Here Comes the Brand
What Millennial Weddings Can Teach Us About Brand Building
by Katherine Teske, The Millennial Girl for Soulsight
With the official start of wedding season right around the corner, the newlywed in me is overwhelmed with a feeling of relief-infused-nostalgia for what my life was like one year ago. Relief because I’m finally sleeping again; nostalgia because that milestone day went faster than I could have ever imagined.
Senior Creative Strategist by day, wedding planner by night (and the wee hours of the morning), I was in a constant cycle of articulating creative ideas. When I wasn’t waking up at 4:45 am to build mood boards that captured the overall look and feel of our “elevated ethereal” themed October wedding, or approving any one of the dozens of creative proofs and contracts that covered every little detail to make that vision a reality, I was defining big idea branding opportunities for my clients that mirrored the same elements of an experiential Millennial wedding.
So what can my trip down the aisle, along with the many Millennials who’ve gone before and after me, teach us about brand building? Turns out the list is almost as long as the aisle itself:
Lesson #1: Align To An Overall Look And Feel.
Whether you’re creating a vision for the big day or embarking on launching a new brand, it’s imperative to define guiding principles for how your vision should come to life. Think in terms of key adjectives that describe the visual essence you’re going for, along with visual inspiration that articulates that essence. When it came to our wedding, we anchored ourselves in an elevated, ethereal, light and airy visual essence that blended romantic elements with classic, elegant touches. Our mood board of correlating imagery brought together creamy tulle fabrics, lush white florals and greenery with classic black tuxedos, formal script and metallic gold details like wax seals and monograms. This informed everything from our bridesmaid dresses to place settings at the reception.
If you’re like me, you might be wavering between several ideas. Blame it on Pinterest or a fruitful creative brainstorm; whatever the case may be, that’s not just okay – it’s ideal. This is a great time to build out several “ways in” to your vision and discuss the range with key stakeholders, whether it be your future spouse or your team. Pressure testing options and aligning to one that feels most on-brand or on-brief provides valuable clarity to anyone involved in helping to bring your vision to life as you move forward.
Lesson #2: Define Your Values.
Whether you’ve just gotten engaged or just engaged a team in building a brand, now’s the time to have an important discussion to ensure you’re on the same page about the end result. Consider questions like: What’s most important to you? What do you want to avoid at all costs? How do you want to make your guests (or future customers) feel? What do you want your guests’ (or future customers’) number one takeaway to be after experiencing your wedding (or brand)?
For my husband and I, talking through the values that were most important to us on the wedding day was crucial. We made a pact to be present (no phones), stand by each other’s sides no matter how many different directions we were pulled in, and above all, have fun. We wanted to be able to look back and remember fully embracing every moment from the altar to the dance floor, leaving any stress far behind in the planning phase. When it comes to your future brand, what values will it stand for? What will it stand against? Defining those values before the launch can help ensure they manifest.
Lesson #3: Make It Personal.
In the age of content creation and social sharing, we’re wired to crave and connect most with stories that relate on a human level. Whether it’s a couple’s “how they met” story on their wedding website (yes, personalized websites for all-things related to a couple’s wedding day), or a brand’s About page, these are rich opportunities to get real and tell your readers something they may not have known about you or your reason for being.
For those who clicked over to our wedding website, many were taken by a fun fact about my husband they didn’t know: he’s borderline obsessed with trains. So much so that he proposed at Chicago’s Union Station after mapping out the train schedule to find a 7-minute window of time when no trains would be leaving or arriving – all so we’d have the main terminal mostly to ourselves. Anyone who knows him knows he’s a passionate engineer...but an avid train enthusiast? Great material for the Maid of Honor speech.
Aside from storytelling, every element of branding is fair game when it comes to creating a unique and ownable identity – and it all starts with a name. Couple or brand, the name that introduces you to the world can make a powerful first impression. (For more on how to approach naming, click here.) In the wedding world, everything from custom logos and monograms using the couple’s initials to beautifully designed invitation suites, wax seals and signage are ensuring that every touch point feels like an extension of the couple. If you’re launching a new brand, how are you planning to bring both your visual and verbal identity to life? Do you have the tools in place to ensure you’re being strategic about how your brand shows up in the world?
Lesson #4: Create An Experience.
Call it the big day or launch day – that’s when the rubber really meets the road. It’s the true test to see how all of the moving parts come together to make your vision a cohesive reality. And so often, that reality becomes more than just a passive moment in time – it’s an experience that guests and consumers alike will remember for years to come.
So how can you create an engaging, immersive experience? If you’ve been to a wedding lately, you probably have some ideas. From live bands and speeches-turned-to-live-performances (here’s looking at you, Mom), to caricature artists who sketch guests in real time, entertainment is taking a couples’ debut into the world to the next level. Even small details like interactive “grand exits” that equip guests with rose petals, bubbles, or ribbon wands to throw or wave at the newly married couple as they leave their ceremony brings everyone in on the celebration.
The same concept can apply to any new brand. How can you make your customer’s first interaction with you so unforgettable that they want to relive it all over again? Consider ways to activate your brand in the real world, whether through street teams, innovative pop-ups, cross-merchandising opportunities or events and partnerships that encourage trial and word of mouth. The more opportunities you give your customers to engage with your brand using all five senses, the stronger the foundation you build towards long term brand advocacy.
Lesson #5: Get Social.
In the age of social media, it’s not uncommon to be on the lookout for the next great photo opp. Lucky for guests, more and more weddings are serving up curated photo opps so everyone can be sure to capture the love in real time – with a designated hashtag, of course. Like true Millennials, my husband and I encouraged photo sharing with a floral wall backdrop at our reception ballroom entrance and displayed our alliterative wedding hashtag on signs throughout the venue. And just this month, I’ve attended weddings with a professionally-run photo booth, giant marquee-style glowing letters of the couple’s initials and a boho chic “best day ever” backdrop flanked with beautiful blooms. The result is as photo-worthy as it is like-worthy.
As you think about your own brand, how do you plan to get social? Consider ways to give your customers a photo opp they can’t help but share, whether it’s through immersive branded environments, lifestyle merchandise or even engaging out-of-home pieces that make your customers the subject. Regardless of tactic, considering how you can make your brand feel like a natural extension of your target’s lifestyle (and social feed) can help drive awareness and ultimately, sales.
No doubt, there’s a lot of pressure to make one big day perfect. But what matters most is the lifetime of relationship-building to come. With the right level of thoughtful planning and consideration, you can ensure your “best day ever” is the first of many to come.
Soulsight is a Chicago-based iconic brand design agency. Our mission is to propel brands to unlimited success through strategic design that drives consistent relevancy. We are known for delivering inspiring, category-leading creative and insights-driven strategic guidance for some of the world's best-loved iconic, global brands. We're a team of 60 multi-disciplined, strategic creatives who believe in the power of consumer-centric, design-driven branding. We build Soulful brands through strategic design. We are Soulsight.