Annie Yang: Branding For Me, By Me

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Embracing Authenticity To Connect With Younger Audiences

By Annie Yang, a Senior Brand Designer at Conran Design Group, a design-led branding agency. Other titles she goes by are Cat Mom, Tea Enthusiast, and Lifetime New Yorker. Annie believes putting herself in the unfamiliar and creating magic out of the unexpected. Her key brand work includes Havas Mango, Museum of the City of New York, National Association of REALTORS®, Google, Zoetis, and Nutricia.

For years, brands have struggled to relate to people like me. I really started noticing it as I began studying Graphic Design, and I’m keenly aware of it now that I’m on the other side of the fence as a Senior Designer at a branding agency. Across all sorts of industries, brands are trying anything and everything to create work that resonates with my generation and the generation below me. But the fact that they are constantly switching up tactics means nailing down a truly authentic brand voice can be pretty difficult.

Now that I’ve gotten a better look at the issues behind the scenes, I see that, over the years, lots of brands have become ensnared in a vicious cycle. If you’re outside the demographic, appealing to younger audiences can feel like a moving target, and this confusion can cause companies to lose access to us entirely, both as consumers and as potential future employees. Young audiences want a real connection with a brand. What we find compelling is an authentic integration into our lives. We want to support brands that are fully accepting of technology and social media, brands who are alive and flexible, and who take a stand and engage in the cultural discussion.

Maybe it’s not fair to say that all brands are struggling with this, as many tech and beauty brands have gotten it down to a science, but it is definitely true for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. As they start to have more in common with broader wellness and tech brands, whose products, messaging and designs are already well integrated into our lifestyles, they’re finding that we don’t respond to branding that feels impersonal or lacks humanity. We’re products of the social media age and the longer social sharing exists, the quicker my generation’s all-access culture becomes the template for the wider culture. Knowing this, how can companies better equip themselves to meet our demands for a different kind of brand relationship?

That was the challenge as our team at Conran Design Group worked to brand Miami-based health and wellness creative collective Havas Mango. We needed to design an identity that would set it apart from the rest of the brands within both its own agency network and the larger industry. But Havas Mango also needed to be forward-thinking and attract fresh, innovative clients as well as younger talent who understand how to create effective brand experiences in this new era. In the end, our solutions revealed a lot about building brands that truly connect with people like me.

 

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Find inspiration anywhere and everywhere

My friends and I don’t think of brands in the segmented ways they are often served to us. We think of them as industry-agnostic reflections of our personalities. So companies trying to communicate with us should feel free to find creative inspiration in just about any industry or brand work that successfully speaks authentically to us. Whether that’s from athleisure and fashion brands, beauty and skincare, or some other brand we love, it’s important to take a look at what brands in every industry are doing to relate to consumers. Working on Mango, I found myself doing just that – pulling images, colors, designs, and typefaces from a diverse range of brands and visuals in my life. This led to solutions that resonated with us, even as they felt unique within the pharma and wellness industries. Similarly, others shouldn’t be afraid to seek inspiration outside of their own spaces. Great ideas can come from the places you least expect.

 

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Take a ‘for you, by you’ approach

Inspiration can take you far, but if you really want to create a lasting message that will resonate with young audiences, the best and easiest way to do that is to empower your young talent to become part of the brand development process. When Conran trusted me and my other young coworkers to take the lead with Havas Mango, many of the calls we made felt very personal, organic and connected to us not only as creatives but as human beings. Letting us guide the direction ended up being the best decision we could’ve made.

Embrace the unconventional

Good design and branding is all about breaking conventional molds and discovering fresh, innovative ways to express a brand’s mission. As designers, we should be looking for and embracing these kinds of challenges in all of our work. When crafting the Havas Mango brand, we took this to heart, creating both the verbal and design sides of the brand strategically in order to defy expectations. Everything about the design goes against typical healthcare branding, playing with shapes and color in modern, unconventional ways to really convey the vibrancy and fruitfulness of the brand. Even our name for the logo, playfully called Lil Mango, embodies an unusual energy for the space, implying a juicy, neon-powered company in a sea of more traditional agencies.

In the end, it’s important to remember that your best branding weapon is a team that really understands your audience. So, trust in your young talent. Uplift their voices. You never know what could happen.