Branding has become an integral part of the business eco-system, but how can we become experts on the subject? As part of an ongoing series, PSFK will be chatting with alumni from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) Masters in Branding program. We caught up with former student Anna Buchbauer, to discuss what makes this field so important in today’s society and which companies have created standout examples.
What made you decide to enroll in the Master’s in Branding program. What is it about our current society that makes branding so important?
I am fascinated by the cultural and psychological implications brands have today. Branded objects have become increasingly more meaningful to us. I believe a big piece of that is the chaotic state of flux we live in now. With that, comes the loss of self-identity. It is more difficult to stand out. Every decision we make says something about us, who we are, and what we represent. This extends to brands. They become a reflection of our selves. On a higher level, they are a reflection of what is going on in the world, how we have progressed, and indicate where we might be going. They help tell the story of cultural shifts.
How has having a Masters in Branding degree helped you to further your career?
The most important professional skill I gained from the Masters in Branding program was strategic creativity. What I mean by “strategic creativity” is having original ideas, backing them up with sound reasoning, persuading others to get onboard, and successfully executing the idea. That’s tough stuff! The need for this skill in today’s ultra-innovative world is extremely valuable. I work at a start-up (in a non-branding role) but I apply this skill every single day on the job. I would be nowhere near as effective without this training.
What is the most surprising thing you learned about the process of branding during your time in the program?
I grew much more on a personal level than I expected. I solidified my strengths, worked on my weaknesses, and found a unique point-of-view. When I began the program I could hardly raise my hand during class, I was so unsure of myself. By the end, I was walking around a stage with a microphone giving the presentation of my life. The transformation I went through over the course of one year was for me, a remarkable one. I left a more confident, self-assured being, ready to take on the professional world.
What do you feel is your most valuable experience coming out of the Branding program?
The culmination of the program was a three month long thesis program. We were tasked with creating a branding campaign for a real-world client, who we presented the campaign to at the end of the three months. I have never worked so hard on any one thing my entire life. I learned so much along that journey through the failures and successes of the project. In the end, the hard work paid off. It was a validating experience.
Name two brands you think are standout examples of innovation in terms of their branding strategy, and tell us why.
Warby Parker and Method. Both of these brands are fairly new and successful -- which is tough in our noisy cluttered world. They both implemented strategies with a holistic brand lens. They carefully considered culture, human behavior, business, and design. They identified relevant open gaps in the market, re-imagined what they could be, and brought great products with a social message. Everything was right on.
If you had to offer one key piece of advice to interested applicants, what would it be?
When applying, be honest with yourself. Tell your story. That’s what the best brands are great at: storytelling.
What is the one lesson you learned during the program that you use today in your job on a daily basis?
Giving up is not a f****ing option.