Effective branding minus frills

Imagine being a fly on the wall at a meeting between the global chairman and the marketing director of a proposed merged practice, listening in as they discuss designs for the new business card a couple of weeks before merger day.

– Global chairman (Ch): ‘Here’s your opportunity to make your mark on the world’s business community and satisfy thousands of partners at the same time. We are a big and dynamic business setting new standards in client service. How have you translated that onto our business cards?’

– Marketing director (Mkt): ‘It’s an exciting challenge.

The first design has, around the edge of the card, the national flags of all the countries in which we practice.’

– Ch: ‘Too expensive to print. The whole point of this merger is to cut costs.’

– Mkt: ‘OK, shoot me down if you like, but what about the individual’s photograph on every card? It would really be helpful to clients as they are introduced to all the new partners and staff and quite frankly it would be brilliant for helping the partners to recognise each other.’

– Ch: ‘We haven’t time to organise photographs and, with our staff-turnover rates, the costs would be prohibitive.’

– Mkt: OK, here’s a card with a very special design on the back. When you tilt it from side to side it shows you and your opposite number shaking hands on the merger deal. See how your arms move up and down?’

– Ch: ‘Shaking hands for eternity? No thanks.’

– Mkt: ‘What about printing them on this magic-eye card?’

– Ch: ‘I can’t see anything.’

– Mkt: ‘Screw up your eyes, defocus, you’ll see it’s our logo.’

– Ch: ‘There’s simply nothing there. Next.’

– Mkt: ‘This is just a long shot, but might be worth discussing. How about the firm’s name in plain black lettering on a crisp white card?’

– Ch: ‘I like it. I really like it. For me that represents our professional, forward thinking and innovative business. Spot on, excellent. With ideas like that, you’re going to go far.’

– Mkt: ‘Thank you. I’ll organise the printing.’

Ann Baldwin, FCA, is a management trainer and speaker.

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