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A loss for words: Staying on-brand during turmoil

By Chad Gordon | June 7, 2020

Full black image with the words "A loss for words".

This month I intended to write about the difference between branding and marketing. But words didn’t come. So, I shifted to something that would be a little easier for me; how to activate your visual identity. But again, nothing. I’m at a loss because honestly, I just don’t care enough right now. And while I’m otherwise passionate about these subjects, (and think they are highly relevant during this pandemic), I don’t think anyone else would care right now either. They just don’t seem important.

But that’s the thing, I don’t know what to say about what is important right now either. I’m a middle-aged white man. I’m a quiet introvert. What can I say? Where do I fit into this? Although this all angers and saddens me, it’s an insult to black people to say I understand how they feel. I can empathize, but I can’t ever feel that level of pain and anger.

Do I post my thoughts on social media? Should I get actively involved? Donate to cause(s)? Just sit in my living room and yell at the news and get depressed? Shut down completely?

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the years. In moments of anger or confusion, I’ve learned that it’s best for me to not react immediately based on my emotions, as hard as it may be. I don’t have the ability to channel anger into positive productivity. I’m not a leader of protests. I’m not an activist. I admire those who stand up for what they believe in to make positive change. Not to sound callous, but that’s not “on-brand” for me personally. It’s not who I am and would look and feel inauthentic.

And I think a lot of organizations feel the same way. We hear it from our clients and partners. “We want to say and do something, but what?” “How can we make an impact without being inauthentic?”

I believe everyone needs to get involved, organizations, and individuals (myself included). But I think now is a time to step back for a moment first to understand who we are and how we can really affect positive change in our community and world with a measured, genuine response or action. Being authentic (on-brand) and saying the right things is a good first step, but it shouldn’t be the last. This should never be about self-promoting or putting something out there because everyone else is. See this article for more.

Maybe your on-brand is behind the scenes support. Maybe it’s best to help in other ways and not say anything. Or maybe your on-brand has always been about advocacy, i.e. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, in which case your message will feel authentic, and part of the movement instead of a self-promoting marketing ploy.

Take a step back and really understand who you are as an organization or an individual before deciding on your response. Otherwise, you run the risk of just creating the appearance of helping (people see right through that), which can do more harm than good, for yourself and the cause. Substitute a loss of words with action. I am.

Here’s a list of ways you can make positive change. Whatever you do, make sure it’s authentic to you.

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Chad Gordon

Chad is the Creative Director, overseeing the development of virtually every original design. Chad studied photography in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has a degree in photo illustration from Ohio University. In 1991 he worked with Reuben and Company as a photo assistant before joining designRoom as a designer the following year. Chad has received numerous national awards, has shared in his team’s many Addy Awards, and has had his work published in several international design publications.Chad is experienced in all phases of creative design, including concept development, art direction, photography, typography, print production, and website design. Chad’s specialties are photo illustration and identity development. His unique infrared photography has been shown in numerous galleries around northeast Ohio. He is an avid baseball man, a crafty pitcher with speed and movement on his fastball, and played on championship teams in the Roy Hobbs League.

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