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Not Your Kind? Branding Lessons from Slipknot

Satanist aesthetics, derogatory attitudes and lyrics that refuse to shy away from the brutal vulgarity of modern life… Slipknot tick all the boxes for the latest underground cult. Yet they just played a television slot on Jimmy Kimmel in front of America’s prime time audiences, have 7 Grammy nominations to their names and are on track for a third smash hit album with the hotly anticipated We Are Not Your Kind.

 How the hell are Slipknot so successful?

Their branding and business sense has a lot to do with their continued success. Let us explain…

The Dos and Don’t of Branding like Slipknot

Nail Your Visual Identity

From the moment a bunch of masked men started making traction on the festival and gig circuits of the mid 90s, Slipknot had a very recognisable set of aesthetics that defined them to audiences – regardless of whether or not they knew their music. The masks, boiler suits and love of horror show iconography saw Slipknot gain recognition for their appearance as well as their hardcore live shows and pithy lyrics.

Whilst brands can learn a lot from the consistency and dedication Slipknot have for their visual identities, it isn’t without risk. A brand as divisive and shocking as Slipknot walks a tightrope between being a success and a gimmick. Also, the outright shocking nature of their image can cause people to turn from their music. Many want to hear the music (which is always pretty fucking good) but are put off by the image and associations of a bunch of men shouting in boiler suits.

Closet Slipknot fans, we see you.

DO:

Stay consistent to your brand aesthetics and make your assets recognisable with brand colours, fonts and visuals.

DON’T:

Isolate potential clients by creating a brand that is too niche or off putting. You want to share your values and invite people to work with you. You don’t want to force them to agree or isolate lukewarm leads.

Value Evolution

Like Maiden and Metallica merch, most schools have at least one kid with a Slipknot hoodie. Why? Because like other music greats, Slipknot offer a sense of identity, solidarity and a path that isn’t the mainstream. For a lot of angsty teens, Slipknot are a means of rebellion and expression.

What makes Slipknot a great branding example is how they take this teenage angst and evolve with their audience. There are many ‘grown ups’ who would put 2001’s Iowa on their ‘albums that defined me’ list. The original values of rebellion and anarchy have held strong. This means new fans are becoming Maggots (the charming name given to Slipknot fans) whilst long term fans get a hit of both nostalgia for their youth and a sense belonging from the new music Slipknot are producing.

Their values are shared, strong and established, without suffocating the bands creative expression. It is a perfect mix of traditional, long standing values and the space to evolve with the times.

DO:

Communicate your brand values so that clients who share them feel a sense of belonging and choose to work with you.

DON’T:

Become so entrenched in your values you cannot evolve with the times, your business or your clients’ changing needs.

Personal Branding

Ironically for a band that revolves around masks, the personal branding of Slipknot members, in particular front man Corey Taylor, has a lot to do with the success of the band itself.

photo by Gili Dailes

Taylor has an infamously large ego and even bigger mouth. He is outspoken, unapologetic and strangely charismatic for a guy that spits on crowds on the regular. There is little mystery around the man behind the mask thanks to social media and regular interview circuits, yet this works in their favour.

“You don’t have to like me, but you are going to love me anyway,” 

Corey Taylor

Personal branding can make or break a company if it is executed well. With the advent of the internet and social media, it is becoming harder for business owners to stay separate from their creations. So it may be in your best interests to own your personal branding and let it support the wider image.

DO:

Be aware of how your personal brand affects your business and take steps to stay separate if you don’t want to be the face of your brand.

DON’T:

Feel you HAVE to be the brand. There are still plenty of businesses that run without a face behind it/ in-front of it.  

The Girlboss Problem

The language of business has evolved from ‘Profit and Loss’ or ‘Service Assistant’ to ‘Social Impact’ and ‘Happiness Officer’ as we begin dismantling suffocating corporate cultures. This change in language shows the way we talk about business is evolving in response to the changes in the business landscape . Which is a good thing, unless it isn’t. Enter, the Girlboss problem.

The Problem with Girlboss

#Girlboss began as the title of NastyGal founder Sophie Amoruso’s best seller and is also the name of her resource website girlboss.com. So far so good. A new descriptor for a new kind of business, Girlboss originally captured the ‘work smart, hustle hard, believe and achieve’ ethos of a self-made business person. They just happened to identify as female too.

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Just Add Glitter

As the world of business is changing, especially with the rise of self-employed, digitally savvy young women and mom-preneurs, Girlboss has become  popularised across a range of platforms, industries and products.

Like anything overused, it risks losing meaning. With the rise of the empowered entrepreneur the word has begun to appear everywhere from stationery sets to underwear. Often it appears with a floral flourish, spray of glitter and a sprinkle of ‘purchase to increase self-worth’ thrown in too. Suddenly this badass, hard working hashtag is not only describing women but being used to market to them.

#Boyboss

The aesthetics around the Girlboss movement are not an issue until you take a step back and look at the Boyboss aisle. Oh wait, there isn’t one. Because a Boyboss is just a “boss”. Duh.

The language of being a Girlboss has mutated from a term of empowerment, to one of endearment. It’s transformed from a label to signify badass femmes to an aspiration limited by a certain aesthetic, gender and a certain glass ceiling. “Sure honey,” it says “ you can be a woman and a boss, but you can’t be you know, like a real boss”.

The Death of the Girlboss?

Girlboss is not a dirty word. We still use it in our TW Inked hashtags because 1000s of Alternative Business owners still identify with it in a positive way. And to be honest, we do too.

I feel like Girlboss represents women rejecting the traditional business model and doing it our own way

Julia, The Independent Girls Collective

There is also an actual fuck-tonne of empowering an inspirational content out there around the word Girlboss. Just checkout the giphy result page for an instant sense of pride and community around sistas doing it for themselves.

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However, like all things in a state of transition, it is important to watch how a word or label evolves and  asses if it still resonates with you. Here are a few things you can do to check in with the language you use in your company to see if it is hurting or helping you connect with your audience.

Check in with Your Values – does the language you use in your copy and captions translate your business ethos effectively. Do those hashtags reach the people you want to work with?

Keep Educating Yourself – think about how your language affects you, but also those who look to your brand/ company for guidance.

Don’t Label Yourself – You are redefining business and you are a real business owner with or without that hashtag descriptor.

Alternative Businesses and their owners are changing the way business operates and that can be pretty tricky stuff. You are a boss first and foremost regardless of gender. Ensure you resonate with the language you use to help share your values with your audience, and keep them close to your vision too.

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Back to Basics: Branding

TW Inked offers a range of Branding Packages and resources for small businesses with an Alternative agenda, but what actually is a ‘Brand’ and do you need one?

Long answer short, yes you do. Here’s why.

Brand Beginnings

Coming from the old Norse for ‘burn’, branding originally referred to the marking of property (often living -eek!) to show ownership. The word has evolved a little since and now has a whole host of business and marketing connotations attached. The Oxford English Dictionary defines branding as:

A type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name.

Source


…which isn’t actually that helpful in our opinion. Time to go deeper than a simple Google.

Photo by Patrik Michalicka on Unsplash

Untouchable Branding

As economies picked up with the baby boomer generation over the second half of the 20th century, branding became a means of defining not only a product and its owner, but also the values and purpose of that larger company.

A brand went from a simple description (“so and so is made by that brand”) to an:

“Intangible sum of a product’s attributes.”

David Ogilvy

This intangible nature is often what makes branding hard to grasp for small and large businesses. How can you package something you can’t hold? This question is especially relevant in today’s service-led digital industries too.

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…story of the modern brand

Mixed Messages

Branding becomes tricky as it needs to be both consistent (using the same colours, images and language tone across all your channels) but also fluid (companies need to be dynamic and brands will evolve as you do). This is why it is important for businesses to root their branding in their core values. In most circumstances, no matter how things change, your business values and core ethos is unlikely to vary wildly.

Easy Ways to Nail Branding

It is SO important as an Alternative business that you clearly communicate your brand to potential clients and customers. Although a brand has become an external perception of your business and products, there are a few ways you can steer this perception in a positive direction.

  1. Be Consistent – use the same colour scheme, graphics style and icons across all your channels.
  2. Use Scripts – Make sure your copy all adds up. Writing some super baisc scripts to base your communications on will save you heaps of time and make everything seamless to your ideal customers eye.
  3. Create a Brand Bible – This is a go to document that you can refer to, or share with your team, to make sure everything you create stays on brand. Fun fact this is one of our most favourite things to do ever, so let us help.

We’ll be going into these in more detail in future posts but for now, stick to these golden rules and give your brand the foundations it needs to support your business now and in the future.

If you have any questions about building a Brand rooted in your companies values, or how to use it, book a Branding consultation with us here.

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I’m with the Brand

Sex, drugs and brand guidelines all have something in common and it’s not the advertising scene in the 80s…

You can learn a lot about about brand identity from Rock and Roll. From staying on brand with logo fonts to cultivating a community of advocates and fans, bands are often the perfect example of what a brand is beyond the physical assets. Not sure how they Come Together or what you can learn by tapping into your inner Mick Jagger? Read on, Daydream Believers…

Continue reading “I’m with the Brand”
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Why Your Instagram Sucks

Facebook suffered the largest outage in its history recently. But no one really cares about that. No, what people are talking about those horrible, empty hours when Facebook’s other site refused to load. Suddenly we had to enjoy our outfits, meals and adventures without broadcasting them to the world. We struggled. If it’s not on Instagram, did it even happen?

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For the Gram

How did a photo filter app suddenly dictate hours upon hours of our lives? As a social media marketer, i.e millennial with something to say, I get asked about Instagram a lot. If you asked me how important it was only 18 months ago, I would have quite possibly fallen to me knees in praise of the almighty Gram that can both giveth to small businesses and take away with one fell swoop of the algorithm. Now, I find myself getting a little frustrated.

Just Do Good Business

Instagram can be an asset to small businesses. It can help with reach, it can connect like-minded individuals, it can become a public billboard where your message is seen. But it canalso be a big waste of your limited resources. Especially when there is SO much focus on Instagram that we forget the basics of business.

Instagram > Everything Else?

We all get so starry eyed around being good on Instagram that we forget to be good in business. As the old adage goes, we are putting the cart before the horse. Small start-ups and entrepreneurs are most at risk when they focus so heavily on Instagram because, unlike giant corporations with an account for every global region, they are less established and have less resources to spend.

The danger is we become so focussed on the Gram that we forget the very thing we started the business account for: the business. Focussing less on delighting and serving our customer base, improving our offering and being nice people in our ‘real life’ business relationships in favour of content hunting, trendsetting and hashtag, geolocation scheduling can never end well.

We create campaigns that look good, and share our products and services in an aesthetically pleasing way. Great, but we can lose the core purpose of Instagram marketing (sales, conversion, food in our belly in most cases) as we do so. We risk becoming smoke and mirrors, focussing more on the hype around our businesses than our businesses themselves.

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Instagram is not Your Product

Here’s the thing. Instagram is a channel, it is not your product. Instagram can most definitely help you achieve your business goals but it is only part of the puzzle. It should not be your only marketing strategy. Think of it as a supplement to your business. It can help for sure, but it isn’t going to provide you will all you need to survive. The meat and bones of your company, whatever you do and whatever you sell, is the company itself.

Your business values, ethos, reason for being, product and services. Those things make your business and, although often much less sexy than Instagram and other marketing trends, these are the elements that will establish your company. Word of mouth from delighting customers travels fast, strong values and ethics translated into your actions and design says a lot more than any social caption. Systematic strategy, consistent valuable content and strong values to guide decision making are much more effective in making your business successful. Especially if your version of success involves a strong, loyal client base, being oversubscribed and being a leader in your industry.

Values add Value

Of course, there is value in partnering with influencers, running ads and looking swish on the feed. But the ROI is often grossly exaggerated. How will your 1M followers actually help your business? How will your high engagement result in conversion? What value does Instagram add to your business if the only time people see it is on the toilet, swiping before they’re wiping? (Hey, if you’re a toilet roll company, this could actually be perfect, it is all relative to your business).

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Instagram provides touch points between you and your customers. This is valuable. It provides chances to show what you do, this is valuable. However, if you are not doing much apart from Instagram on Instagram, this becomes hollow and fruitless. It is a tool, but we are treating it like it is the tool. Worse still, we treat it like it is our tool, putting more effort and focus into curating a feed than we do to developing our own tools: our products and services. We are so busy trying to look like good businesses, we risk missing the opportunities that prove that we are good businesses with our actions.

What Can You Do About It?

Instagram is not your business, so stop obsessing over it as if it is. Take a look at the why behind your Instagram strategy and see if it really is worth the time you spend on it. Make sure your marketing strategy is diverse to avoid over relying on any one platform and ensure that you put as much, if not more, effort into your real life relationships as you do your digital ones.

For more tips on social media and design and an obscene amount of Gifs in articles, follow the TW Inked newsletter over here.

2019 Design Trends

We all love New Year. It is all fresh starts and rarr rarr energy and all those fuck ups from last year officially no longer belong to you. Head in the punch at NYE? That was the old you. And those design trends from 2018? GONE! (well, not really, we still love quite a few of them…)

Upcoming Designs Trends

It is also time to start looking ahead to what is coming our way in the the world of design trends. You may have seen a few already but these are my favourites and I can’t wait to start using them!

Colour

Pantone’s colour of the year for 2019 is Living Coral, which feels fresh and bright after 2018’s otherworldly “Ultra Violet’.

This bright pop of colour will likely lead the way for vibrant, tropical inspired colour palettes to steal the show as 2019 gets underway. Other colour design trends to keep an eye out for include dreamscape colour themes and the use of gradients. Think the psychedelic 60s, but more refined.

The Previous Pantone Colours of the year are far from outdated, just expect to see a lot of Coral colour palettes on your radars soon
Bonus

Cat over at Gatto has an amazing guide to 2019s colour trends, have a look here.

Draw the Line

I am a big fan of minimal elements in design, swooning over white space and simple lines that say more than their over complicated counterparts. So I was pretty thrilled to read that a some of the key design trends for 2019 involved minimalist graphics and letter merging.

Another design trend to keep an eye out for is floating elements. This ties in nicely with the move towards open composition I will mention towards the end of this article. There is a real sense of ‘breaking free’ in this years trends and this sings to the rebel (and Freddie Mercury) in all of us.

Metallica returns

I bloody love using metallic textures in design. They simultaneously add character and professionalism and make it easy to suggest values such as “abundance” or “intergalactic”.

So hip hip hooray for the return of metallic tendencies for 2019 design trends! Whilst metallic silver has been on the radar for a while, it is predicted that more multicoloured and irredecent metallics will start appearing on packaging across the market. Sunglasses ready, it is going to be shiny.

Nice and Shiny

Be Free – Open Composition

2019 is the year of rule breaking and mind expansion, or at least that is what is happening when it comes to composition in design. Open composition encourages viewers to, quite literally, think outside the box and makes them wonder “what else is there?” making more design that is both captivating and engaging.

These guys show how it is done.

You can tap into this trend by simply showing only a part of the whole within the borders of the design, encouraging viewers to use their imagination to fill in the gaps. This means it can be used for both digital and print designs too. Winning.

What are your key design trends for 2019? Do you have any that you hate? Let us know in the comments below!

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How to Fuck Up your Design’s Layout (and How to Fix it)

Layout is how the elements of a piece interact with each other to communicate with the viewer.

Me.

A key role of a designers job is to take big messages and organise them in an easy digestible way so that the viewer understands exactly what the client wants to convey.

Therefore, Layout plays a really big part in every designer’s life.

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With that in mind, here are some things to definitely NOT do if you want your design layout to work for you, not against.

How to Fuck Your Layout Up

  • Go overboard with photos
  • Use poor quality, badly composed photos (find out more about GOOD photography here)
  • Take aforementioned badly composed photos and place them in random positions all over the place
  • Giving too much information, like that time you told the bouncer about your urinary tract infection to get to the bar, sorry bathroom, quicker.
  • Being too text heavy. Most of the time your design will need to act fast to get the message across. Providing ALL the small print in one hit is only going to get the message ignored.

And How to Unfuck it

  • Use photography to set the tone of the piece. Think about the message you want your piece to convey. What should the photo be? Do you want it to be the first thing to catch the viewers eye?
  • Entice with just the right amount of info: what is the one thing you want viewers to take away from this piece? This should be the focal point of text and then use headings and sub headings to expand on the title/headline just enough to stay interested and take action.
  • Make the most of White Space. Having a large amount of white space is quite clean and conveys a sense of calm professionalism. Because elements crowded together can induce panic attacks. this tends to be less effective. So make sure you include negative space around the margins of a piece for maximum efficiency.
  • Reread these basic tips on balance and composition in design. Then use them.
  • Find your Focal Point and maintain it. Like having a single focus on the messaging of your piece, having a single focal points saves mixed messaging and confusion.