Branding has always fascinated me, probably because it’s all about stories and identities. Could anything be more interesting than researching the core values and identities of something you or an interesting company made up? Brandathon is an event where the companies struggling with certain products or concepts meet the enthusiastic students. The students may have been reading about branding and the companies been doing the thing hands on, but lacking the expertise of creating an authentic and fascinating story. Branding is a skill of its own, and Brandathon is a great opportunity to learn it. Led by professionals of the universities and the companies, Brandathon offers a very special way of learning.
Petteri Kolinen from the Design Forum Finland opened our eyes to the world of branding. In the core of branding are the key questions: What are the company values? Who are you? What motivates you? The answers ought to be sharp and interesting. Identity, values and “the real story” are not things you make up in a one hour meeting. One great example of motivation was from Martela – the company that sells furniture – they branded themselves as the experts of working environments. The story needs some crucial touch points. These points are where the customer learns the story. Identity is the very first piece of the process, the actual product comes far behind. And when thinking of the product, it is necessary for the customer to see the value and the benefits of it. The clear view and shared understanding makes the product easy to buy.
Petteri Kolinen: Design Forum Finland
Living the Experience
In Oulu and the university, branding is taken seriously. Having knowledge of branding helps the companies - and persons as well - to market their skills or products. Branding is all about communication, standing out and creating for the customer a wholesome experience. One member of the winning teams of Brandathon 2017, Andy Alorwu, recollects the experience: “It was challenging especially at first where we all lacked a real understanding of what we needed to do. Our focus as with other teams was initially on features and features and features instead of on a "story", an "identity". Once we figured that out, there was no stopping us.”
Brandathon is a hackathon-like event, in which teams - mainly consisting of students - try to solve a branding problem introduced by real companies. This year there were three companies: Kotikatu365, Liikku and Smartblock. All of them had a different kind of branding issue. “The case companies were great! They had great projects and somehow had a story but the brand story didn't really work. Like in my team’s case the Smartbox project. And it was great crafting a story for them, defining an identity and we came up with a great identity for them.”
“When I signed up, I didn't have any great expectations. It was my first time being involved in such an event and I had no experience with branding although I had read about it in books. So in signing up, I just came in for the experience, work with "strangers" as teammates and most importantly, have fun.” When asked about what he learned during the event, Andy did not hesitate to mention: “Teamwork, tolerance, creative thinking, pitching and thinking-out-of-the-box!”
“It was a great learning experience for me and I'd gladly ask and convince others to join the train next time. Brandathon has given me something reading 10 books on branding cannot give - living the experience!”