Branding has always meant the experience people get when they engage with ‘the brand’. You know – if you buy this product, you’ll have a wonderful barbecue experience on the beach with great friends, even though (to me, anyway) this has nothing obvious to do with products such as carbonated cola drinks containing sugar and phosphoric acid.
It’s all about selling product on the basis of emotional engagement with the way we might feel when using it. That’s also true for books, though here the brand experience often best works if it can symbolise not just the content but the relationship between the book and similar titles. Does anybody remember Victor Gollancz sci-fi covers? Bright yellow, red lettering (usually) and no artwork. That was it. Simple, efficient – and powerful. See a flash of yellow on the shelf? You knew it’d be good sci-fi by the greats of the day, like Robert Heinlein, Stephen Baxter, Arthur C. Clarke or Fritz Leiber. You knew you’d be in for something wonderful if you read one.
One of the ways to do this with non-fiction is also to convey the feel of the emotions the book might convey – and, trust me, even non-fiction must engage emotionally with the reader.
I’ve gone along that track with my work, both in terms of content and of how to package it. Back in the late 1990s I began writing a series of eight military histories for Reed NZ Ltd, in part organically – the first couple of titles worked, so Reed kept giving me contracts. That continued until 2007, when Reed were taken over by Penguin, which ended it. I retrieved my publishing licenses. Later – we’re talking 2015 – I was able to get the majority of the books reissued on Kindle under a different imprint, including a bind-up of the three in the series that were written as a trilogy. The idea was that they would get print editions, later, if sales warranted it. That’s going to happen soon.
To mark the evolution of the series, the books have all been given new covers – both electronically and, in due course, in print as revised second editions (one is already available). I was keen to get strong visual branding to link not just these books, but a series of short naval history monographs I’ve embarked on under the generic title ‘Dreadnoughts Unleashed’, published through the same imprint. Here’s the result, all in one hit:
See what I mean? This is a really strong series brand. What’s more, they also stand apart from the usual ‘Photoshop overlay blend’ look that renders so many book covers just another expression of modern computer-generation. Part of that is because most of these books cover the period when art evolved from late cubism to full-strength modernism, with pastel colours and specific shading, all designed to create an emotional feel. I was keen to have the series reflect that mid-twentieth century asethetic and emotion – but still have an up-to-date look, in effect representing how we might perceive that feel today.
What do you think? Of course, you can buy any of these right now if you are so inclined – click any cover to buy. But I’m also keen to know what you think about branding.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2018