TOTEM – Meaningful Branding

Like a phoenix rises from the ashes, clarity emerges from the clutter and complexity with TOTEM’s unique approach to branding.

I first started working as an associate copywriter and brand strategist with TOTEM back in 2017.

And we instantly hit it off. I love their philosophy towards branding.

We began to frequently collaborate on projects and together developed quite a unique, empathetic and customer-driven approach to branding and rebranding – one that strives to really empower people, and organisations, to connect with their audience.

Over the years, and project by project, we’ve both evolved and innovated. So much so, that one day, when we looked at TOTEM (and indeed myself) from the outside in, we realised it was time for our own brands to catch up.

We’d been so busy transforming everyone else – we needed to take a moment to refresh our own identity and positioning too.

A simple new approach

So we treated ourselves, as we would any other external client. And TOTEM was first.

We gathered the full creative team and I facilitated a workshop, where the team looked at what they do, how they do it and most importantly why.

When I first met Colin and the team – he referenced this as one of his favourite quotes:

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things the supreme excellence is simplicity.”

– Henry Longfellow.

And when we dug down into what they do best and what they now uniquely offer it was that ability to deliver real “Clarity through simplicity” that shone through.

Their ability to cut through the noise and the clutter until they’ve helped a brand find the simplest, most compelling expression of their WHY.

A clear process

Our next step was to break that what down – into a clear creative process. So that whatever the project, whoever the client – everyone experienced the benefit and consistancy of this uniquely TOTEM approach to branding.

Having started as a brand-led design agency, over time, as they quite organically evolved and innovated they became more a design-led thinking, branding agency.

It may sound like a subtle shift. But actually, the difference is quite profound. And simply defining this new way of doing things, was critical.

  1. You might already have guessed what the first step might be (I think I may have mentioned this word once or twice already!) – SIMPLIFY.
  2. The next was to CREATE – to craft inspiring designs, creative campaigns and innovative digital solutions to connect with our audience.
  3. And last, but vitally important was to EMPOWER their clients through guidelines and tools to continue to communicate with clarity and connect with their audience. Building an authentic brand across all touchpoints.
With a clear voice

As someone who specialises in tone of voice, this was the bit of the project I was most excited about.

And at this stage, there will be no surprises what one of the key elements was for their voice. Yes, it was simplicity. The TOTEM brand expresses itself clearly and simply.

In their blog and with their clients, they have an ability to tackle very complex topics and subjects, while keeping their language simple and concise.

And voice doesn’t mean their verbal. TOTEM is an incredible creative visual branding agency. Much of what they say is expressed through imagery, colour choices, typography and graphics.

A heartfelt promise

So, with the what and the how defined. What was their promise? What was their why? If sitting the Marty Neiumer’s ONLYNESS test… what would their answer be?

TOTEM exists to empower brands to find and live their meaning.

And having worked with them, across countless projects over the past few years, I do believe in TOTEM’s promise of being the only ones that deliver truly meaningful branding.

The friends we’ve made

It was amazing to facilitate a workshop and work up a promise and tone of voice for a brand I work so closely with. And admire so much.

One of the things I’m most grateful for, in my collaborations with TOTEM, is the opportunity it’s provided me with, to meet and co-create some amazing other characters…

  • Like Cork Airport and their new “Love Taking Off” tagline
  • Cork Chamber and the voice of a dynamic champion
  • Horizon 8 and a new name for a new global market
  • Or CLIFF with a voice that intrigued and inspired magic
Check it out…

I hope you found this insight into the process of TOTEM’s brand refresh helpful. And enjoyed meeting one of my favourite characters.

You can check out their website to get a feel for their character yourself. And to meet some of other co-creations too.

Next up, after the TOTEM refresh, I turned my sights to my own brand. If you’re interested in the process that led to Set the Tone, you can read about it here. Thanks so much, Cath (Founder of Set the Tone).

More Favourite Creations