We had the pleasure to talk with Irene Gil, the Founder of Plázida, about her brand and the role of a domain name in branding today.
Plázida is a brand feeling: quiet, calm, serene, conveying a sense of peace, “placid”. A name that calms you when you pronounce it and reminds you that you are human with all that it entails. Plázida is also the state of mind we need to be able to create, because the human mind solves problems better when it takes a break, when it is relaxed, without stress and without pressure. The “z” is a nod to the “plaza”, the square, the gathering place, the community and the building of experiences. Finally Plázida is a feminine name because positive change in the world has that energy.
It is a brand name that instead of describing our value proposition, evokes our values and personality attributes. In this way its elasticity and pathway becomes much greater. In fact, Plázida was born in 2017 when I founded the first coworking space for digital nomads in Madrid. When I decided to return to my previous activity in 2019, I rescued a brand name and a philosophy I identified with very strongly. The power of the brand! 😉
What is Slow Branding? Why should companies embrace it?
Slow branding is the approach that pauses long enough to raise awareness and help create ethical, trustworthy and honest brands.
We live in a world obsessed by speed, short-termism and results at any cost. And by the inconsistency between what brands promise and what they actually do. If we want to help make a positive impact on the world, we need to ensure that the entrepreneur has a real and authentic commitment to his/her brand’s purpose.
The scale of today’s challenge is so significant that it is no longer enough to simply commit to sustainable products and brands. Aspirational slow branding is aimed at those products and services designed to restore, renew or revitalise. To regenerate the planet and our habits.
Slow branding is as much about the “big picture” of the sector in which the project is framed as it is about the individual conscience of each of us. Are we providing solutions or adding to the problems?
In fact, we don’t really need more brands but better brands, which symbolise and identify better companies and products.
It is also about creating brands aligned with the values of the founders, with the consumer’s wants and the world’ s real needs. Brands that focus on identity, that help communicate who you are, what you are like and what you really value. Brands that focus on offering the best of you to the world.
You talk a lot about transformation and innovation, how and why is that relevant to branding?
We all know that we are at a critical juncture. If we do not radically and urgently change the way we do things, we are heading towards the collapse of our civilisation and our own extinction. We only have one planet and we are currently consuming as if we had 1.8. The pandemic is a dramatic reminder of the pressing need for a reset. Transformation is not optional. It is life or death. What do we need to change?
“The pandemic is a dramatic reminder of the pressing need for a reset. Transformation is not optional. It is life or death. What do we need to change?”
We need to decouple growth and resource use. Make sustainable products and brands the norm. We need to ensure less waste because we are drowning in our own waste. Entrepreneurs should create products that are repairable and long-lasting and that can eventually re-enter the system in a circular economy that does not overstep planetary boundaries. A whole world of new possibilities opens up to create new brands that identify better products and put an end once and for all to planned obsolescence and hyper-consumption.
We also need to grow local businesses, break the monopolistic trend of the big brands and the enormous power of the big technology brands that reach almost all sectors. Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple alone have a higher market value than many Western economies. Autonomous cars, artificial intelligence, medicine, cloud internet, security, video, movies, series, video games, electricity, aerospace engineering, banking…. They are in all these sectors and in their way they hardly compete with each other. They have shared the pie. We must stop them from gobbling it all up and continuing to impose their privileges globally. There is an immense opportunity to create local, small, necessary and beautiful brands, such as the shops that are popping up in certain neighbourhoods or the multitude of social enterprises that are emerging with force.
Another necessary transformation is in the way we do things. We have to break with the obsession to do things as quickly as possible, with that state of chronic stress which, as we said above, is the greatest enemy of creativity. There is a Latin phrase attributed to the Emperor Augustus that defines very well what we need: “festina lente”, hurry slowly if you want to create brands with quality, with care, with attention to detail. Let us recover the value of time. The pandemic has taught us to be patient and to spend time with ourselves, to reflect. Creating slow brands can only bring good to the world.
What is the one thing companies often do wrong when it comes to branding?
I think the most widespread mistake is not daring to be different, to stand out. To melt into the crowd. Doing what your category does. Not having your own purpose, a powerful reason for being, the kind that makes you get up every morning thinking that what you do is worthwhile. Not building on your values. Not daring to show a distinct personality. Choosing a name that is very similar to other names in the category and a visual style according to the prevailing fashion. Talk about what others talk about, repeat the prevailing discourse. Be where others are, even if it doesn’t pay. Not daring, in short, to acquire the status of a brand.
What trends do you feel are important now in the world of brand management?
Building new brands is always linked to innovation, to those advances that allow us to change the way we look at the world. Although there are many more, I would like to highlight these four:
1. Ethical technology. We live in a world that is a hive of knowledge and technological advances growing exponentially and encouraging the continuous birth of new brands. On the one hand, they make possible new realities that were unimaginable a few years ago. On the other hand, the advances are associated with high social and environmental costs and sometimes only benefit the bottom line of the developer. Our privacy is stolen through an immense amount of data and algorithms make us dumber by deciding and filtering for us almost everything that is important. I would like to think that not everything can be solved by technology, and that we don’t want to create brands for robots to care for the elderly or apps to be our therapists. The debate about the ethical limits of technology is already here and there are new brands that are understanding this. I want to believe that this will be the future.
2. A future with purpose – Branding has always been forward thinking because brands have to last a long time, the whole life of a company, and if we did our job well, brands will outlive us. But today the possibility of a non-future is of particular concern. Simplifying the famous cone of futures, we basically have three future scenarios: the expected, which will happen if everything we believe will happen turns out to be true; the alternative if there are deviations or bifurcations from the expected futures; and the preferred, our desired future, the one for which we strive and to which we must allocate time, talent and resources. For this future, as Isabel de Salas says, there is no better beacon than a brand purpose oriented towards the common good.
3. A slow lifestyle – The slow movement, which was created in the 1980s, is making a strong comeback. The global slowdown caused by the pandemic has made us rethink the fast-paced life that our day-to-day lives had become and embrace a more relaxed and reflective existence, one that helps us to ask ourselves the big questions about life and our brand: what is the reason for my existence?, what do I contribute to the world?, is this what I want to do?… A slow lifestyle is, for example, the one sought by entrepreneurs who leave the city for the countryside in search of the pleasure of peace and quiet and a greater connection with nature. The rise of remote work is helping to create a universe of possibilities for new brands that arise from a new way of understanding success and life. There are also opportunities in everything that revolves around people’s well-being, overcoming the crisis of isolation, loneliness and mental health.
4. Brand activism – Our relationship with brands is changing. We no longer want just to be seduced by their products and experiences. We want brands to speak out against injustice, against inequality, against racial segregation, against discrimination against women, against the destruction of the natural habitat… and so many other causes where the humane, the inclusive, the responsible thing to do is to take a stand. If you remain silent, you lose credibility and trust. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers prefer to reward companies that are willing to take a stand on topical issues, according to Accenture Strategy’s research report, “From Me to We: The Rise of the Purpose-led Brand”, based on a survey of nearly 30,000 people in 35 countries. But not only. Consumers want facts that speak louder than words. Like the b-corp certified companies that are redefining what good economics means for the world. And to be credible and not “actiwashing”, commitment to the cause must be part of the DNA of the brand, your purpose and your values. Committing to a cause from the start and building your brand story accordingly opens up an infinite path of possibilities to fix our broken world.
What is the role of a domain name in branding today?
Essential. If you are not on the internet, which is the same as saying that if Google cannot find you easily, you do not exist. The type of domain you want to obtain for your new brand should always be included in the formal naming brief. The domain you choose says a lot about you: it reflects your ambition as a brand: local, European or international, whether you are a company, an institution or an NGO, or even your niche. Getting a domain now is much easier than it was a few years ago because the possibilities have expanded enormously.
“If you are not on the internet, which is the same as saying that if Google cannot find you easily, you do not exist. The type of domain you want to obtain for your new brand should always be included in the formal naming brief.”
The domain has to be further accompanied by the trademark register which grants you the exclusive right to market your business in a specific territory. In my experience in naming brands, if the .com of the chosen name is not available, it may be more difficult to register the brand even if other extensions are available.
What is a total “no” for you in branding?
Strategy WITHOUT design or design WITHOUT strategy.
A well-defined brand strategy on paper without the best brand designer you can get your hands on to make it happen, is of little use. The design is the one that solves, sets the tone and humanises. We will not achieve the desired perception with words alone. If, on the other hand, we skip the strategy and go straight to making a logo and a visual style (which is extremely common), we will not have defined the essence of our identity and therefore our communication will suffer when it comes to attracting our ideal clients and we will not be able to position our brand. In both cases we fail to create a brand.
How did you get the domain name Plazida.com for your brand? Why did you select that one exactly?
Searching for a new name was not an easy task. We made a long list of 100 names that met the brief. And one of the formal conditions was that it had to be registrable as .com, as well as in class 35 of the Nomenclator as a Spanish trademark. Many of them were dropped just for this reason. The fact that it should be a .com is more due to the big dream of being able to market Plázida in many countries in the future. I also have the .es linked to the .com.
How has owning Plazida.com affected your business? Do you own any other domain names?
Although the possibility of owning domains has opened up a lot and some, such as .rocks, have become particularly famous, the .com is almost always a symptom of originality and therefore the possibility of brand registration. Taking the trouble to get a .com gives (still) an aura of professionalism to the company. In fact, when I do naming searches I always come up with a short list of registrable .coms. It’s an added difficulty but it’s a challenge worth taking on.
Even so, it is almost impossible, if you are also looking for a connection to the meaning you want to associate with the brand, for the domain name to be available as it is on all social networks. However, with a few simple, almost imperceptible tricks, it is possible to achieve this 😉.
In addition to Plázida, I also own grasp.es (my previous consultancy) and slowschool.es, a beautiful project that I developed with a group of consultants some time ago and remained in “dream mode”.
Who are your ideal customers? What do they value already, and what should they value in your brand?
My ideal client is an entrepreneur with a heart. Innovative, honest, trustworthy and transparent. A solution seeker, someone who thinks big, of his impact on people and the world. In what he has come to improve, rather than in his bottom line.
She/he is also someone with experience and who feels the call of entrepreneurship after having worked as an employee for a few years. This was the case with the Magro Cardona brand, for example. Irene Magro and Ana Cardona had been working for Prada for years when they dared to make their dream come true. Or Inés Sagrario, who had many years of experience in cluster consultancy before creating ekonoke, the first sustainable in-doors vertical agriculture brand in Madrid, or Javier Miró, a writer before creating Autorquía, the “country” where authors rule.
They value Plázida’s closeness, professionalism, depth, vision, creativity, focus, vitality and involvement. All these attributes are taken from their own recommendations. My clients are my best endorsers.
How do you keep your brand consistent across different channels online and offline?
One of my favourite metaphors is that of the concentric ripples that arise when you throw a pebble into a pond. If the heart of our brand is well defined, we will have the best possible glue to hold us together, our values, a beacon to move forward, our purpose, and a way of being and walking in the world that is ours alone and acts as a magnet for our customers, our personality.
Being true to our brand identity is the way to maintain consistency in everything we do, say or show. And to control our reputation.
And visually, it is important to be loyal to the graphic codes and visual language of the brand: fonts, colours and visual style. I am fortunate to work with great graphic designers who have beautifully conceptualised, designed and manualised my brand.
What would you do differently if you were entering your category market as a challenger brand today?
To some extent, Plázida is a challenger. At least as Adam Morgan defines it: our ambition is far greater than our resources and we have this mentality of challenging the status quo. We believe that traditional branding consultancy has been complicit with the most predatory capitalism and that there is a better way of doing things. Our “slow branding” challenges the conventional understanding of the profession. Even so, I believe that if my intention had been to create a challenging brand, we would have unleashed our creativity and capacity for analysis to make a true rebranding of the profession. And I don’t rule it out 😉
Has the pandemic affected your company in any way? What has changed since?
As I mentioned above, Plázida, as a slow branding and beautiful experiences consultancy, was born at the end of 2019. A professional reinvention doesn’t happen every day. The occasion deserved a celebration. So I planned for April 2020 a big launch party.
But the world had other plans. In March the pandemic hit and we were confined to our homes until the end of June. I launched my new website and continued to work from home, moving all the face-to-face work to the online world. Little by little I gained new clients and visibility. I continue to work from home in a network with my collaborators, with a lot of zoom and missing the human relationships in the real world and the professional possibilities that arose simply through contact and informal conversations.
What would your advice be to entrepreneurs who are just starting out, in general, and when it comes to branding and naming?
Get very clear on why you are launching your new venture. I think Simon Sinek’s advice is universal: always start with your why. What drives you that the world needs. If it is powerful enough, it will keep you focused and, in moments of weakness, it will give you meaning and direction. The how will breakthrough and the what will have a higher purpose.
Don’t be afraid to doubt, to rectify, to keep thinking. In environments of high uncertainty like the current one, what is advisable is to focus on a minimum viable product, launch, test, correct… And a little piece of advice that Gerry Mc Govern will certainly like, collect the digital rubbish of what you have finally decided not to develop.
Look for good companions for the journey. Study and understand the deep motivations of your ideal client, not just on paper. Talk to them, interview them, find out what they are looking for and what are their pains. Explore possibilities together and dare to create a new narrative that leads to a better world. And as long as these are the rules of the game (I dream of a non-competitive world), find out who your competition is, not only the most direct but also the one that can seduce your customers with an alternative offer.
Differentiate yourself because your dream is worthwhile and you are communicating it in the best possible way. It is important that you don’t forget how you are going to monetise your project, do the numbers right. Companies die for lack of cash flow and 42% do so by launching something that no one was going to buy.
And as for naming and branding, my advice is to treat it as a strategic decision. Devote resources to it. Seek professional help. Don’t miss the opportunity to get it right the first time. Think of your brand name as the most important marketing decision and also the cheapest. It’s worth getting it right.
But realistically this is not what happens. Almost all my clients come in at a second stage where they want to grow their business and need a brand that allows them to get their foot on the gas.
Where do you see your business in the future and how does your brand name fit into that vision?
I visualise myself never losing the qualities that my clients value:
We remain a small consultancy that provides slow branding and beautiful experiences. We work carefully and skilfully for a limited number of projects from all over the world that have a positive impact. Limited because we want to be loyal to our name-promise and work in a “placid” way in order to dedicate the time, reflection, analysis and synthesis that brands need. There is no physical office and everyone decides where they prefer to work. We want to remain thorough but flexible and approachable and invest time in building quality human relationships so we can continue to measure our success (which is the customer’s success) by the amount of ROL (return-on-love) we are able to create in the process and in the outcome.
We hope the above information will help you in making informed decisions about your brand. If you want to say hi or have any questions about naming, branding, and domain names get in touch, we’re always happy to hear from you.