Garbage in equals garbage out: why clear branding online is critical

March 31, 2020

Watch your inputs!  

The phrase ‘Garbage in, garbage out’ was coined by an IBM programmer in the 1960s to emphasise that outputs were only as good as the inputs. Companies couldn’t simply dump data into their computers; they needed the right data.

This concept applies to many other fields, including branding. I mean you can’t simply throw money at your brand and expect effective results online. Or blog every day or tweet every hour and think you’re gonna go viral. Your message—your inputs—need to be strategic, consistent and connected to your audience.

As businesses take their operations online big time with the onset of COVID-19, the learnings from this are more pronounced.

Rebranding a digital agency

As Managing Director at Luminary, Australia’s brightest digital agency, Adam Griffith knows the value of good inputs to your brand. He’s proud to have worked with some of the biggest brands in Australia, as well as some of the most innovative.

Adam helps people, companies and organisations generate value from digital assets.
His academic background in business, actuarial science and finance, combined with 20 years of experience in the digital marketing industry, means he advises his clients with one foot firmly in their world of business and marketing, while applying many years of technology and digital marketing expertise.

He has even gone through a rebrand himself with his agency.

‘Brand is a mark, whether visual, or word or name. But deep down in going through this process of rebranding our agency, what became obvious to me is that your brand is what people—whether customers, clients, employees, friends, family—think about you, both rationally and emotionally.

‘What we realised when we started on that journey was that our brand wasn’t representative of who we thought we were or wanted to be. So we had a fundamental mismatch of what our brand was and what we thought it was.’

‘What we realised when we started on that journey was that our brand wasn’t representative of who we thought we were or wanted to be. So we had a fundamental mismatch of what our brand was and what we thought it was.’

Keeping your brand fit

As a seasoned digital agency owner, Adam knows only too well the importance of working with a well-articulated brand strategy and brand design rules.

Adam says a website is an obvious brand output. But it needs the input of a clear brand strategy and visual brand, so that it can deliver powerful user experiences.

‘We’re not brand experts and it shouldn’t be our job to do that. That’s where the challenges can come from. Clients should have these foundations in place before investing in digital.’

‘The website for a lot of our clients is the single most important touchpoint they have with current or potential customers in terms of volume. So it’s a critical representation of their brand. So if we’re unable to align that perfectly with their brand then we haven’t done our job properly.’

‘What you’re developing is an asset you need to continue to work on. When clients have done the strategic branding work—not just the logo but all the thinking, it gives a launch pad for us to do amazing work. Where we see the most value is when clients come to us with that already prepared. They have brand sorted, and keep an eye on it. It’s like fitness. You have to keep your brand fit by constantly working on it and referencing it.

Adam often has to tell a client they’re not ready for a digital agency, and he gets pushback on that. He says, ‘We prefer when a branding expert is closely involved in these projects. That’s where we see the most value.’

Unfortunately, very few clients have a perfectly clarified and articulated brand style guide where everyone is on the same page. Some have nothing. Where there is no alignment, no shared view, a digital agency risks getting bogged down in minutiae because the brand isn’t clear. And so rather than focusing on user experience, the end result—the output—is garbage.

Many could get away with sloppy inputs in the past. But in the time of COVID-19, with everybody going online big time, there is no wiggle room for brands not getting their digital messaging right–and on brand.



Another brick in the wall

‘As far as client expectations, they should see their digital projects as an opportunity to represent their brand with integrity. So when you’re thinking about brand as a marketer, you want to ensure that that’s how your audience sees you, and your website or social channels or app are an opportunity to represent your brand in the right and consistent way.’

User experience is key. One of Adam’s clients was a brick manufacturer that wanted to encourage a love of bricks!

‘When you’re building a house, you’ve got to choose a brick. And that’s a really challenging decision to make. We were brought in to solve how we could use digital to help the organisation convert better at selection centres. People would go to these centres, look at bricks, tiny little bricks, and slightly bigger walls of bricks, but inevitably the question was, what does that look like on a big house?

‘And they would be given the address of a house to drive to. Because of that, they were losing customers at the point of sale. So we were brought in to envision and design and implement a visualiser to help customers see the different bricks on their house in 3D, to really envision what their house would look like with brick x or brick y.

And getting back to Luminary’s own rebranding experience, what results did Adam see?

He says the rebrand helped them feel prouder of who they are.

‘We did this rebrand to position ourselves for staff and future staff. Almost immediately, the amount of people who contacted us for a job skyrocketed.

‘Secondly, the brands who contacted us lifted dramatically. We went from the types of people who were contacting us not being the right fit, to global organisations coming to us to help them with their digital platform.’

Sadly, the business casualties from COVID-19 are likely to be massive, from mum and dad restaurants to major hotels and airlines. The survivors will be those with a good balance sheet, strategic leadership, dedicated employees, relevant offerings and a distinctive digital brand with an arresting online user experience.

This blog post was inspired by an interview between Darren Taylor and Adam Griffith on Rebranding Branding: The Podcast. If you would like to hear the interview, listen or subscribe here.

Picture of Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor

MD & Head of Strategy and Research

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