Lego of the Reins and Expand Your Brand
I absolutely promise that we are going to talk about brand, video communications and creative freedom shortly… but first, LEGO™.
I have no problem admitting it – I love LEGO™… I also love bad puns.
As a grown man, I still go a little misty eyed when I see that red square with squashy black & yellow edged type. Immediately I’m five again, happily pushing bricks together on the living room rug. Even now I have, at home, a rather fetching plastic brick representation of an Extra330 aerobatic sitting above my computer. I can’t pass by a checkout counter without buying a handful of mini figures, and I may have also spent an hour in the LEGO™ store constructing the perfect drag racer. It came last… but I maintain that the eight year old who cut me up totally had it in for me.
Deep down if I was to identify exactly what it was that I loved about LEGO™ as a child, it was the tingling excitement of millions of possibilities that could be made out of a massive ice-cream tub full of bricks. From gargantuan spaceships to props for my Corgi cars to perform spectacular stunts over, the options were infinite. If anything the seeds of my career were perhaps germinating in that creative play. I’d view the cars from a low camera angle and make them freeze frame with appropriate Starsky and Hutch sound effects. Very filmic!
Confessing that you love LEGO™ is a bit of a given though. It’s like stating that you enjoy continuing to breathe. There’s just no reason to not like it, that is, unless you’ve trodden on a small plastic brick during a two am stumble to the bathroom.
But how exactly can I link this nostalgia-based confession to communications and justify writing a thousand words on LEGO™?
Albeit on a slightly less scale, there’s a similar feeling that occurs a few days into working with a new client. When I receive an email from them that has, somewhere near the bottom, the line, “Please find our brand guidelines attached.” Opening that attachment I get a similar flutter in the stomach to peeling the lid off the ice-cream tub of LEGO™because I have a proper love of looking through brand guidelines. Honestly, I do. The colour chips, the logos, the fonts - a well laid out set of brand guidelines appeals to a very similar part of my brain. The possibilities, the ideas that appear from the page, are like the internal communications equivalent of the LEGO™ Idea Book.
There is nothing better than when our creative team comes together with the client, and builds something fantastic out of the bricks in the brand guideline tub. Taking a brand and pushing creatively what you can do with it, always gives the best results… memorable communications that inform and inspire. They take many shapes and forms but they all feel, part of the family. Think of all the things that you can make out of those Danish plastic bricks, yet no matter the shape, they will always look like LEGO™.
Shouldn’t that be how communications work? Build anything, answer any brief but always be instantly recognisable as belonging to the brand and having the brand values? Sometimes though, that might mean challenging your comfort zone. Doing things that you hadn’t thought about. Go on, put that 2x2 stud slope block backwards on the front of your space ship!
In the bad old days of corporate video the method of being, “on brand” was, make the background a brand colour, bang the logo in the top right and make sure you use the ‘tone of voice’ guide. It was an ultra-conservative interpretation of brand guidelines and usually came about due to budget restriction caused by the much higher production cost that existed before powerful computers, digital delivery and intuitive animation software.
Thankfully those days are gone, yet sometimes there’s still a tendency to hold the reins tightly when it comes to interpretation of a brand.
Of course, it would be a strange state of affairs for a client to come in and just ask us to go nuts, throw the guidelines over our shoulder and start scribbling. I do completely understand that there are very defined limits to what you can do with a brand. But I also feel, that certainly in the field of internal communications, you should be giving the creative freedom to get close to those limits. Not to break them, no. As I said earlier, it’s got to feel “part of the family” but staying away from the edges ultimately means walking a narrow and restricted path down the middle.
Internal video communications can, in my opinion, be some of the most challenging work that you can do. Consider the multitude of things that you have to talk about with a workforce, everything from how to lift a box correctly, to what’s going to happen with their pension. So would you really use the exact same approach each time, the safer, narrower interpretation of the brand guidelines? Because if you did, what your video would be, is a Star Wars LEGO™ X-Wing…
See. We haven’t strayed very far from LEGO™. Apologies, but bear with me here…
The Star Wars LEGO™ X-Wing is a thing of beauty. It costs about a hundred quid, it’s rarer then hen’s teeth and perfectly captures Joe Johnston’s retro future design. But if I was to drop my LEGO™ X-Wing on the floor and try and build an Audi RS4 out of it, I will come away very disappointed. All the parts are the wrong colour, too many specialised bricks, just inappropriate to the task. The kit will only ever build an X-Wing.
And this brings us to what can cause internal videos to fail. With a narrow interpretation of brand that forbids different approaches and techniques for fear of not being, “on brand”, you can get a suite of communications that blend into an anonymous sequence of background noise. When actually, with proper care, attention and understanding of the guidelines you can push the edges of the envelope, but still be one hundred per cent on brand.
This lets each communication be an individual message with its own identity, that has impact, but is still part of your brand. It will employ the right techniques for the message you’re communicating, getting maximum impact and buy-in from the viewer.
There are some interesting ideas on this at the moment around just how far that should go with a brand. UCLA carried out an experiment and came to the conclusion that we can suffer from “attentional saturation” in that; the more we see something, the less we notice it. Could this give rise to mainstream responsive branding?
So go on, give your creative that big ice-cream tub of brand bricks, have your guidelines be flexible like the “Idea Book”. Let them build the perfect model space ship and then turn it into a robot with lasers. You know it’s going to look like LEGO™ when they’re done.