When Uber realized, in 2016, that customers didn't resonate with the logo, they decided to change it up. Their complete redesign leaned heavy into simplicity, with much more focus on customers perception of what they could offer over a non-resonating logo. Perhaps what Uber didn't realize then was the forward thinking approach to creative they strategized around would be the market trend just a few years later. I brought in Andre Filip of California based Global Creative Ad Agency ELA, to talk about this and more.
Creativity Is Getting Bland
Filip founded ELA ("Everything LA") in 2004 to capture the spirit, culture, vibe, and attitude of LA, where his creative energy and zest for advertising began. At ELA, their teams are encouraged to push boundaries and embrace chaos, and based on their client list- PepsiCo, Thermador, Starbucks, to name a few- this strategy seems to be working. In a world full of by-the-rules ad agencies, Filip proved a true creative visionary, and very generous with his knowledge. For me, a RISD graduate with over 25-years of innovating experience, it's easy to see the branding perception gap growing. Creativity is falling flat is so many places, so it's important to look to outliers, like ELA, for inspiration in these growing pains.
Let's Talk About the Gap
This brand perception gap represents what a business thinks of themselves (or thinks the consumer thinks of them) versus what the consumer actually thinks. And to be honest, this misalignment happens more often than you might think. Businesses need to be having honest conversations about their long-term brand perception goals, to stay in alignment with where they stand with consumers.
Kicking Out Comfort
As Filip puts it, we are all born with the knowledge that anything is possible, but eventually we lose that, and social programming leads us to most often choose what's comfortable. To close the brand perception gap, we have to get away from this- we have to be willing to choose new, uncomfortable, different- and we have to learn to trust the voices that most resonate with our brands and consumers. Why? Because this is how we increase revenue while increasing our impact.
Get Comfortable with Freedom
The thing about creative freedom is that it doesn't always fit in a box, nor should it, but owners and startups have to be okay with this. Ditch the matching luggage set. Think about cohesion plus uniqueness... think about strategy plus creative execution... think about breaking every single piece down, to rebuild it all new. "If we knew what we would find, we wouldn't go through the process." In action, this approach looks like:
Trusting your voice. Allow your voice to carry the same message, but change across different platforms. What you would put on Instagram, you might not put on a commercial or Facebook ad. Skip the templates, change it up, accept freedom as a way to connect more authentically with your people.
Questioning everything. This will allow you to break down every process and belief system you are holding onto, to potentially make room for something that is going to work so much better.
Getting personal. Own every piece of what you're building, and then allow yourself to step in and out of that internal place. When a business owner can separate from their business to see what's best, that's when Filip says the most progress is made. And we know progress is another word for profit.
At ELA they believe that experimentation leads to freedom, which ultimately leads to thinking in different ways, which is how everyone should approach their marketing and branding anyway. Filip is often saying to new clients, let's break it and build it back better, an indicator of just how committed he is to helping brands step into their own big shoes.
Last But Definitely Not Least
It's so important for owners to start thinking about their brands like a book. Your packaging might be one chapter, your social media another... and you need to use each of those chapters to develop your brand, to develop your creative. So that, much like a book, each chapter builds on the other and lends to the other. You would never sit in a retail store and read the entire brand book, and so think about this as you design each chapter. Ask yourself, do the chapters make sense together? Do they build upon one another? Do they each tell the same story in their own unique way? What story is that? And most importantly... is it one that others want to read?