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Thursday
Dec152011

Sense of a brand





It is true that most people know more brand names than birds, flowers or tree species, yet, in a world swamped by infinite distractions, how many do they actually recognize?

Some brand gurus say a brand is what people think of it. Swedish brand planner Jonas Bergvall believes that everything you remember about a company, through interaction, what other people say about them, advertising, using their products or every other interaction is their brand for you.

So the brand is actually,
just a memory.

And by creating a brand identity or a logo we try and give a visual face to those memories, orchestrating the ideal memory our customer should have of our brand. Be remembered, thought and spoken about for the right reasons. 

By constructing a brand as a memory you also get a better tool for managing your brand. For example, the trigger for the brand experience to go viral can actually be built into the way that the product or service is designed and works. It can be built into the users behavior, rituals, habits rather than bombarded in through already cluttered media. In order to do this, designers need to be constantly aware of how users will make a relationship with the product or service. And this is where sensory design comes into play. Points of sensory differences embed themselves in our memories and build lasting relationships with the things we use everyday.

I stumbled upon a deeply insightful book called BRAND SENSE by Martin Lindstrom while researching for an innovation design project. His theory of a smashable brands got me interested in concept of sensory branding and how it makes such perfect sense in brand design. 
When we see a logo, our defenses go up and stay up. 
We fear we're being played, or manipulated. MARTIN LINDSTROM
He questions not only the emotion, beliefs, and desires your brand evokes, but its feel, touch, sound, smell and personality, of which the logo is just one small part. Whether it's a soda can, a car, a doll, a fragrance, a smartphone, or laptop, your brand needs to be smashable, e.g., instantly identifiable via its shape, design, copy, contours, and even navigation.

He also points out that the craft of sensory branding is not new. History has made a case for it. From the smell of popcorn, the sound of a crunchy cornflakes to the smell of a new car, sensory components have been designed to enhance our relationship with products. Creative business thinkers have practiced this age-old craft to build memorable experiences that became iconic brands.
Like Coke, the original smashable brand. Apparently the brief for the guy who designed the coke bottle we now know and love was: The bottle design should be so distinctive that if it were broken, the pieces would still be recognizable as part of the whole. That's just to do with form and shape. Coke also made the color red their own back in the day, when they got Santa to wear red instead of the then traditional green. 
The brand color turf wars are intense.
Most recently, Christian Louboutin, the hot shoe brand has found its "red sole" (the sole of every single Louboutin shoe is painted brilliant red. Pantone 187C, to be exact). Cadburys also saw red recently, when Nestle threatened to end its purple reign, a color the company adopted in 1905 for it's regal and indulgent lineage (Pantone 2685C).
Others components that evoke the sense of vision are imagery, icons, symbols and perhaps, light. Rise of user-generated photo & video and exploding visual clutter has made it almost impossible for brands to be differentiated on imagery alone, the way Benetton's signature photography style did in the 90s; while digital visual design has opened up a whole new world for symbols & icons because of their flexibility and graphical sophistication.

While taste and smell act as triggers for each other, smell is also one of the key senses connected to memories. 
Singapore Airlines stands out as a non-food brand for their use of smell; they actually patented an aroma called Stefan Floridian Waters that permeates through the fleet. They have also made conscious efforts to integrate sensorial signatures into their service & behavior, which add even more memorability to the brand experience.
Listen to your brand.
Sound is connected to emotion and has been used richly through the ages in food & automobile industries (Audi, Harley). But what's really got sonic branding to the fore is its application in technology. If our car engine purrs right, we feel reassured. We wait to hear our gadgets boot up. It has been hard wired into us, we try and 'hear' the well-being of our technology almost instinctively.
The sense of touch is another key sense that has been maximised with advent of touchscreens. Making pinching or flicking motions against the screen of a smart phone or tablet is often more intuitive than navigating a computer screen with a mouse. Innovation designers even use SKEUOMORPHS to bridge gaps between what people are used to and a new method of doing things, for example a page curl on an ebook.

And then there is the sixth sense, based on which people will talk to each other about your brand and make up their minds anyway. No matter what you do. Behaviors, rituals, habits are mostly user generated. When customers become fans, they clearly get jiggy with it. Case in point, just google: How to pour a perfect pint of Guinness.

But should we blindly go about turning on the sensory components of products & services, that can lead to a possible sensory overload? Apparently there is a method to this. 
Bridge the disconnect between what you say and what you are.
Author Simon Sinek says most companies need to start with "Why?" VIEW VIDEO. Both Lindstorm & Sinek talk of authenticity as the core of their thinking. But what is authenticity anyway? I looked for the answers deep within Hindu philosophy (seriously) and found the answer in the BHAGAVAD GITA. Apparently, authenticity is about being a first rate version of yourself rather than being a second rate version of someone else. In other words, you need to be as real to your authentic Self as Hitler or Jack the ripper were to their victims. 

In my formative years I was taught that the most powerful element in advertising is the truth, that communication has to be built from bottom up, not placed like a cherry on top.
No matter how skillful you are, you can't invent a product advantage that doesn't exist. And if you do, and it's just a gimmick, it's going to fall apart anyway. BILL BERNBACH SAID
But brands can be organic, they get created even when you're not trying to create them (like Harry Potter and David Beckham, two of the most iconic brands created in Britain in the recent history). Being conscious of the sensory dimension, as Lindstrom calls it, one that is distinct enough for users to recognize without the usual logo, color or typography cues, is not a fad. It could actually prove crucial in the coming times to creating products & services for markets where not just language, but even literacy can be a challenge.

I come from a country that is socioculturally diverse, but a strong visual and material culture connects us.
Strong proponents of sensorial design, like religion, influence our early awareness of the world. Imagine trying to differentiate between 2 million gods, each with his own personal branding toolkit: rituals, festivals, sights, symbols, smells, imagery, language, music, dance, events and so on. But we happily get by. And most importantly, we accept it.
You're seldom intimidated by something you can feel. JONATHAN IVE
Saturday
Sep032011

The kitchen of innovation

When Plato implied that necessity is the mother of all invention, he was probably not thinking of an emerging India. An India that is defined by contradictions, to a point where our contradictions have become cliches.

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