A Branding Misunderstanding

When you put your corporate logo on every PowerPoint slide, have you done your job of “branding” your presentation?

Not according to Jason Fried, principal of the design firm 37signals, who said in a recent interview that a logo can become a self-imposed obstacle you put in the way of your communications:

“Is the audience so dense that they are going to forget who is presenting and needs to be reminded by a logo or corporate branding on every slide (of course they aren’t, but why do so many presenters treat them as such?)? I believe the most effective slide designs are those where the message is the absolute focus. Nothing should get in the way — no header, no corporate branding, no logo, etc. If a slide requires a full screen image, then the image should get the full screen and not have to be shrunk and wedged into place so it conforms with template or corporate branding guidelines. Same with a word or a phrase or a series of points — give the information the full stage at all times. I might miss an opportunity to brag, but not to brand. My message is my brand — not my logo.”

The president of the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Graphic Arts Center for Brand Experience, Nathan Shedroff, was in alignment with Jason’s thinking during a recent interview. But Nathan explained that when designers decide to put a logo on every PowerPoint slide, it is a reflection of a shallow understanding of branding:

“The people who made those decisions were visual people, and they were probably traditional designers, and so the only thing that means anything to them is visuals. Brand is a more conceptual thing, and if you operate at that conceptual level, you’ll figure out that the brand can be consistent whether the visual is there or not. If a brand has been developed at that level, then you’ll be able to pull things out of it, even in the absence of visuals. What are those people going to do in radio? There’s no way they can see the logo on a radio, so are they lost? Do they just give the work to someone else? Or do they realize that there are other attributes of the brand that can be expressed? If they can go up to that level, they can come back down and say maybe we haven’t done our job totally by just slapping a logo on there, because we haven’t looked at any of the other attributes.”

This PowerPoint branding misunderstanding runs deep and wide, and extends all the way from creative services departments to the world’s largest ad agencies, branding and identity firms. It is a great example of how PowerPoint is forcing us to re-think a wide range of business issues from the bottom up.

In reality, PowerPoint is a unique pathway that can help people live out a company’s purpose and values in their daily lives. After a major re-branding initiative at a large corporation, 24% of people in the company said they had made changes in their job related to the new brand, and 46% wanted more guidance about how to translate the brand into action. But all they got was a PowerPoint template “for the administrative assistants to use,” according to the branding agency’s creative director. We can go much, much deeper than that.

In books and articles, branding may be an abstract or theoretical concept. But branding misunderstanding becomes very real when, as Jason points out, your PowerPoint stands in the way of your message, limits your choices, shrinks and wedges your images, and makes you appear to be arrogant.

Tip: A quick fix here is to move your logo off your screen and onto your handouts. If your logo is sitting on your Slide master, move it to your Notes master. Now it’s our of the way of your in-person experience, but it still resides on paper handouts when you’re no longer present. Whether you do this or not, it’s always a good idea to step back and think more deeply about your brand. How would you express your brand over the radio? Over television? Deepen your thinking about brand as far as you can go, then come back up and take a fresh look at how you – and your audience – see PowerPoint.

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4 Responses to “A Branding Misunderstanding”

  1. Tuna Lou says:

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  2. Tuna Lou says:

    Really good work. I found a lot of profound information which can help me to go on. Thanks for all this input.

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