Becoming a Certified Brand Specialist with Level C & Marty Neumeier
During the week of the 14th to the 18th of September 2020, I joined 25 other senior designers for what was my first online masterclass. I completed the Brand Specialist Certification from Level C, the only professional certified masterclass in branding developed by the 'Godfather' of Branding Marty Neumeier and his business partner Andy Starr.
I was already aware of Marty Neumeier and had read a few of his books on branding. When I found out about the Level C masterclass, I knew I had to sign up. The class is usually held in person and over 2 days in various cities around the world. I was eyeing up dates for the London venue which was to be held in the Barbican Theatre in London. However, due to the Pandemic and the fact I am currently in Thailand, there was a slim to no chance of me making it.
When I heard it was being held online instead, I jumped at the chance to be part of it. There were dates set in October for Europe and even earlier dates in September for the Indo-Australian market. After looking at the times I decided to go for very early mornings and join everyone down under rather than the late night option with the europeans. I am so glad I did! As after the lectures there was a lot of extra group work and I would have had some incredibly long nights.
We were all put in teams of 4 to 5, categorised depending on job roles and times zones for ease of working together. I was in Team 1, a group of 4 with an art director, a brand strategist and another designer. Two of the team were based in Australia and one was based a bit further south than me in Kuala Lumpur. We all had to arrange a meeting and say hello before the masterclass, I was very lucky as they were all very dedicated professionals who wanted to get the best out of the course.
The course was split into 4 days, that began at 9 am AEST (or 6am for me), with 3 hour lectures from Marty followed by a q/a session. The course was based on Marty’s best selling book ‘The Brand Gap’ and concentrated on the 5 disciplines of branding, Differentiation, Collaboration, Innovation,
Validation and Cultivation.
The main aims of the course are:
- To raise your understanding of brand to the next level
- To help you bridge the gap between brand strategy and design
- To give you the language to speak authoritatively on brand building
- To help you collaborate knowledgeably on any brand project
- To reveal the full brand canvas so you can see where you fit
- To certify your professional knowledge of brand building
After the lectures the groups were given a task each day and then had to present to Marty for feedback the following day. We were each given an industry sector and we had to work together to build a brand to disrupt that industry. We were given the grocery store, the other groups were given the airport, car garages and the university.
The first task was differentiate, by assumption reversal. You had to write down what your assumptions of a certain category were, then reverse those assumptions and develop a business model based on the reversal. Which is not an easy task, especially if you are only given a few hours and are doing it with complete strangers via zoom. We then had to use the 6 hats method of brainstorming to narrow down our ideas and decide on a possible business.
Each day began with feedback sessions to Marty. Each group was given 3 minutes to explain their idea and receive feedback from the man himself. Listening to Marty give feedback to five groups on a variety of ideas was amazing, hearing his wealth of knowledge on the topic was fascinating. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear him casually chatting to us from his own office, which I can say has enough books to put any national library to shame.
After we had received our feedback each group had to go back and develop their idea every day with a new set of tasks before the next morning's presentations. We had to decide on a name, purpose, core values, tagline, true line, design a home page and a variety of touch points.
We decided to disrupt the grocery store industry by removing the actual store and creating a closer link between suppliers and consumers. The aim of our business which we called ‘Farmsmart’, which was a combination of farmer, market and smart. Was to bring a digital farmers market for the consumer, where people could order directly from local suppliers in their local area. We aimed to deliver fresh produce and in turn help the local economy by offering more favourable terms to the farmers than the large supermarkets.
It was a great experience working in a team on such a short deadline and putting into practice what we were learning in the day. The week concluded with a lengthy Q & A session with Marty and then we had to sit the dreaded exam, to qualify for the certification. I hadn't actually done an exam since 1998, but I had read his book ‘The Brand Gap’ thoroughly and had been paying attention all week making notes, like a good student. So to my surprise I actually passed with flying colours and had 30/30.
Now that I have passed, I automatically qualify to do the next level up and become a Certified Brand Strategist, which I personally cannot wait to do.