Looking for a Gem of a Brand- Luncheon by Design & the Museum Rebranding Craze
Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on May 14, 2014
For the third year in a row, I scored a coveted ticket to Luncheon by Design, the fancy annual fundraiser for the Design Council of the Denver Art Museum. The event begins with visiting and networking, hinges on hearing a high-profile, design-oriented speaker, and finishes with lunch and dessert (which I always miss because it comes too late). The venue always looks gorgeous; the flower arrangements, in particular, are stunning. I always want to bring one back to the office, but I’m deterred by being on foot.
This year’s presentation was a glittering virtual display (unfortunately no real bling!) of jewelry. Curator Martin Chapman of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco presented “Brilliant: Cartier and its American Clients.” My eyes are still bugging out. I did not know that emeralds could be that large, diamonds that numerous, or jade that vividly green. But what really caught my attention was how Chapman’s tour of jewels captured the changing times. While Mr. Chapman showed us jewelry fashion trends and the women who set them, I naturally started thinking about the trendsetters in business, and then, since I was in a museum, I started thinking about a great article I recently read in Metropolis titled “Brand Crazy.”
In her article, Jennifer Kabat makes a good case for rethinking the museum rebranding craze. She reminds us that a logo is only one piece of the (over-used) word ‘brand,” and that a new logo alone does not make an institution more relevant. “We can never divorce those [logo] marks, I say, from all the work that goes into maintaining them: advertising, marketing, retail, and promotion.” Kabat convincingly waxes about marks she misses and marks that simply miss. Then, just when you’ve decided that rebranding is NOT the answer, she throws in a zinger. Quoting another designer, she writes, “All these [museum] people want to portray themselves as suitable partners, in the Jane Austen sense, for big corporate sponsors and signiﬁcant private philanthropists. No one wants to tell the person controlling the budget that we just gave a bunch of money to someone no one’s ever heard of.” Rebranding, she seems to say, is a way for museums to relate to these corporate partners, to speak their language by embracing the idea that a logo “makes sure they’re seen in the same league as their competitors.”
So, to return briefly to Cartier, if your company’s logo is a necklace, then your brand is the whole look: clothes, shoes, hairstyle, etc. Whether you’re a trendsetter, or more stylistically conservative, make sure that your logo and brand are at their best and tell the right story to potential clients.