The “Above-the-Waterline” Stuff Matters

I make my own wine. No, I don’t stomp barefoot on grapes; I make my wine from a kit with juice concentrates and other additives.

For me, though, it’s the label that really matters. Not just the design, but also the whimsical and personal naming and the concept behind the name.

When I give the wine to friends, family, and associates, it’s not about the wine. (The kit wines are passable, but certainly nothing to brag about.) It’s really about the “outer layer”—the fun and collectible wine labels that people buzz about.

The late Steve Jobs once said, “You’ve baked a really lovely cake, but then you’ve used dog sh*t for frosting.” The cake Steve referred to is your business. And the “crap” Steve is talking about is the minimal attention some businesses give to the outer layers—those first points of contact—of their businesses:

  • Your Website

  • Your signage

  • The language you use

  • And, the most iconic aspect of all…your logo

Why would Steve say such a thing? Because too many companies treat their identities (those outer layers) as AFTERTHOUGHTS! Steve “loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.” No Detail was too small to care about.

I like to think of branding as an iceberg. Most of the really important work in developing a brand strategy happens below the waterline—the stuff nobody sees: positioning, unique value proposition, dominant selling idea, brand personality, etc.

But the above-the-waterline stuff matters to your prospects and customers, too. Your logo, your tagline, your business or product name, your signage, your website…all the stuff your customers and prospects see.

Just like my homemade wine, the taste is important. But the real fun of making—and then gifting—my wine are the oohs and aahs I get for my label designs.

Pay attention to your outer layers, the above-the-waterline stuff that your prospects and customers see and experience.

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