Creating Believable And Consistent Brands Through Repeating Patterns [PSFK CONFERENCE SF]

Creating Believable And Consistent Brands Through Repeating Patterns [PSFK CONFERENCE SF]

PSFK talks to designer Marc Shillum about how a brand must have multiple, smaller iterations of a single big idea in order to achieve relevancy in the digital age.

Timothy Ryan, PSFK Labs
  • 28 october 2012

PSFK is excited to welcome designer Marc Shillum as a speaker at PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO. Marc is a Principal at Method, where he works across disciplines to manage brand coherence in today’s iterative environment. Marc is the author of Brands As Patterns, which posits that creating a believable and consistent brand begins with the creation of coherent patterns. On November 1st, Marc will discuss what it means to consider brands as patterns and how that method can help build dynamic relationships between brands and customers.

At PSFK Conference San Francisco, you will talk a little about thinking of brands as patterns? How did you reach this conclusion?

I grew up in branding agencies understanding that consistency was king—and the most valuable thing you could have in any brand engagement.

But, after working within digital companies and startups, I became aware that relevance has become more important, perhaps even more valuable than consistency. What can you make, and how quickly can you get the product to market?

I realized that relevance is a powerful force that challenges how you organize your brand, because relevance is iterative. Inconsistency is something that is pretty difficult to manage, but you also don’t want to keep sending the same message at the same time at the same place, because it’s going to make you look mechanical.

Knowing that consistency is related to value for a business, the question became: How do we achieve consistency while also being relevant and differentiated?

I started out as a music major and art major at school in the UK and I saw how this was done through music; it was easy to remain consistent over time and remain relevant. In music, this is achieved through the organization of a pattern; e.g. you play the music, but each time you vary it a little bit. To me, thinking about brand consistency as periodic variance is the way I came to the concept of branded patterns.

Where does that process begin? 

I began by looking at what makes a pattern a pattern, which requires certain level of symmetry and a certain frequency of repetition; it does repeat, but it doesn’t repeat all the time. There is also a certain level of variance. How far can it vary and still remain a pattern? I began to look at this in the abstract and then I applied it to business.

If you think about frequency, the question becomes, how do you manage your brand coherently over time? The world around your brand has a frequency, including the decisions of your customers. Their likes, dislikes, and levels of fear or willingness to take risks all occur with a certain frequency. As a result, you’ve got to think about your brand as a frequency. In that same vein, your communication has a frequency as well as your ability to actually create content.

In other words, your ability to deliver a brand, product, or service to market relies on some interconnected frequency of demand, delivery, and production. If you create the wrong level of demand or production, you can flood the market with your product and people don’t want it anymore.

Can you think of an example to help illustrate?

Take the iPhone 4 as an example. I knew it was coming and I knew I wanted it, yet I hadn’t seen an advert. It was about the frequency of the product. I knew when to expect it.

If you look at the world just in terms of frequency, you know the customer has a frequency. There is a frequency of purchase, a frequency of consideration or interaction, and a frequency of information consumption. If you look at publishers, they have traditionally had a frequency, and now they’re jumping into channels that have a much faster frequency, and they are struggling keep up.

Consider the development of your product as a frequency, which asks: How quickly can you generate ideas, how quickly can you prototype, and how quickly can get them to market? If you start to think about all those overlapping frequencies, if any one of them is not aligned, it is going to create dissonance. As soon as you create dissonance, it affects the quality of your intent.

Organize your operation to get the best out of each one of those frequencies. If you only create messages at a certain speed, or create a product at a certain speed, then think about the kinds of channels of communication and the kind of content that you need to make that coincide with it.

What is the challenge to maintaining Patterns?

I guess the simplest challenge, is to say, “We’ve always done that, haven’t we? We’ve always varied who we are. We always vary messages.” At Method, our answer is to say, “OK, let’s do an audit. Let’s look at what you actually said and see how much you do and don’t.”  A big challenge is contending with a subset of people who think this is the status quo.

Another challenge is people who find no value in brand thinking at all. They say, “I’m just going to make a good product and I don’t need brand to do anything.”

As companies grow up—look at Facebook, Twitter—they’re all having to deal with the problem, which is that as your product portfolio and offering gets bigger, you have to start changing. You realize there’s a core, fundamental challenge to you, which is how do you scale your belief? How do you maintain the quality of your product? Suddenly, you have to organize a brand.

At that point, you can have a powerful product, but unless it creates a deeper engagement, it doesn’t really deliver on its potential value. That is something I learned from advertising. Making a product interesting and connecting people to it on an emotional level is paramount. Taking systematic minds that live in the engineering world, or interaction design or product design world, and helping them understand the power of storytelling and the power of emotional connection is the key.

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. I looked at the landscape six or seven years ago, and in terms of brand development, no other branding company had even considered thinking of brands as patterns. I am thrilled to be exploring the idea with Method clients.

Method // @method_inc

Please join us on November 1st to hear Marc discuss rethinking of brands as patterns in the digital age at PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO.


Machine Printer Uses Coffee Drips To Create Intricate Portraits

Arts & Culture
Technology Yesterday

Why Nest Doesn't Get The Holidays

PSFK founder reacts to the damaging effects of poor email marketing

Children Yesterday

Robots Could Be Joining Dubai’s Police Force In 2017

The real-life RoboCops can salute, shake hands and collect traffic fines


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Travel Yesterday

Parka Hides And Charges Portable Devices

Bolt is a jacket that lets people carry and charge their various electronics without the need for an outlet

Related Expert

Jennifer Kinon

Designer & Educator

Food Yesterday

Yelp's New 'Yelfie' Feature Lets Diners Take Selfies

The update is designed to encourage people to attach a selfie when they share their experiences

Design & Architecture Yesterday

Build Your Own Savory Cheese Advent Calendar

A British food blogger has created a guide to building a different kind of holiday surprise

Fitness & Sport Yesterday

Floating Gym Concept In Paris Is Powered By Your Workout

The proposed design from Carlo Ratti Associati lets passengers ride a stationary bike as they travel through Paris along the Seine River


Future Of Retail 2017
Transformation Strategies For Customer-First Business

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Customer Service Expert: Why Offline Retail Has Better Data Than Online Retail

Healey Cypher, Founder and CEO of Oak Labs, shares why we should be thinking about the physical store as an e-commerce site

PSFK Labs december 1, 2016

Retail Spotlight: Home Depot Reimagines How Employees Conduct Tasks

The home improvement retailer puts the customer first by initiating local fulfillment centers and simplifying freight-to-shelf inventory management

Syndicated Yesterday

What Does The Future Of Android Look Like In A World With The Pixel?

Google’s decision to make its own phone might have looked like a blow to the likes of Samsung but the reality is much more interesting

Fashion Yesterday

Alexander McQueen Designs A 3D-Printed Umbrella

3D-printed fashion arrives in time for the winter season

Work Yesterday

Why Training Associates To Be Advocates Is Key To Retail Success

In our Future of Retail 2017 report, PSFK Labs discusses strategies to prioritize customer service, which begins with associate advocates

Media & Publishing Yesterday

Netflix Creates Binge Candle To Celebrate A New Season Of Gilmore Girls

The streaming service developed a special layered candle that creates candle with episode-specific smells


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Automotive Yesterday

Audi And LEGO Exhibit Autonomous Vehicle Installation

The installation at Design Miami explores the 25th hour, which represents bonus productive work or play time

Gaming & Play Yesterday

This Game Lets You Be A Pilot In The Drone Racing League

DRL Racing Simulator recreates actual courses in a virtual environment

Travel december 1, 2016

Hotel Chain Is Giving Away Its Not-So-Super Hotel Art At Art Basel

A lesson in how to advertise a kitschy-to-cool redesign in the middle of Miami Art Week

No search results found.