Method Acting: What Branding Direction Should You Take?
What Big Ass Fans’ founder, venture capitalist Carey Smith, lacks in branding nuance, he makes up for in hubris. He tried his hand at creative writing for this Inc. article that breaks down a bad experience at an branding agency into three acts, like a play, complete with stage direction.
This strategy is his Forgetting Sarah Marshall moment. He laments being “roped into” hiring branding agencies and paints them as pick-up artists who miss the point. You’ll want to ask him, “Who hurt you?” But before you do, let’s treat his observation of branding operations as he intended: as a film study. And…action!
Smith writes: “[T]hese agencies, interested above all in promoting their own brand, could see only their own vision and hear only their own voice. Most have tried to mold us into their interpretation of our company.”
His narrative reads as part afterschool special, part diary entry. It’s heavy-handed, especially considering he’s only started two companies. We know we’re not like other agencies, so let’s suspend our disbelief a moment.
Smith tries to dismantle the strategic branding process, but in doing so, he highlights the benefits of using a branding agency. Smith writes:
“Every entrepreneur, if asked, would probably agree that to build a brand, they need a strong, distinctive logo, a snappy tagline, and an attractive yet user-friendly website. Every marketing agency eschews such simple desires. They prefer to steer the conversation toward more esoteric realms, talking of ‘DNA,’ ‘identity,’ and ‘voice.’”
Why, yes. That is the point. We don’t want to satisfy “simple desires.” Also, the word “identity” shouldn’t be esoteric to someone who claims to know what’s best for branding.
He goes on: “They refer to ‘assets,’ ‘brand values,’ and ‘color palettes,’…all to create the illusion that their expertise runs deep, and their services are a steal at twice the price.”
Our method isn’t to just hand you a logo and a snappy tagline. Our method involves examining your identity to establish your brand values – concepts Smith dismisses. Personally, we think your voice is integral to your branding. But that’s just us.
Not everyone can be us. We get that. The crux of Smith’s issue with branding agencies – at least, the ones he has interacted with – is that they usually don’t deliver. We’ll spare you more of his prose and paraphrase: he doesn’t like revisions. He doesn’t like revisions. He doesn’t trust people in stylish clothes. He loves putting words like “assets” and “essence” in quotations as if they’re unimportant.
This time, he is missing the point. It sounds like Smith went through several agencies, didn’t get what he wanted, and decided to dismiss agencies altogether. He should have come to us first.
We value your identity, and we know how to get to the heart of it. Without strategy, all you have are nice ideas.
One thing we agree on? We are an exceptionally well-dressed bunch.