When a name becomes a brand

During a recent interview I was invited to share my thoughts on how a company brand impacts my product design. After considering the question, I sheepishly confessed that given my focus on enterprise apps where complex workflows and dense layouts are often the norm, brand had never been a key driver. That is naturally not to say that I do not recognise the power and value of a strong brand, but rather that I consider that I dwell in spaces where functionality is paramount, leaving little room for the company identity to express itself.

Digging further, I realised I believe in the primacy of function. While working at AltaVista in the 90’s, a company that had arguably built a strong brand on the shoulders of it excellency in search, I witnessed the rise of Google. An unknown company, with a joke for a name, that promptly devoured AltaVista’s market share despite its brand. We had to wait a few years for Google to turn its name into a brand, now magically empowered to endow random products with instant credibility.

This in turn begs the following question: “When does a name become a brand?”. Examining how known brands were born, it is my opinion that a name takes from the product or service it is associated with, qualities and attributes that might then become its own. Through crafty advertising, the name now elevated into a brand, can in turn endow unsuspecting products with attributes they never possessed. This is how a $3 t-shirt sells for $35 as a luxury item once a magic logo has hastily been embroidered in its fabric.

On the topic of  brand and identity, a few fun mashups, credit to Viktor Hertz and Mario Amaya