Brand Paradox

At Engage Brandcraft, we often talk about a Brand Paradox. By this we mean an intentional contradiction within a broader brand identity. Think of it as the yin and yang of brand personality. If crafted carefully, these subtle balances can significantly contribute to the overall character of a product, service or organisation.

When developing a brand strategy and concept, we always try to remain cognisant of potential brand paradoxes. In our experience, identifying and developing these can often contribute to deeper brand engagement. To help present and explain this important pillar of our approach, we’d like to share an example (with our client’s kind permission) of the power of brand paradoxes in action.

Introducing Legacy Parks, South Africa’s first natural burial brand that launched mid-August 2011. To put this story in context, Legacy Parks’ current service offering is simple: purchase a piece of a protected park where a loved one can be quietly and respectfully laid to rest in a beautiful, natural and secure surroundings. At the same time, clients preserve a piece of South African natural environment in perpetuity. Powerful indeed. The Legacy Parks concept has wide relevance and applicability (as we are all the target market!) – the trick was to add appeal.

Strategically we had to convey the quiet and respectful tone required, in a way that was light enough to engage with, talk about and share. It was critical for the brand concept and the resulting visual identity that the product respected a grieving or thoughtful state of mind. BUT, we had to balance the brand’s sombre side with an equally strong element of hope and peace. Together with our client, we developed this brand with a contradiction at its very heart, a balance between two seemingly opposing personality attributes. For Legacy Parks the Brand Paradox emerged through a series of structured and participative processes. The result: earnest BUT light.

From this point of departure, the tension between “earnest” and ”light” informed all of our work on the brand. Our design team had to bring this conceptual personality and identity to life across multiple touchpoints – from standard collateral to infrastructure. It influenced our choice of fonts, signage substrates and even the paper stocks we chose. In every decision, we attempted to signal both seriousness and upliftment. The result is a compelling brand that is both appropriate and different, intriguing and authentic. Thus far it has proved effective and talk-worthy.

This is not rocket science. In fact brand paradoxes rely on a very simple perceptual framework. A little tension between two seeming opposites, creates intrigue and interest and begs deeper engagement. We prefer this approach to a more narrow-minded focus on a single (or various, often similar) brand attributes.

As the world of brands proliferates and users/customer/clients become more discerning, our relationships with brands require a deeper level of complexity. We perceive other people as far more than just a single set of associations or differentiating factors. Contradictions are often what make us unique and adds depth to our distinct personalities. The same often goes for brands. As a result, we believe that a well-defined brand paradox is a very powerful starting block from which to build a compelling brand personality.

For more examples you don’t need to look far… a motorcycle brand that is both individualistic and communal, a self-depreciating (stupid) clothing label for confident (brave) people, or a bath and body store for the altruistically self-indulgent. To uncover a workable paradox, simply seek out the BUT in your brand. A playful, BUT precise exercise.

*For more information on the Legacy Parks offering, please visit the independently designed website: