Rise to the Level of Your Brand

Ben Arment is the author of Dream Year | dreamyear.net | @benarment

For 100 years, the University of Oregon’s football team had a losing record. But in 1995, something happened and the Ducks made it to the Rose Bowl and then the Cotton Bowl in 1996. They haven’t stopped winning since. So what changed? They didn’t get a new coach. There were no star athletes.

The year before, in 1994, Phillip Knight, the founder of Nike, approached the team and offered to help them in any way he could. He started by having Nike’s team of talented designers create state-of-the-art uniforms that made them the envy of every college football team.

The Ducks – with their new black and green uniforms – suddenly looked menacing on the field. Their helmet paint alone was made from glass beads and cost $2,400 a gallon. There’s no scientific proof, but it seems that the Oregon football players rose to the level of their uniforms.

Great branding doesn’t just tell the world you’re a serious contender; it doesn’t just create more opportunities for your organization; it helps you perform at a higher level as well.

Your work seemingly grows in importance.

Writer and designer Robin Rendle once bemoaned the experience of reading a book that was poorly constructed. The ideas were intriguing, he said, but the book’s “uncomfortable size and shape” and its “flimsy typesetting” gave the book characteristics of “apathy and exhaustion.”

He went on to say that bad book design not only disrupts the communication of good ideas, but it also disrespects the author’s ideas and treats the reader as a mere stepping stone to accomplish the publisher’s financial goals. A successful book, he argues, creates an emotional bond with the reader through its paper stock, thickness of binding, typeface, cover texture and even aroma.

The same is true for your ideas, projects, and organizations. Great branding makes your work appear legitimate. Quality is the absence of nonquality cues. And whenever you play the designer, the probability of revealing nonquality cues goes through the roof.

I once attended an outdoor wedding where the father of the bride thought it would be a good idea to erect portable toilets around the lawn for the guests’ convenience. Sure, it was easy, affordable, and convenient, but the wedding looked like a construction site and stank like an outhouse. He didn’t pass his idea through the filter of design.

All of us have a bit of that father of the bride inside us. There are moments when we’re tempted to do it ourselves because it’s easier, cheaper, and more convenient. But if you have pride in your idea, take pride in how it’s presented.

A great dream deserves great branding.