Branding is Boring

Podcast with LeeAnn Eddins

Podcast: Branding is Boring

In this episode of the Banowetz Marketing Podcast, LeeAnn and Sarah talk about why branding should be boring and how you can still find satisfaction in “boring” brand graphic design work.


– Hello again.

– We are back with LeeAnn Eddins, this is Sarah Banowetz, and we hope everyone is doing really well. Let’s jump right in. So, recap what we talked about last time.

– Okay, last time we were talking about design thinking, and about how you can use that just about in any kind of, I’ve been using it as a graphic designer, but one could use it to try to solve just about any problem that they face.

– Any problem, I love that.

– Just about.

– Perfect, perfect.

– We talked about, basically a three part methodology that I put down into six. We talked about empathy, how you really have to know your customer, or know the facts, do your research, get in touch with the person you’re trying to communicate with. The next is definition, to define the problem, define what you think is the solution. Define the parameters, define the people that you’re talking to. Just to make sure that you’re looking for the right solution. And then comes ideation, prototyping, and you do as many of those as fast as you can. And get as many ideas out there, then you work toward refinement. And as you work toward refinement you go into the next phase which is testing. As you refine you start to test, first internally and then with stakeholders, or focus groups, or that that kind of testing. And then you go larger and larger, until you finally get to that final product that you deploy. And then once you deploy, you’re still gathering information, you’re still getting feedback. And you may go back to empathy and define, to look at some modifications, again to prototyping when you’re making new changes, and then deploying again. Testing and deploying again.

– Which just ends up being what you do with your company, just cultural.

– That just becomes that cultural product evolution.

– Okay, awesome. So, if anyone wants, go back and watch the previous video, listen to the previous audio to dive into that deeper. And then today we’re going to talk about branding being boring. Branding is boring.

– And I have been a brand designer, a logo designer, and logo cop, for most of my career, and branding is boring, if you’re doing it right.

– I love that, “If you’re doing it right.”

– At least to the in house creatives who are churning out new material day after day. For them it can get quite boring, and it should. Okay, but personally as a designer who’s been in that situation, working for corporations and working for design studios, what I find is, for me, is to find out where the edges are, work along the borders of those edges, look to come up with something new within the constraints of the problem. Which is a big part of the design thinking paradigm anyway, is that, there’s always constraints to a problem. There’s always limitations, there’s always factors to be considered. In this case, it’s the brand standard that is to be considered, above all else. The typography, the colors. You have to stay in line with those things.

– And we talked about last time, how that helps with your communication with your customers.

– Absolutely.

– So that they don’t get confused about what it is that you offer.

– Exactly, it’s just like when we present ourselves to groups of people, people recognize our faces. Ad they recognize who we are, from one group to another.

– Okay, this actually reminds me of a funny story, and I can’t remember where I heard this, so I’m sorry if I can’t remember where I heard this. But there was an employee of a company who would, during her lunch hour, go and get her hair, and her makeup, and her clothes completely redone. Like in the morning she’d have brown hair, and in the afternoon she’d have purple hair and a completely different outfit. And customers were getting confused. Because they did not know who they were, they thought it was a completely different person that you would start a meeting in the morning, she’d go for lunch, come back and they’d be like “Where’s the person that was here before?” and it was her. But if your branding’s like that it’s really confusing to people.

– It really is confusing to people. That is a funny story. I know that I grew up with a fella who lived down the road from us, who was friends with my father. He was a young man, but every time he saw me, of course I was growing up, but my hair would change, I’d get a new haircut, I’d be two or three years older. And he always exclaimed how he never knew who I was, that it was always a surprise to him.

– You don’t want your branding to be a surprise to your customers.

– You don’t want your branding to be a surprise to your customer. And while branding does evolve, and it changes over time, those changes should be small enough that your customer, that it doesn’t shock your customer. Tropicana Pure Premium had a situation a few years back, it’s probably been about six or seven years ago, where they redid their entire product line, their packaging, everything. And people were like “Where’s my orange juice?”. Okay, now you might not know this is who it is, but it’s the one with the orange with the straw in it. Okay, they got rid of that and did a new streamlined version. They spent money tooling, this goes back to our other point about finding out the problems late in the design stage, they had already packaged and put out on the market this new brand that no one could find their orange juice now. And people complained so much that they reversed and went back to the old packaging.

– ’cause they all thought that it was a new company and they didn’t trust it. They were looking for their–

– They couldn’t find their orange juice anymore. And so in that case, I believe heads rolled, I think the marketing department had a total restructure after that. And then they had maybe millions of dollars worth of product out there that they couldn’t sell under their brand. And they had to not only, they rebranded, and then they had to go and backtrack, and retread their rebranding effort. So, yeah, those are big, expensive branding efforts where they really didn’t use the design thinking methodology ’cause they did not test it with the right people. They may have tested it internally, got all those write offs and approvals, and went into production and got it out on those shelves.

– Well, and they might’ve been looking to get a new audience but not realize that you can’t let your old audience go.

– No.

– yeah no.

– So, it’s an important thing to consider. And branding can make or break your company, it really can. I think Google is the only one who can change their brand on a daily basis and get by with it.

– Yeah, well they change pieces of it but the core is still the same. Even when they make the new little Google picture, it’s still using the same colors.

– Basically, and kind of basically the same type. But the difference with Google, and with you and me, is they get millions of impressions per day.

– They, yeah, yeah.

– They’ve impressed me, at least–

– They can break the rules.

– They do get to break the rules.

– They do.

– Because, when you get millions of impressions a day you can change your logo every day too.

– Facebook changed the color of the blue on their app.

– On the messenger app?

– No, on the main Facebook app. I noticed it and I mentioned something, I looked it up. I think they might’ve gone, I don’t remember, but anyway, yeah. But companies like Facebook get that freedom to do that kind of stuff to some extent.

– To some extent.

– To some extent. But most of us don’t.

– Most of us do not. Also, when people say, “Oh, we’ll just use the logo, it’s like Nike.” No, it’s again, not like Nike. Because we’re not getting that level of, they’ve invested millions of dollars to get that kind of brand recognition.

– Although the Nike logo itself was a cheap logo. Did you hear the story about the Nike logo, the swoosh?

– No, but I’m sure it was probably a 50 dollar logo that he got from somebody who just did it and they just ran with it.

– I think there’s a story about that, later on I think they went back and paid her more money or something, but yeah.

– That’s what happens. That is what happens with us designers. You just never know what’s gonna stick. But unlike actors and actresses who do get royalties, designers really don’t. I actually know the guy who did the Energizer Bunny, he’s with an agency in Chicago, and he was on the team that came up with the Energizer Bunny like 25 years ago. And he’s never made any more than his salary off of that. But that thing is still running, it’s still, you know.

– I’m surprised he didn’t put residuals in his–

– No, no one does, we are work for hire. You should know this.

– Well nowadays, but back when Energizer Bunny?

– No, it was all work for hire, still.

– My grandma worked her way up to vice president of a marketing agency, and when I first started getting into marketing that was one of the things that she nailed home with me. Is, she said “You’d better get residuals into this.” Now, I’m not, because that’s not the way our society is today. But 20 or 30 years ago at least.

– She was forward thinking.

– She was she was a smart cookie.

– She had the right idea.

– I started doing some branding for my parents’ company, and obviously I wasn’t gonna charge them residuals for that, but she walked into Warehouse Auto and saw my work on the wall and she goes, “You bet, you know, residuals Sarah, residuals.” And I’m like

– I know, if only, right?

– Is there anything else you wanna share with our audience?

– Well we had started about branding being boring and why it’s boring. And the thing about doing it right is about consistency. Even though we’ve been talking about the examples of inconsistency, consistency is paramount to any branding effort. And you don’t even have to have an expensive logo to be consistent with it. A lot of small businesses especially, this escapes them. That they don’t use the opportunities that they have to get their brand out there every time they can. I get a little logo happy myself, you know, my logo, and then if I wanted to, whoops, flip things around. So it’s everywhere.

– I love it.

– It’s a shame I’m not wearing green right now, to further enhance that brand. But green doesn’t really look so good, it’s just one of my favorite colors. Those are the kinds of things though, you do ’em again and again. You just keep putting it out there and your brand is more than just your logo. It’s everything that you put in front of a consumer. So if you’re a store front, you’re gonna want your people to carry your brand forward as well. But getting back to the designer, staying in my lane a little bit, getting back to how the designer has to deal with branding. It’s that they really need to be the ambassador. They’re the one that puts it forward and makes sure that everything comes out well. The efficiency about that, is that corporations are then able to iterate faster. They can have a lot more collateral without all the slow down of, “Oh, what are we gonna do this time, “and how’s it gonna look.” Well you know how it’s gonna look, at least from an overarching standpoint. You’ll have some of your brand assets that are beyond your logo. You might have a certain way you do things. There are some brand standards that have backgrounds, like my background here, I’ll use that over and over again in different kinds of applications, patterns, certain places that you always put things on a page. Whether it’s on a website, or on a mobile app, or in your ads. Whatever you do, that you contain a consistent flow all the time with all these graphic elements. Using a term I coined back at my university days, with a recurring graphic element. We used to have a lot of trouble with brands, with our branding, and then we’d have divisions within the hospitals and clinics that wanted to do their own logo. Well, “University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics” was the logo. And to allow a department to have its own logo would then not benefit them ultimately. Because there’s a halo effect with having a big brand, a big recognizable brand. So we would allow a recurring graphic element to further define and differentiate slightly among these departments. But those recurring graphic elements should and could be used within any branding structure to reinforce the design. And to be more elements that the designers get to work with. So, they can out those together in many creative ways. A lot of times, another thing with branding, especially for smaller or middle size companies, is templates. I am an advocate of templates, and, oh, I know designers everywhere are going “No, no, don’t make me work within a template structure.” But that is an economical way for people to put their brand out there consistently. Especially if they don’t have designated designers working in their departments.

– And I’m sure it frees up, for someone like you, well we’re talking about branding being boring, but to make it a little less boring, that you don’t have to be working on the little nuanced things, that you’ve created this template and then the client can modify, or you can modify it super quickly so you can get back to design.

– Well, branding isn’t boring when you’re designing the package.

– No, when you’re designing, but–

– When you’re the one who’s making the rules–

– Yes, that part you get back to, but then the little things like–

– What’s this flyer gonna look like?

– Yeah, or even just the business cards. Oftentimes you just need to change the names and the contact information, but it’s the same. And to have that be be able to be systemized and be done really quickly.

– Perfect example is the business card. They should all be exactly the same as possible, given–

– And you constantly have people coming and going, and–

– Exactly, but there’s a lot of stuff, for instance whitepapers are a big thing now. So whitepapers can be laid out and templated so that they look great, so that the typography is consistent from one book to another. And so that you can get that content out there and get it in front of people, get it in people’s hands. You don’t have to design everything that comes along the transom. And in fact, if you’re always designing differently, then you’re really going to mess up that brand voice and that visual appearance.

– That makes a lot of sense. Well, thank you for being on the podcast LeeAnn.

– I’m so glad you had, this was a lot of fun and I appreciate the opportunity.

– It’s usually pretty nerveracking when someone’s on for the first time, but I do try to make it fun. So thanks for being on.

– [LeeAnn] Thank you.

– So once again, share us your website and how people can reach you.

– Yes, I’m LeeAnn Eddins at You can get me at [email protected].

– Perfect, thank you very much. And thanks you joining us for the Banowetz Marketing podcast. If you’re looking for any kind of marketing direction or implementation, if you wanna get connected with LeeAnn or anyone else on our team, LeeAnn’s a contractor, can be your contractor, or you can contact her directly. Get in touch with us, you can find us at And we will talk to you later. Thanks for joining us, bye.