Most of my favorite restaurants and otherwise places to take friends and family out do not distinguish themselves just for the food or drinks. They do so because of the ambience, but most importantly because of the way people treat you.
I think this is usual in most of us; a human touch always makes the experience more personal. Nothing beats the smile of someone who is clearly glad to be there helping you pick your food or serve your wine or recommend a fine dessert for two. It quickly helps us form an image of identity regarding that place, where the food (its core product) suddenly becomes a commodity (we expect it to be good, or else we wouldn’t be there) and that layer of human service sets apart that particular place from a whole world of culinary artists. It becomes its style, its identity.
All sorts of artists distinguish themselves because of their style, which defines how they’re perceived. Banksy broke the rules when he presented something so refreshingly different that he now is one of the most regarded street artists in the world (that and a beautiful unknown identity stunt which just helps increase curiosity around the guy). Picasso did the same 80 years ago with painting (except the identity part). This is how you recognize their trait, their identity, their brand — through their work.
The same thing happens in all sorts of creative communication. The identity of what we do is often a unique mix of who we are and what we believe in with what our environment is willing to accept at that particular point. New business pitches are so important because they help, step by step, slide by slide, change the mindset of a client towards something we truly believe is going to make a difference for them and for the industry.
Working with brands, in that sense, can be schizophrenic because we constantly deal with two identities: our own and the brand’s. As human beings, we will most likely create work which is either two aligned with our own view and not related to the brand’s, or too focused on what already exists in the brand’s universe and therefore carrying no innovation.
Truly gifted artists, however, make it possible to maintain the stability of what a brand stands for while injecting a new layer of style which drives that same brand forward. In that sense, everyone who helps create brands deals with some sort of split personality, which means the best brands in the world might just be the result of a particular type of creative schizophrenia. Maybe we need more of that.