Society changed fast in 2020. Should your brand do the same in 2021?

4 February 2021 | 5 min read | Digital
Helen Fripp

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We all know that everything changed in 2020. What your customers looked to you for in 2019 isn’t necessarily the same in 2021. Societal change has accelerated. The high street is transformed, the way people shop has changed, your customers expect you to care about their wellbeing, and for your organisation to be aware of how they impact the planet, as well as what you can sell them or the services you can provide.

You may well have pivoted, altered your services or product to fit this new world at speeds you might never have imagined possible at any other time, but has your brand kept up with you?

Minnie Moll, the Design Council’s incoming CEO makes a salient point in Design Week around design’s ability to “impact experience and be part of societal change.” She makes the statement in the wake of the government’s ‘build back better’ campaign, but good design is crucial in everything we do.

Design can positively impact everything from the physical design of the way that buildings work to enable the social distancing of the future, to UX design for remote working, to a muted colour palette to promote calm and socially aware campaigns in the place of ‘in your face’ advertising and content.

It’s something one of our most familiar global brands has been grappling with of late. Twitter have just created their own typeface, ‘Chirp’ (of course), and updated its brand identity to “fully reflect the complexity, fluidity and power of the conversations today.” In view of recent events, this could be viewed as the understatement of the century, but they’re right to review their brand. Things have changed a lot over a relatively small period of time for Twitter.

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If you care about something, use design and brand to tell people about it.  Through powerful infographics, images and words, you can make a real difference and gain loyal customers.

Finland’s biggest subscription newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat created a climate change typeface which tells us everything we need to know in a clever, engaging blend of data and design. The letters melt according to data supplied by the National Snow and Ice data centre from 1979-2019 and demonstrates the trend brilliantly to 2050.

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In 2021, you might have new measures to help your employees with remote working and mental health in the workplace, or have altered your supply chain to ensure ethical and sustainable practices are in place. You will almost certainly have pivoted to offer your goods and services in a blended online/offline way. If you have, let people know about it and use your brand to tell your story.

There are crucial steps you must go through to get to the design stage of your brand. Involve as many people from your company as you possibly can in the process, from front-line staff, to administrators and your senior team.

Get them round a table (or at least a virtual one) and look at what you offer, define your mission and vision, or re-visit them to make sure they’re up to date.

Take a fresh look at your audiences, who are they, where are they hanging out nowadays, online and offline? What will engage them, what do they want from you, what’s important to them?

And who are you as a company? What do you care about, not only from a product or customer service point of view, but in terms of your brand purpose? Get this right, and you’ll be on track to get down to the design stage and have fun with it.

The good news is, there are more tools than ever at your disposal to help you with this.

The possibilities are endless and any branding specialist worth their salt will have a good grasp of the tools available, from explainer videos, drone photography, to digital animation platforms, graphic design programmes, logo and web design and beyond. Every part of your visual identity should reflect who you are and there are myriad ways in which you can express it. But how?

There’s no substitute for hiring a team who can combine strategic understanding of your market and audience with brilliant design and digital tech skills. You don’t notice good design when it’s good. It just looks right and it works seamlessly from a UX point of view. But get it wrong, and you risk your brand loyalty melting into thin ice.

As we plan for restrictions easing in the coming months, there is no better time than now to reflect on your brand and ask yourself, is it still relevant for 2021 and beyond?