Corporate identity · Graphic design

The identity for Le Centre L’est > Kinshasa’s hottest cultural event hotel

Francophone Kinshasa is the huge, sprawling capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is hectic, confusing and colorful, a sort of New York of Central Africa. In this vibrant city, (+6 million people) the main thing to do is to simply sniff up the atmosphere; enjoy the Congolese food like ‘foufou’ and ‘chikwange’, listen to the famous ndombolo music, dance and dive into the Congolese way of life. Le Centre L’est is a newly renovated 5-star event hotel that brings together these characteristics in 21st-Century style and sophistication. This, on ancient Congolese art inspired logo, expresses the desire to become the new cultural center within the center of the city. Full identity program for a whole range of hotel collateral and marketing materials. Silver winner at Graphis Annuals 2013.

Graphic design · Web / Interactive design

NeubauLaden

Neubau-Laden owns an extensive encyclopaedia of well over a thousand pictograms of everyday objects and obsessions large and small. Created by Stefan Gandl and his Neubau team, it makes them extremely useful for architects and other creatives who can integrate them into their presentations and visual models. This extensive e-commerce site contains all of Neubau’s 1500 pictograms, including its award-winning Neubau type fonts; bombarded (by some renowned typographers) as the best font of the Century, so far. For AGB and TBWA/Tequila Berlin.

Editorial design · Graphic design · Thinking

We live in a fragmented world — how to maintain a unified brand?

How can brands nimbly navigate the difficult waters of increasingly fragmented markets? How can brand managers win back some of the control they have lost to consumers in the age of social media?

Take for instance the Gap logo fiasco. The company had to pull back its new logo in the face of intense online backlash from consumers who wanted to keep the old one. By contrast, Starbucks’ rebranding and its new siren logo were mostly evaluated as a success. What then determines the hits and the misses in the new branding era?

The answer may lie in how well companies adopt a “transbranding” philosophy and management system.

“Trans” is derived from Latin and as a prefix means “across, on the far side, and beyond.” We commonly use words like “transportation” and “transfer”; in both cases, “trans” connotes a bridging characteristic, whether it is between places, conditions, or people. Thus, transbranding is using brands to connect and effectively move between divergent markets.

Branding has always been an important part of marketing strategy, since many consumers use brand attributes to determine their purchasing decisions. The branding dialogue in the past was predominantly led by marketers, but in the digital era of today, that discussion is heavily influenced by other voices, such as by social networks. This results often in a varied and potentially conflicting narrative about a brand. Transbranding is a call for marketers to retake the initiative in integrating the communication of their brands across offline and online domains.

Companies or people that are successfully pioneering transbranding demonstrate some key “trans” qualities in the following ways:

1. They are transitional. Sometimes a company and its branding has to evolve to align itself with its changing market environment. When this happens brands have to provide strong leadership to make sure its loyal consumers do not feel lost by radical changes, such as by an unexpected new logo. Whereas the Gap stranded their old customers with their new brand identity, Starbucks initiated a longer, integrated, and open effort to help their partners and patrons to transition to the rebranding effort. More specifically, by keeping the siren, Starbucks signaled that the familiar retail experience would continue. But importantly, by omitting “Starbucks Coffee” in the logo, it communicated that its business also consisted of non-coffee categories — in the present and possibly more in the future.

2. They are transcendent. Instead of just catering to the idiosyncratic demands of the micro-segments created by new media, brands should also try to aggregate consumers by finding an appeal that can transcend market differences. A recent Harvard Business Review blog about Gangnam style discusses how a video sang almost entirely in Korean nevertheless became a global viral sensation because, at the core, the music, the humorous visual content, and the artist Psy himself were all universally liked. Brands, too, have to search for that kind of power to attract across seemingly variant markets.

3. They are transformable. With digital domains, like smartphone apps, becoming a new and important battleground, branding elements now need to be visible in a much smaller or dynamic setting. Case in point: DC comics now uses a “living identity,” where its new peelable logo reveals its many superheroes. Whereas its former identity was singular and static, the new malleable brand ID can be flexibly fit to properties, characters, and media, such as in digital devices, where consumers can playfully interact with it.

4. They are transparent. Domino’s Pizza created a stir by conducting a bold campaign where it openly discussed the consumer dissatisfaction and quality issues facing the brand and how it was going to overcome them. Brand transparency is important in honestly addressing consumer complaints, especially since, when left alone, they can be spread quickly on social networks. Companies, however, need to determine the proper level of brand transparency by weighing its impact on other branding factors, including trust, mystique, storytelling, and surprise.

While it is true that the changed media landscape has made life difficult for marketers, the good news here is that a transbranding mind-set can help managers cross over the old-school and new-school branding divide.


Dae Ryun Chang is Professor of Marketing at Yonsei School of Business, Seoul, Korea. Follow him on Twitter at @daeryun. Don Ryun Chang is professor of branding and design management in the department of visual communication at Hongik University and a former President of the International Council of Graphic Design Associations.