zig-zag, where you keep moving in one general direction even as you zig-zag to get there.
Writing that, it's fun to see how much the idea of a 'problem space' has influenced my thinking. How much I tend to see things according to that lens now.
But the thing I want to emphasize, when I look at the proposed pre-brand process, is that the three developed concepts are not just things that might or might not fit. They're looks at what a start-up could be. They're all illuminating different positions within a problem space, and because the start-up being made is moving and developing, they're going to influence that development just by being known and seen.
Of course the brand here is just one aspect in the multi-dimensional stew of how the start-up is going to develop and what it is going to be. That course of development is being pulled along by a lot of other forces, but the brand influences some of those directions.
An early brand is a cultural marker for where you want to meet your users and audience. It stakes out a place for the company in relation to other markers.
I think the new thing that I am starting to believe is how important the brand can be to the start-up itself, to the people working there. In early days, it's probably more important for them than the audience. It can be a reminder as you're doing the mundane, everyday stuff, that this is all working towards something bigger. The brand can be a visual slot for the workers to put all their associations and aspirations for what the work could be. I think this makes me feel better about the usefulness of branding, although of course in that function it could be put to good/mixed/evil use depending on the work.