Posts in process out loud
On Brand and Religion Part 1
King David playing the harp by Hendrick ter Brugghen.

King David playing the harp by Hendrick ter Brugghen.

Brand and religion are two things I think about often. Branding is what I choose to do as a career, and religion helps me frame my faith. Not a day goes by when I don't think about these two subjects. However, it's not often that I think of them at the same time. Yet, these past weeks, I've been starting to wonder if the two have more in common than expected. Think about it. Far more than a product, you buy something you believe in. For instance, Nike promises victory. More significant than a shoe or its function, an idea persuades loyal buyers towards Nike products. How does it do it? Like religion, Nike has gods. While they're far from perfect, their stories always end in victory. Consider the recent narrative of Tiger Woods. He was pretty much down for the count after a period of self-inflicted turmoil in his personal life. Then he started to make a comeback. Then he won The Masters. It's practically a miracle. Nike's creative team was there to immediately broadcast a commercial of Tiger's metamorphosis. They weren't selling a product. No, it was a reminder that you can be faithful to Nike and its promise of victory no matter the situation. Sounds a bit like religion, right?

I can't speak for all religions, but in my faith tradition, there's quite the cast of characters. Each purposed, like Tiger, with reminding believers keep the faith. I think of King David (of David and Goliath). Here's a guy, like Woods, who couldn't control his desires and made colossal mistakes. Yet he lands in good graces. He even ends up with a king greater than all kings in his blood line. It's a reminder that kings are human too. That if David can be forgiven, then so can you.

A brands currency, like religion, is belief. If followers believe, they will buy. The problem with this, which also applies to religion, is that followers are often unaware of the power belief can have over them. Recently, I was talking to marketing students at Cincinnati Christian University about branding. I asked questions like what are your favorite brands? How do you relate to those brands? Are brands good, bad, or inevitable? The students had answers (some inherited brands from their parents, not unlike religion), but I recognized that it was not something that they think about often. They each had brands that they're loyal to, but it's more reflexive than reflective. Meaning, they're loyal, but they don't think about why. It reminds me of the story of the two fish who are approached by an elder fish who asks, "how's the water?" The two fish are confused and ask, "what's water?" Brands and religion are like water. Pools of ideologies and aspirations that drive the decisions people make, often unknowingly.

That's not true for all brands and religious expressions. Some aim to create more reflective believers. They're a lot like the elder fish who asks questions that lead to more inquiry, rather than involuntary (reflexive) behavior. I think of REI's Opt Outside campaign or the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius. The hero shot on the Opt Outside page leads with “There are questions that only the outdoors can answer.” The first paragraph on the Ignatian exercises says they’re meant to “help people deepen their relationship with God.” Both examples can lead to deep discovery and greater belief. But, it’s through the conscious efforts and consent (reflective choices) of the shopper/follower.

Beyond gods and men, brands, like religion, have many other approaches to building belief. I hope to write about more commonalities in the future. For now, I'll leave you with a question. Are you reflective or reflexive in your loyalty to brands (and religion)? Or, instead, how's the water?

What's The Big Idea?

The Big Idea is the words that inspire each way you express yourself from handshakes to hero shots.

The Big Idea is the words that inspire each way you express yourself from handshakes to hero shots.

Like a person, organizations are compelled by their unique identities and callings—that’s Big Idea territory.

One to six words that drive everything. That’s the Big Idea.

It tells who you are and shows the good you offer to people. It brings your team together and invites others in. Big Ideas are simple yet lofty. They bring clarity to the complex. They need to be understood immediately and easily shared. Like a person, organizations are compelled by their unique identities and callings—that’s Big Idea territory.

Sometimes the words are used outside your organization, like “Think Different” (Apple) or “Just Do It” (Nike). More often they’re used within your organization, but the words always inspire each way you express yourself to your desired audience, from handshakes to hero shots.

It’s in the overlap of the butterfly diagram that the Big Idea reveals itself.

It’s in the overlap of the butterfly diagram that the Big Idea reveals itself.

How do you craft your Big Idea? Trischler Design Co. uncovers Big Ideas during the Discovery Phase of our Mindful Design Process. We gather a ton of firsthand information through team workshops, one-on-one interviews, and other forms of research. Afterward, we take a ten-thousand-foot view of all of the voices, images, and findings to observe patterns. We use helpful exercises to make a Big Idea easier to uncover, including the butterfly diagram, which we borrow from Wolf Ollins. The exercise first asks “What’s wrong with your world?” Meaning, what’s broken in your industry or field? The second question is, “What’s special about you?” Meaning, what unique gifts or talents does your organization possess? Or, what gets you up in the morning? Or, what do you have that your competition would kill to have? It’s in the overlap of these two circles in the diagram that the Big Idea reveals itself.

Here are a few examples of Big Ideas, including our own, that we’ve uncovered with our clients over the last nine years:

We’re All Hippos

Indigo Hippo is an art supply thrift store believes many of us have challenges getting through life. We all have things about us that make us awkward and beautiful—like hippos.

Unexpected Combinations

In everything—food, drinks, and art—Branch is a restaurant that strives to create unexpected combinations for patrons.

Build Beyond

More than developed land or a custom home, Scroggins builds beyond.

Visionaries Need A Space To Be

Natasha Wallis designs spaces of rest for people who are changing the world (case study coming soon).

Multi-Tool For Literacy

Literacy is much more than reading and writing, and so is the Chattanooga Public Library.

Mindful Branding

At Trischler Design Co., we’re driven by your Big Idea. We bring mindfulness of your Big Idea to every decision, every word, every design, every part of the process.

Want to uncover your Big Idea? We’d love to help.
Find out more about how a Brand Strategy Workshop can help.

And here are some additional ways to learn how to uncover your Big Idea on your own:
Read “The Big Idea” written by Robert Jones.
Read Branding in Five and a Half Steps by Michael Johnson.
Take the free “Secret Power of Brands” course by Robert Jones on FutureLearn.

Process Out Loud: Indigo Hippo

Process Out Loud is where we unpack our brand identity process. For this beta installment, we'll share the Hippo brand identity process. 

Go to 00:00 for the Discovery Presentation
Go to 05:51 for the Design Direction Presentation
Go to 11:39 for the Design Reveal Presentation

Please hit pause if you'd like to dive deeper into the content.

I forgot to mention inspiration from Ed Emberly's Big Purple Drawing Book. Thanks to Chris Glass for gifting me a copy specifically for this project. Charlie Harper was also a major source of inspiration not mentioned in the video. Indigo Hippo brought him in our initial meetings. I do mention Joe Walsh in the video, but he deserves even more credit for his help on this project. 

In addition, here are some sketches from our notebook: 

Half circle as a motif

Half circle as a motif

Flying taco

Flying taco

If you enjoyed this presentation or have ideas of how we can make the Process Out Loud presentation better, e-mail