I was screwing around on Facebook the other evening, and saw a post from a friend of mine. She’s been watching this show called Peaky Blinders, which apparently features a *lot* of music by the White Stripes. She was surprised to find out how blues-influenced they were— she thought they were way more punk rock. And if all you’d ever heard was Hello Operator I can see why.
It was Jack White’s dirty, dirty blues guitar that what got me into the White Stripes in the first place. I’d listened to Hello, Operator and Fell in Love with a Girl, but it wasn’t until I heard Ball and a Biscuit for the first time that I thought “Hey. This is pretty awesome.” I’ve been a huge fan ever since.
One thing I’ve discovered during the hundreds of hours of work that have been cranked out thanks to a White Stripes soundtrack is that there are actually a lot of really good design and branding lyrics in their songs. Seriously! To prove it, I’ve put together a list of three songs that have reinforced lessons I’ve learned about branding, courtesy of Jack and Meg.
Ball and Biscuit
And right now you could care less about me
But soon enough you will care by the time I’m done
This is the song that made me fall in love with the White Stripes, and this is the line that made it happen. Really, this is the first thing you learn about branding as a designer:
Nobody is going to buy your product, hire you for the services you provide, or want to hear more of what you have to offer unless they’re at least a little emotionally invested in what you have to say. (There’s also an awesome line in here about finding a soap box where I can shout it out that I sing to myself when I’m working. Again, giant nerd over here.)
There’s No Home For You Here
There’s no home for you here girl, go away
There’s no home for you here
(*Yeah, I know this isn’t the White Stripes in the video. But it’s still pretty bad-ass.)
This is one of those things that took a long time for me to learn about branding: not everyone is your target audience. It’s ok to say “Nope. This isn’t for you.” I spent a lot of time trying to sell bacon to vegetarians before I finally understood—the time I was wasting on trying to convince people who didn’t believe in the idea that branding is the best way to lay the groundwork for success could have been better spent actually making awesome stuff with the people who did.
Don’t be afraid to be very clear about who *your* target is. And don’t be afraid to let the people who aren’t your audience know it. (Although, you know, there might be a slightly nicer way to say it than “Go home”. Unless your brand is about being a jerk. In that case go for it.)
Take all your problems
And rip em apart
(Unfortunately there’s no official video for this song. Which is sad. The one in my head prominently features Jenny Lawson’s taxidermy collection.)
My branding first philosophy is based on the idea of taking complex problems and breaking solving them down into small, manageable steps that can be used as building blocks for the next step. It’s another important lesson to learn about branding: you won’t get as overwhelmed if you can break complex problems into ones you can manage.
It’s why I start solving every problem by making sure there’s a solid brand strategy in place. You can’t talk to an audience until you know who they are and understand what problems you need to solve for them.
It’s also why I make the next step of a project all about developing, editing, and organizing content so that it tells that story in a way that makes people care. When you solve those problems, making decisions about blue vs. green or Garamond vs. Gotham aren’t as complicated because you’ve laid the groundwork already; you can make confident, informed decisions.
Since I’ve already copped several times to what an epic nerd I am, I’m not ashamed to admit that when I get overwhelmed on a branding project I sing this song to myself. It’s an easy reminder that I need to break the design problem down into its smallest components so I can get a handle on it.