Brands are like children.
They usually don’t come out of the gate fully formed and ready to impress (I’m now picturing a newborn wearing a tuxedo, ready to hit up a cocktail party). They may have to deal with some awkward teenage years. Only instead of gawky class photos, oily skin and orthodontic headgear, they struggle with embarrassing website design and clumsy messaging.
Don’t believe us? Just wait.
Using the power of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, Brafton is here to expose its own brand development yearbook photos in an attempt to educate.
The things we do for you people.
In the beginning (2008)
The earliest snapshot available from the Internet Archive paints a picture more embarrassing than an ‘80s prom dress (just with less taffeta). Here’s our website as of January 15, 2008.
As you can see, things were spare, flat and uninspiring. Meanwhile, the messaging wasn’t much better.
We leaned heavily into the journalism angle, referring to ourselves as a “newsroom.” In fact, the word “content” is used only once in our “About Us” page. Dark days, indeed.
Speaking of things not to write home about, here’s our company blog.
Headlines such as “Email marketing ‘must be interesting’” and assertions in the vein of “The presidential election is to be dominated by social networking, it has been claimed,” provide a cringey picture not just of Brafton, but the content marketing industry as a whole in January 2008.
Let’s move on to July 1, 2010, shall we?
Now we’re cooking with gas! The website is certainly busier and more colorful, much like that Hawaiian shirt you thought made you look cool in middle school. And, just like your sartorial decisions as an adolescent, it doesn’t hold up.
Our brand messaging, however, was making strides.
While still focusing on news, we began to preach the gospel of content marketing, highlighting how it can “drive traffic, increase organic search engine optimization and improve dwell time and in-bound links.”
Thank God we stopped saying “dwell time.”
2012 – Now with a tagline!
Skipping right along to September 19, 2012, Brafton had found its tagline: “Fuel your brand.”
Our website was becoming more technically advanced and aesthetically pleasing (coinciding with my arrival at the company – coincidence?).
In addition to some eye-catching black and white photography, our site started spotlighting the use of social media in content marketing.
Our blog posts became more valuable and relevant as well, providing readers with important takeaways for their own content marketing efforts.
2015 – Colors aplenty!
Our penchant for black and white photography was complemented by more original graphics. Meanwhile, our blog grew by leaps and bounds, incorporating video posts into the mix.
Present day – From awkward to adept
We’ve come a long way, to say the least.
Brafton Senior Designer Courtney Meyer had her boots on the ground during our last brand revamp.
“We used tons of obvious stock imagery, ambiguous iconography, and our color scheme didn’t really make sense,” she said. “Since the days of that branding, our design products have really become top-notch. We have an amazing design team that has changed how so many of our products work and look in order to be better suited for the digital realm. We know that Brafton is the best, our products have gotten there, so logically our brand should reflect that.”
Courtney’s especially gung-ho about Brafton’s decision to phase out the use of stock photography.
“Stock imagery is a thing of the past,” she continued. “Yes, it has its time and place, but not front and center.”
Meanwhile, Brafton’s brand development depended on more than just illustrations and color schemes.
“Our design director, Ken Boostrom, and I worked closely together to establish our new blog layout,” Courtney said. “The biggest issue was the text was spanning the entire screen width. You know, it looked original and all, but that is a huge user experience no-no. It’s much too straining on the eyes to read from one side of the screen to the other. So we incorporated a sidebar that follows you when you scroll, and also gives you suggestions of where to go next. As you’ll see on our blog now, it really follows some great UX best practices. The spacing is right, it’s easily digestible, and there are some neat typography elements added throughout that make it much more polished.”
Our messaging has also evolved to showcase Brafton for what it is: a full-service agency covering every aspect of digital marketing, from content strategy and SEO to social media advertisements and marketing automation.
Additionally, the stiff and sterile voice of Brafton’s blog of old has been replaced by a human, humorous personality unafraid to share opinions and back them up with hard data.
In short, we’re no longer the kids you avoid at the school dance. We’re the ones you hope ask you out.
(Puts on motorcycle jacket, hops on Harley-Davidson).
That said, we’re still nerds who geek out on content marketing metrics and the power of storytelling. It’s just now we don’t live with our parents.
So what’s the moral of this story? Brand development is not a one-and-done affair. It’s a process that never ends. You must try, test and repeat. In a constantly shifting digital landscape, keeping up means ensuring your brand accurately reflects you, your audience and the world we all live in.
Don’t be afraid to grow up. Worst-case scenario: You’ll look back and laugh.