How To Write A Cliché Brand Rationale

Nov 26, 2011 by Shaun Smylski

Ever feel like new Brands sound like B.S. and aren't interesting when they are rationalized? I often peruse Under Considerations ‘Brand New’ section, where they post and critique new brands. One thing that I’ve started to take note of is the specific words and phrases that clients/designers use when describing their new brand; many that are overused.

These Cliché’s are impossible to avoid, but I’m hoping that writing about it will keep me from turning into RoboThesaurus: deployed to abuse with impossible adjective and verb combo attacks!

To begin let’s start with a few key/common adjectives and verbs that are used when describing a brand:

  • Recognizable
  • Unique
  • Innovative
  • Iconic
  • Distinctive
  • Authentic 
  • Diverse 
  • Flexible 
  • Evolution
  • Timeless 
  • Clean 
  • Simple 
  • Contemporary
  • Celebrates
  • Diverse
  • Dynamic
  • Reinforces
  • Represents

If you’re using more than two adjectives or verbs, it may be too much. The focus is on the message and not the brands diversity. Especially don’t use them consecutively and all in the same sentence as FADU does here:

fadu logo

“FADU represents dynamism, union, strength, intelligence, competitiveness, and challenge. We proposed to create a system that structures FADU and conveys professionalism, dedication and seriousness…..”

It’s not good that they manage to use two sentences worth. This argument does not do the brand justice. If I was to describe who I was to save my life, a bad start would be describing how awesome, brave, awesome, kewl, awesome I am; just because I said so, does not make it true.

*Fun Side Note:

Try not to go as far as using contradicting attributes as well. (Example: contemporary but classic); somehow it gets rationalized, but do avoid at all cost. Rather, you could explain why it’s new, but still retains the old, without even saying the words contemporary or classic if you’d like?

Next, let’s look at some ways to start (over-used) sentences:

  • This brand allows us to…
  • The reason for this approach is…
  • What we aspire to do is…
  • It releases us from the constraints of…
  • *Mention what the future of the brand will be like
  • Unites the A, B & C…
  • Expresses our…
  • It stands for…
  • The significance of…
  • Is a celebration of…
  • Truly captures our…

Take one, possibly two of these cliché sentence starters, but spread them around. This may be hard, so as another option, I have helpful guidelines on writing rationales below.

What makes a Good Rationale?

Here are three general guidelines to a successful explanation:

  • Only state the facts. Emphasis is evil, it eventually turns into exaggeration. Be humble like the Truth, otherwise risk coming off as dishonest.
  • There should only be one message. Clarify it to the tee.
  • State what the CHALLENGE was and present the ACTION that was taken. It can be two sentences or two paragraphs. Below are two examples of good rationales both long and short.

Examples of Good Rationales:

Here are rationales from Lippincott and W+K. Both agencies state the CHALLENGE and present the ACTION. You will notice that common adjectives and verbs cannot be avoided but are used sparingly.

Shaun Smylski - Design Lead

Shaun Smylski is a UI/UX Designer, Brander, & Typographer. He also meditates on the way design affects thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.

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