Top branding on a shoestring

June 6, 2016

BOLD, a social enterprise creative agency based in Edinburgh, has just launched its BOLD Basics package, specifically designed to help social entrepreneurs create a brand identity on a start-up friendly budget. We spoke to Doug Summers, their senior designer about the importance of branding, their work with socially-minded companies and their love of Pinterest. 

bold graphic landscape

Tell me a little about BOLD

BOLD is a full service branding, advertising and design agency, working solely with charities, social enterprises and ethical companies. We’ve been helping awesome clients across Scotland promote their cause and improve their impact for the past three years.

Why is it important for you to work with more social enterprises?
It’s our mission to give social enterprises the ability to compete on the same level as private sector or bigger budget competitors. We want them to do it properly and have the resources for top quality branding. We’d love everyone to be a social enterprise!

Why is branding important?
It’s the only indication we have about how we feel about a product/service/organisation until we have actually used or sampled it. Branding is essential for attracting the right market, setting yourself up in the right place, communicating your value and showing potential funders that you’re trustworthy. Branding that is confused, unprofessional or does not convey the essence of your cause can really hinder the impact you could make.

Do you feel that branding is more important for a consumer brand than for a B2B brand?
It is equally important. In the past, when people sold concrete and bricks, branding wasn’t as important as you often got repeat business from the same people. In the modern world, both B2C and B2B brands have high competition for business, so you are relying on the perceived attributes of your offering. And let’s not forget that the brand is much bigger that it looks - it’s how you speak on the phone, how you advertise, how the news reports you, your social media activity...

What are the advantages of using an agency instead of handling your branding yourself or asking friends?
It is valid to have ideas yourself and some people are very capable of doing their own logos. But for the most part, it really makes a big difference to sit down with people who live and breathe branding and design. There are so many things to take into account and you will definitely get a better result and avoid some pitfalls.

From what you are saying it sounds like a brand is a lot more than just a logo. It’s a whole universe that includes a lot of different things but concentrating on the logo, what are your 3 tips when choosing a logo?
One would be not to get forced down narrow corridors from your preconceived ideas. Keep open. Another would be to try to condense the whole ethos of the organisation into the simplest mark possible. And a third one would be, when it is being reproduced, imagine the worst case scenario. Keep focused on where it is going to be used.

Would that have an influence in terms of shapes and size?
Shape, size, material, processes, viewing distances... All the things that arise from you considering how it would be used. Because you could design a label and the whole time you are imagining it on a can of beans and then it comes to the website and it’s just the wrong shape or you go to print it and you realise it can’t be done with a one colour process. All kinds of things can come up.

What to look for when choosing an agency or designer to work with?
Firstly, choose an agency who values social enterprise as highly as any other type of business. Secondly, evaluate previous work from that agency and try to gauge how much effort they are going to put in. Who’s going to truly care about your business and work with you to achieve the best possible outcome for you.

Do you think it is good to choose an agency that has done work for similar brands to yourself?
I don’t think it matters. If it shows that they have engaged with a problem and came up with a really good solution that you like, what it is actually for doesn’t make any difference.

Most social enterprises have a small budget, how can you justify spending money on branding?
That’s a short term versus a long term view. If you get the brand right at the beginning, it can literally transform your business three years down the line. It’s a cost that can be spread across the whole life of the brand; it’s an investment. Having something that speaks in the right way to the right people will generate a much more successful business over a long period of time than one that doesn’t.

You are offering a new package for social enterprises, BOLD Basics, could you tell me a little bit about it?
We found that there are a lot of social enterprises on a low budget who still need branding. They also really appreciate upfront cost. So we created a process that is mutually agreeable. There is a process diagram so everyone is on the same page. It is a three-step process. First, we work together on a couple of ideas, you will pick one to develop more. During round two, we will refine it a little more and by round three we are just making tiny changes. By streamlining the process, we can make a cheaper package so that social enterprises can access the same kind of level of branding as bigger budgets.

Have you worked with social entrepreneurs before?
We have worked with loads and loads. Have a look at our work on our website.

You mentioned moodboards, how will you use the Pinterest board in the Bold Basics package?
Pinterest is an absolute genius invention for us designers. Sometimes, words aren’t enough. If you use Pinterest as a thought tool, exploring your ideas and following links, you can find a lot of images that you can pin – stuff you like and stuff you don’t – images will say a thousand words each. Then, we have a discussion with the client, which is crucial, to further define their expectations and ideas. Pinterest is an absolutely brilliant tool for getting to the bottom of design conversation.

You talked about pinning images that they like and don’t like. Is it very important that the social entrepreneur loves the brand that is created?
To love it? Yes. It is very important. There is another side, not so much in a one man organisation, but in a bigger organisation with employees – you really need to help your staff feel a certain way about what they are doing. Like people who work for Apple love that they work for Apple. At the end of the day, it’s just working for a computer company. If you don’t have buy-in from everyone, it won’t work. The brand will get stuck. So if you are changing from the old brand, you are managing change, and you have to be careful. It’s a tough one because it is really important that you do what people want but sometimes they don’t realise what they want!

You are talking about leaving an old brand behind, would the Bold Basics package also be applicable for social enterprises that maybe feel that their branding isn’t working?
Yes I think it is useful for a step up.

The Bold Basics package includes a mini bijou website. Tell me more about it.
It is a simple, one-page website so that your brand has an online presence. It will explain what you do, how people can contact you, and give a flavour of what your brand is all about. It will look and feel equally lovely on a mobile or desktop.

Do you feel that it is ideal for early stage social entrepreneurs because they might not have an awful lot to say? Because it is a small website, it looks nice and professional but it won’t look empty?
Yes. For a lot of businesses, this will do them for years and they can step it up later when they have a bigger budget. Bold Basics offers clients an online presence without loads of separately programmed pages, which is the expensive part.

Will this website be able to grow with the organisation?
Yes, definitely.

We support entrepreneurs all over Scotland. Do they have to come to Edinburgh or Glasgow to work with you?
I have worked successfully on Skype before. I have worked with people as far afield as Australia and America!

Find out more about BOLD Basics.