Every well-known product, service, place and even an individual has a brand. The more visible the brand the stronger it is. However, having a strong or visible brand is not always a good thing. Even big brands can be hated. Ignorance and arrogance are often met with contempt while beloved brands are created through empathy and shared experiences. 

 

 

Why is it so important for us to take pictures of our mushroom haul, our after yoga smoothie bowl or the rice field in Bali? They all have five things in common:
1) they look good in terms of current visual trends (fresh, colourful, pretty, rustic, close to nature), which means they make me and my taste look good
2) they are trendy, which makes me look successful because I follow current trends
3) they tell a story about my interests and connect me to the like-minded tribe (we like outdoors, exercises that develop our body and soul, trendy cafes & travelling)
4) I believe this tribe shares the same values and interests with me and therefore likes me
5) Because it likes me, it wants to share the pictures I post and so I get visibility. 

In my opinion this is what branding is about. A good brand looks nice and fresh (whatever being fresh means for the specific field of industry), speaks the same language with its target group, is well-connected with its consumers and opinion leaders in the right channels, boosts their fans’ self-esteem and creates experiences that the fans want to share with each other. 

Identity is created through reputation, values, behaviour, appearance, consumer base and history.

 
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Creating a temporary brand for the new Amos Anderson Art Museum meant to be used during the building process. The concept for texts in the construction site fences was nominated as a silver in Vuoden Huiput 2016 – the biggest design competition in Finland.

 

Every known product, service, place, event or even a famous individual has a brand, its own identity. This identity is created through reputation, values, behaviour, appearance, consumer base and history. A brand identity isn’t always intentional and it isn’t always flattering. It still exists. 

Take German Lidl for example. It did very little for its brand when it arrived to Finland and the consumers associated with it a brand image that wasn’t very admiring. Yet it had a strong brand that everyone knew: it was a place for the poor to go grocery-shopping. It, however, managed to turn its brand image (and sales) to a much more positive direction through clever marketing. As a result, the Lidl brand also became stronger.

 
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Reshaping the identities of iconic Finnish brands in the years 2008–2013: WSOY, Valio, Biolan, Fazer100.

 

The more well-known the brand is the stronger it is. Stronger doesn’t always mean better, though. Shell, for example, has a strong but very contradictory brand. On the other hand, it is a market leader, but it is also known to be seriously ignoring human rights or environmental diversity. Back in the day, it was possible for even an evil brand to grow big due to heavy lobbying and lack of knowledge among its consumers.

Time for mega brands that ignore the surrounding environment and human dignity has come to an end.

Today, the time for mega brands that ignore the surrounding environment and human dignity has come to an end. Brands that behave badly can no longer create real love among their consumers or hire the best talents. Real love is built through high-quality products and services, sustainable production that gives a fair share for the producers and employees, tone-of-voice and visual image that create an atmosphere that makes people feel good and action that brings like-minded people together. This love is spread through targeted events that give consumers new experiences and through content marketing that builds up discussion (in social media) and unites people.

 
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Package design for Fazer, Jalotofu and Novelle among many many others, during 2009–2012.

 

This being said, not every brand has to look and sound Innocent or Oatly and have Danish hygge as their brand concept. I have been in charge of creating new b2c and b2b brands from the start and developing over 100 year old brands – and everything in between – and in my opinion, the winning concept for a brand is to know its customers. The better the brand the better it knows its target group and knows what kind of language to use when speaking to them. 

A good brand is aware of the motives, behaviour and desires of its consumers, clients, users or other target groups. It is built on the values that are important to their customers. This is why it is important to get enough customer insight and to include (even a short) strategic planning phase in the beginning of every design project. For sure, some intuition and passion is needed for a good design recipe, but with pure intuition it is difficult to create a concept to love, if you do not know who it is for. 

 

 
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I have been honoured to develop these brands (among many others) as a strategist, concept designer, creative director, art director, producer and/or graphic designer. My expertise covers the whole customer experience from brand strategy to visual identity, all kinds of digital and non-digital applications (including film) and marketing in various channels, social media skills being my strongest asset.

 
 
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THIS IS WHAT MY CLIENTS SAY

 
 

"Annika has a magic touch. Or that’s what it felt like when she created a stellar brand identity and a great website for my company. And you don’t have to take my word for it: Särmä’s brand identity gains praise left and right for being just the right combination of professional credibility and bold personality. Thanks to a brand and website that stand out from the crowd, I keep attracting exactly the clients and projects that I want. What more can you ask for?

When we started collaborating, I was a complete novice at brand identity and website design, but Annika never once made me feel ignorant. She expertly gleaned the essence of Särmä’s budding brand from our chats and carefully nurtured it to full bloom – all the time offering me her full support. I can heartily recommend Annika for anyone who needs help in building a brand people will love."

Laura Kortelainen, CEO, Särmä Communications

"Annika worked as a Strategic Planner and Project Manager and in a Brand Project for the Finnish Association for Social Enterprises (yhteiskunnallisten yritysten Arvoliitto ry).

The project consisted of visual planning and visual identity of the FASE, concept and visual design for web pages, brochures and electronic newsletter.

Annika was dedicated to this work. She managed the project smoothly and kept everything together in tight schedule. She is highly recommended in similar projects!"

Jaana Kymäläinen, Director of Communications The Finnish Federation of Settlement Houses, one of the FASE founders

The project was done together with BOTH Design Services.