By Bolanile Maté
I am not a graphic designer.
These will probably be the words etched on my French tombstone. When I was the art director at the last company worked for, the President gave me a huge compliment–or maybe it wasn’t in retrospect. He said I was both creative and analytical, meaning I understood both marketing strategy and creative design. The man known affectionately as Bert said that one day I will have to choose one. In marketing there is usually the strategic team (semi-permanent) and the creative team (disposable), and here Bert was telling me that I was the mixture of the two, which essentially meant I was a mutt, a hybrid, or a misfit. But this isn’t Star Wars, there are no two forces that divide marketing. So, being the not-such-a-rebel that I am, I decided not to pick one side.
So what does one do, when they want to be creative in marketing? Give it all up and learn how to make artisanal cheese? Not quite. I became a branding consultant—which essentially boils down to merging marketing strategy with graphic design. My inspirations are a gently tossed salad of consumer trends, market savvy and random intuitions. Projects can be as simple as a logo and as complicated as a complete marketing plan—with creative brief to boot. And in 2013, after a permanent relocation from New York City to Paris, I started Be Better Paris, a branding consultancy that follows my ethos of helping, branding and promoting “honest brands”.
It didn’t take much time to realize that it matters not the size of the company, so much as they have a healthy dose of integrity—and a large smattering of ethics. So that is the crux of our “honest brands” campaign – the belief that with integrity, these companies have the ace of connecting in a way that larger companies can not. That kind of brand personality you can’t buy, but you can nurture. Also, these are brands that you want to be loyal to and not have to defend at an awkward dinner party.
But alas, branding is not a grilled cheese sandwich – it doesn’t always feed the soul. So it should surprise no one that Be Better Paris branched out to videos last year. Thanks to many comments from wayward start-ups, we realized that there are many entrepreneurs who can use some advice. It makes sense that start-ups are often the kings and queens of their domain – however that doesn’t always include business know-how. And due to physics, I can’t be everywhere to answer their questions. The result was the launch of our YouTube channel, where we discuss contemporary strategies. The hope is that emerging companies can learn, and thus better compete against companies that have more marketing dollars and knowhow.
So back to the beginning: I am not a graphic designer. I aspire to be more to start-ups, while helping them get a leg up in the market. But hey, if you need a poster design or a marketing campaign, you can call me whatever you want.
More information on Be Better Paris is available at: www.bebetterparis.com. If you have or know an honest brand, and want them to be featured in an up-coming video, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.