Science fiction, fantasy, & horror - web design, graphic design, interactive media development by greententacles
A "brand" is usually defined as a trademark or distinctive name identifying a product or manufacturer. From a marketing point of view we can look at brand as the overall experience that someone gets from your company. A brand, then, would be the Name, Tag line, Logo (and where the Logo is placed), as well as your company's product or service (and where your product or service is sold), it is the company's culture, and even the culture of the company's clientele. The brand is everything about your company that makes it different from every other company.
Not having well identified brand leads to consumer confusion. It would be as if every book had the same cover. People not only judge a book by its cover, they also identify a book by its cover, its title, and even what book store they find it in. The same can be said about your company. People identify your company by its name, appearance, culture, and even by the other people who identify with your company.
Is your company called Ultimate Bloodshed, Inc. or Happy Shiny Games, LLC? Is that fabulous horror thriller you wrote stocked in Barnes & Nobles, or can you only find it in Comic/Hobby shops? Are you a groovy stuff mail-order company, or an online banking institution? Is your core clientele made up of third generation rodeo clowns or first generation entrepreneurs?
As GreenTentacles, we personally put ourselves under the genre of speculative fiction as a part of our brand, which we use to differentiate ourselves from other businesses that provide web, design, and other services to the general market. This is something that we consider to be a part of the GreenTentacles brand, right along with our logo and the color green.
A prime reason for creating a brand is to give someone a reason to use your product or service rather than someone else's product or service. Think of milk. It is something that nearly everyone buys, but can you name any brands of milk? Do you have a reason for purchasing one brand over another, other than that it's right there where you shop? Do you ever go to another market because they don't have your brand of milk? Can you imagine a world where every product were like this?
How about if your product was like this? Does the world really need another generic fantasy role playing game? Does television need another generic paranormal alien conspiracy theory drama? Define why your product or service is different, I mean truly unique, and there you will have defined your brand.
The reason we go to so much trouble with branding is because it is important to differentiate one company from any other company. Entire industries have a brand type, because it is important to know whether you work with the infirm and elderly or with home improvement supplies. You can look at a financial brand and know that it is different than a creative or industrial brand. You can see that a science fiction brand is different than a fantasy brand, and that a speculative fiction brand is different still, in that it tries to include both.
The brand reinforces some of your pre-conceived notions of what the company does or who they do it for, but the specific brand identity should inform you about how a company is different from every other similar company. This is the reason for creating a strong brand identity for a company, much as we did with Nuketown.
Nuketown, which was created in 1996 and existed as a comic strip before even that, is a great little e-zine that publishes original works of speculative fiction, but also does news, reviews, and hoax debunkings. At WebsMostLinked.com it has been rated in the top nine percent of the database. It has won numerous awards and, at last count, attracts between 6 and 7 thousand user sessions a month (as opposed to hits). However, Nuketown wasn't doing enough to make itself distinguishable from the majority of other e-zines on the Internet.
The Nuketown site before July 2000 was a very plain speculative fiction e-zine. It had a great layout, useful navigation, but very little visual character. The layout was nearly flawless, but many of the images and graphics did not carry the brand of the web site with them.
However, much of Nuketown's content was very different from other e-zines. Not only did it publish general speculative fiction like the other e-zines, but it also published science news, it published press releases for speculative fiction companies, and it even went so far as to publish the monthly updates of other e-zines.
The Nuketown brand did have its distinctive name, that it used to promote both a science fiction and a home town community atmosphere. Secondly, it had certain mental images associated with it:
All of these were, Nuketown's brand. Some of it being intentional, and some of it unintentional, as with all brands, but those items formed the original brand which had been created over the four years of its operation.
Things changed for the better for Nuketown when the Editor of Nuketown (Ken Newquist) "bumped" into an old "artist" acquaintance from college (Nathan Lilly), who was also doing web design. The two got together, the new acquaintance began working on the Nuketown site as Art & Media Director. At this point GreenTentacles was formed. "Nuketown" became a "GreenTentacles" client for purposes of a much needed redesign (The details of the redesign will be discussed in another article).
For the redesign, GreenTentacles and the Nuketown editorial staff re-examined and re-evaluated the Nuketown brand, and then took steps to reinforce, focus and expand it. When re-creating Nuketown's brand we had considered how Nuketown was similar to other e-zines, so that people would recognize the industry that Nuketown was in, and we also had to consider how Nuketown was different than other e-zines and really make those differences show.
The future and long term goals of Nuketown were also defined. Nuketown would be adding a number of new sections. Nuketown would be making a shift during the redesign from general speculative fiction to what they defined as "heroic" speculative fiction. Also, during the redesign, Nuketown would be making the shift from amateur magazine to semi-professional (and eventually to professional) and wanted a look that showed that change.
Thus, post-redesign we hope to have added these elements to the brand:
Overview: A company's brand is likely its greatest asset. It is the look, feel, and experience that a company projects to consumers and other companies. It is by brand that people are able to realize that one company's products, services, and even its values, are different from any other company.
A well-known brand is an asset in itself. From an outsider's point of view the brand is the company. It helps to build the company, as long as future goals, market, and industry are always considered.