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A new type of branding agency has sprung out of Vancouver. citizen brand is an innovative consultancy created to connect small and start-up businesses to the benefits of great design and branding. “Small businesses make up a large portion of our economy,” says Principal Todd Falkowsky, “but it is typically only the biggest companies that engage with branding agencies…I believe design should be available to everyone and developed citizen brand as a way to make that happen. We have been described as the IKEA of branding, which I get but our plans do not require an Allen key and will last definitely last longer.”
The agency really is different. It is not a graphic design studio nor is it a marketing firm. Focused on elevating brands (and bottom lines), they offer a series of straightforward plans and products that guide clients through the process of creating a unique and well-defined brand. They target specific problems, encourage clients to think about their business in new ways, and use a solid design process to generate solutions. citizen brand also works with an exceptional network of freelance creatives and consultants across a wide range of disciplines. In this way the agency is not limited to prescribing in-house services and is able to give objective advice, improving the strategic and creative outputs for clients. The agency also runs a brand lab, a place for them to test drive products and concepts that gives them knowledge and services other agencies cannot match.
We asked Todd Falkowsky a few questions about business and branding in Vancouver.
Give me the Idiots Guide to branding.
The term is frequently used to describe everything from graphic design, advertising, and marketing, but it is actually about all these things. Branding expresses the kind of organization you are and what you stand for. Branding is an emotional connection between you and your customer, which is critical in how your business generates value. When the brand is well designed, customers have something to connect to and the company stands out from its competitors. Logos, marketing plans, and ads: branding is the backbone of all of these.
If citizen brand were known for one thing, what would it be?
It is my belief that our communities gain in social value with more access to great design. I want citizen brand to become a known positive force in the city, working with clients who want to make the world better.
Does Vancouver have a brand?
Brand Vancouver exists, but I would like to help shift the storytelling of the city from the tourist board to the creative class. This community needs to be the brand of Vancouver and help to broaden the way the city is seen from the outside. Vancouver is unique and it is up to us to discover the bits that make us different and generate an economy around them. For example, we should own all the mindshare with rain (wipers, S.A.D., umbrellas, water management, etc.). It is pretty straightforward to create value around the subjects we know best. There are loads of distinct features of our local environment that can easily be translated into intellectual property.
Who is your personal favourite designer of all time?
Karl Heisleman has had a big influence on my approach and understanding of branding. He reformatted and updated (global branding agency) Wolff Olins with his humble, collaborative and humanist process and helped launch my career. I also love the work of Constantine Boym, Gaetano Pesce, and Marian Bantjes…all designers who understand humanity and how to connect us to imagination and joy. I love work that puts goodness into the world.
Aside from citizen brand what’s your favourite Vancouver business and why?
I admire the work Ian Grais has done at Rethink… always out front, curious, fun and smart. If all advertising agencies ran like Rethink the community would be filled with surprise. As far as local brands/businesses, I like Obakki, MEC, and Native shoes. All of them have invested in design and are using their brands to reach out to customers and create fans.