Business Insight: OuterEdit

Interview with Ryan Tan and Shermeen Tan

One of the most important things to do for your business is to get your branding done well and properly, but unpacking that loaded process (which can often take months of hard work) can be daunting and expensive. So why the need to invest in branding and how do you approach it if you know nothing about the process? We speak to OuterEdit, a creative agency based in Singapore, for their insights and expertise on developing a powerful brand strategy. OuterEdit is known for their flair for solution-oriented design and a commitment to delivering work that positively impacts communities. Founder Ryan Tan and Director of OuterEdit, Shermeen Tan, have kindly shared their knowledge with us.

Work+ Store (W+S): Tell us a little bit about OuterEdit and what do you do.

Ryan & Shermeen (R&S): We started off as a collaboration-inspired T-shirt shop in 2012 and eventually evolved to become a place that creates solutions and experiences to support brands looking to connect with their audiences in fun, and meaningful ways. Over the last couple of years, we have been given numerous creative challenges covering a wide range of disciplines (including print, digital, and spatial brand experiences), each of which we have approached fundamentally with a creative mind. Beyond aesthetics, what matters most to us is that our work has a positive impact on our clients’ businesses, and serves as a contribution to the community we are in. Our regulars know we rarely take the path of least resistance. We feel it’s by constantly experimenting, refining, and relooking where sometimes the most surprising, unexpected, and effective ideas are found.

W+S: “You need to build a strong brand for your businesses.” We often hear this, but what
does this really mean?

R&S: Essentially, it’s this: who are you, what do you stand for, and why should people care? We believe that building a strong brand is essentially to communicate and establish who you are to a community you wish to serve, and why they should consider you relative to your competition.

Generally, it is easier for a customer to consider buying from a brand they have previously heard of and formed a positive impression of  many time this calls for brands to go beyond clever logos, pretty packaging, and big words. The most forward-thinking brands out there do an impeccable job of earning their way to the top spot in a consumer’s mind. It’s about communicating the essence of your brand clearly, consistently, and constantlyproving to your customers how your brand stands out from the crowd and brings value to their lives before you start pushing your products.

W+S: What questions should business owners ask themselves before they start developing their own brand strategy?

R&S: A few questions which we commonly develop answers for with our clients include:
• What is your product, why does it exist, and what is its ‘right to win’?
• Who are your competitors now and in the future?
• Why should people care about your company/product?
• Who are you selling to? How will you reach them online and/or offline?
• Where do you hope your brand will be in the next 5 years?
• What forms of visual brand assets & platforms are absolutely necessary to most effectively engage your target audience, and grow your business throughout your journey?

W+S: Is it necessary to have a visual brand guideline? What should it include?
R&S: Most definitely. After all that time and effort put in, it’s great to have guidelines to clarify what your brand is: what it stands for; how does it look, feel, and sound like. The guideline will help both your internal team, and any design partner/collaborator/vendor you work with to create assets for your brand. This, in turn, ensures your consumer audience encounters the same clear, consistent brand language that they are familiar with and trust.

Rememberthe brand guidelines are there to clarify and not to confuse or constrict creativity. They should be succinct, and not a 100-page opus, unless you have a very, very good reason for it. A basic brand identity guideline should include:

• An overview of your brand essence
• A breakdown of your master logo and complementing visual assets/elements: what they are, what they represent, and how they are to be applied across collateral of different sizes and media.
• A breakdown of how your brand assets can be applied given certain constraints in colour representation (e.g. black & white, grayscale, monochrome) and background environments (light, dark, reverse-white, coloured, etc.)
• Clear space and minimum size guidelines
• General brand application do’s and don’ts
• Confirmed colour palette
• Typography guidelines
• Written and/or spoken tone of voice guideline
• Contact details of your brand guardian when in doubt

W+S: Emotional branding; does it work?

R&S: Yes, but with caveats. Emotional branding works only when it’s authentic. You can’t just pick an emotion you wish to capitalise on at random. It needs to be something your brand or company believes in and will commit to in the long-term. Needless to say, the way you communicate and the content you communicate with need to resonate with your audience. Consumers are getting savvier and more cynical about advertising and marketing; they can and will sniff a half-hearted fake out.

W+S: When is it time to rebrand? What is your advice for businesses trying to figure out if a brand makeover is right for them?

R&S: Well, first and foremost, we believe that managing your brand will require you to constantly evolve and refine the way you do things to ensure it retains its relevance. It’s important to monitor a brand’s ‘health’ closely over time. The day you realise the disparity between your current brand trajectory and your ideal destination becomes too wide to ignore is the day you should consider a brand realignment or a holistic rebrand for your business.

Of course, a decision to realign or rebrand isn’t an easy one to make, but if you do pursue it, it’s useful to crystallise your objectives behind this undertaking. Bear in mind a brand is not only limited to what it looks and sounds like; beyond the makeup could be a modus operandi, or a belief system that may or may not need some tweaking. Sometimes getting a brand to perform better could be achieved through the refinement of the ‘smaller stuff’. How you look on the outside will matter more when it reflects the improvements that have been made on the inside after all, it can be hard to expect different results by sticking to the same way of doing things.

W+S: Do you have any blogs you follow?

R&S: Brainpickings, Colossal, and Fast Co. Design.