Brand vs. User: Finding the Balance That Wins

May 12, 2016 Kalev Peekna

This content originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of Marketer, The Journal of the Society for Marketing Professional Services.

It’s almost a cliché: In American culture, whether you’re talking fashion, hip-hop, or what game the “giants” play, there’s a wide gap in the thinking between the east coast and the west coast. Graphic design is no exception.

On the east coast, the legacy of Madison Avenue has created a brand-centric school of thought. Glossy, expressive and compelling, east coast graphic design starts with core concepts about identity, messaging and product, and seeks out the best expression of those ideas through a variety of media.

On the west coast, the dominance of technology and the rise of the startup culture have bred an entirely different approach. Human-centric and data-driven, west coast graphic design begins with user needs, and introduces brand concepts only as a solution to those needs. In many ways, it rose out of a reaction to the more traditional east coast approach, so it values disruption and utility over impressions, and emotions.

Alone, each of these approaches can produce extraordinary results. But they also tend to leave alone half of the long-term relationship between brand and user that is so important to the success of professional service organizations. Drawing elements from each approach will allow you to focus on both brand and user to deliver the optimal customer experience.

Read Kalev's full article here.

ⒸMarketer, The Journal of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, April 2016.

Also, be sure to check out Kalev Peekna at the Society for Marketing Professional Services' Build Business: Synthesis event, August 10-12 in Philadelphia, as he speaks on finding the right mix of brand and user in digital marketing and design.


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Kalev Peekna Managing Director, Chief Strategist

Kalev Peekna is the Chief Strategist at One North, leading the Digital Strategy team. He brings a cross-platform, user-focused approach to innovations in brand development, design, data analysis and technology, and helps clients apply those innovations to their strategic aims.

  • If I were a vegetable: I would be broccoli. Because I have always wanted someone to call me “cruciferous.” 
  • Most unusual job: Cocktail bartender at a Cabaret

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