Many consumer product companies can now trace the lineage of their brands back to the 19th century  .  .  .  a longer period than many families. These same companies, and the designers that serve them, might benefit from thinking of their brands as family.

Yesterday I wrote about the sudden death of Roger Rosenblatt’s daughter in 2008, and the fact that he and his wife immediately moved in with their son-in-law to help take care of his young family. Apparently after a short period of time one of their young granddaughters asked him how long he was going to stay.

Forever, he answered.

It would be nice to think that marketers, and designers, had a similar long-term level of commitment to building their brands. But too often personal goals and the system for brand identity management within their companies, preclude it.

We live in a time when most politicians, constantly running for office, seem incapable of making any tough long-term decisions, many in the C-Suite make short-term decisions merely to inflate quarterly earnings statements and their bonuses, and certainly the financial services industry is accused of profiting from both sides of the trade while our economy trembles.

While this chaotic environment doesn’t make the headwinds against building long-term brand identity unique, it does give it some context. There is a long list of reasons for this, that can often be traced to the short-term relationships most involved in this process have with the brands they manage.

We are all familiar with the motivations of corporate marketing staff who know they will be assigned to a brand for only a few short months, or the misguided advice given by designers hired on a short-term project basis. Brands, like family, need to be nurtured.

To deal with this crisis, Grant McCracken has one idea with his notion of a Chief Culture Officer at every company. My suspicion is that the Rosenblatt’s not only make toast and clean behind their grandchildren’s ears, they also act as the CCOs of this young family.

I suspect that if a marketer or designer was told that they were going to spend the rest of their career building just one brand, they would handle the process differently. We just might begin to treat this commitment much like the way we treat the nurturing of a grandchild.

And can you imagine a world where every politician, CEO, bond trader, or designer thought about the future of their grandchildren before making any decisions.

Just like the Rosenblatts.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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