Not all ideas are bulletproof. Know which are.

Not all ideas are bulletproof.
Know which are.

Branding is nothing new.

It is as old as cattle rearing.

But not many know that the real value of brands was known to the world in 1988 when Philip Morris – one of the largest consumer goods producers at that time – purchased Kraft Inc., for $13.1 billion in cash. This gutsy move by Philip Morris relegated Unilever to the second position in the consumer goods market and emerged as #1. Until then, brands were just names that helped companies sell more products and those that possessed mammoth valuations only on paper. But nobody was sure what the real value of a brand would be. What Philip Morris did was nothing less than institutionalizing companies and reinstating that successful companies produce brands but not products. Though branding was a well-established practice in every market, 1988 spelled it out loud and clear that brands need to build a solitary uniqueness for themselves in preparation for the evolution that was brewing in the world around them.

Bullets too are nothing new.

They were first made in the nineteenth century.

But bulletproofing came a century after that.

Check this: Branding for Startups

Today, entrepreneurship has become so common that it is no longer a job restricted to the glass-walled offices. Despite the democratization, every day a lot of ideas end up in garbage bins. While some ideas lack the potential to make business, some good ideas are unable to enjoy the fruits of their efforts because of poor branding and imitable brand traits.

When the tech-entrepreneurship in the Silicon Valley was going at a breakneck pace, it experienced a jolt that had its origins in Europe. Marc, Alexander and Oliver Samwer of Munich, Germany are three brothers who caused this jolt by replicating some of the biggest tech ideas such as Airbnb, ebay, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and many others in the European market and reaped heavy returns. They also made it a habit to blitzscale their own versions of those ideas in Europe and later sell it to the American counterpart. Contrary to this, there are several other brands that made quality consumer goods but failed miserably. Today, nobody would believe that Colgate made food products, Apple made cameras and Heinz made purple ketchup. Why? Because of poor branding strategy, they could not make it to the consumers’ cart.

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The point of discussion is not about protecting valuable ideas but to brand those ideas from the beginning so that they can grow stronger – strong enough to take a bullet and save the entrepreneur from failing. Replication of an idea is as dangerous as ignoring one. Today, branding as a discipline grew beyond names and logos. It emerged as a long-term solution to several problems. Leverage its power.

Because only branded ideas are bulletproof.

Looking for Branding for Startups? Click here.

Gastro Clinics

Gastro Clinics


Working from our gut to create a brand solution
for a clinic that’s an expert at working on the gut.

‘Classic’ and ‘humane’ is what we had in mind when we approached this logo design. The colours are sophisticated and ensure people are not further intimidated by the word ‘treatment’. A simple and relevant mnemonic on the canvas of a shield, representing safety and trust – the two things that matter most in healthcare. From a certain angle, it also looks like a container, communicating that the clinic holds industry knowledge. It’s a chain of clinics in Hyderabad, hence the minimalism so it can break the loud clutter without doing too much.

MeatJoy

MeatJoy

A brand that greets you with a smile and makes your tummy smile.

Building a new brand is always a challenge, especially in the food and beverages industry. MeatJoy offers farm-to-plate meat delivery service both through their app and stores. All they promise is great quality and freshness. To represent these simple yet valuable characteristics, we chose a shade of green that reminds people of natural elements, and put a smile in the logo that greets the customers. We also designed a compact package that keeps their promise. To pull all these characters together, we brought in a cheery goat mascot to say that they only deliver goat & lamb meat.

We are not your target audience

We are not your target audience

We are not.
You too are not your target audience.
Then who is?
(Rather than picturing the plural of the word ‘audience’, let’s walk through the story of one audience, who happened to be a target for a brief time).

An Indian traveler once came across a restaurant in Istanbul that hung a note near the entrance that said anyone who doesn’t enjoy their food can call the waiter and tell him the same and they could get their bill repaid or waived. Surprisingly, nobody complained about their food in all the years. Including our humble Indian.

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The same traveler was in France later and he walked into a reputed restaurant to try some talked-about French food. This time, this restaurant has sported no such note that it will serve for free. All the more, the traveler didn’t have his previous experience in mind and just went on to place an order as usual. After the meal, he got thoroughly disappointed with the food. He didn’t like it at all. Not taking the liberty to throw his disappointment in the face of the manager, he came back and gave a bad review to the restaurant online. A few days later, the man got a mail from that French restaurant apologizing for failing to delight him. They even asked for his bank details so that they can return the money he paid for the food. Doubting the legitimacy of the mail, he didn’t share his details. A couple of years later, this man happened to be in France again and coincidentally, went to this same restaurant. The manager remembered him post-haste and apologized for what happened earlier. He even offered a free meal this time. Moments later, the unbelievable gesture is that the manager gifted his expensive wristwatch to this Indian man as a token of apology and as a memento of goodwill.

That note in Istanbul targeted hundreds of audiences.
The wristwatch in France targeted only one audience, who probably wouldn’t visit again.

Now, say you run the restaurant.
The cooks are grappling with knives and burners.
The waiter paces across the floor.
You receive your customers at the entrance.

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If you’re wondering where we are, we don’t dine at your restaurant. Think of us like this: we just linger at your door and in the street to eavesdrop on your visitors.

Our job is to write that note for you that hangs outside the restaurant.
We design and put together such a message for you that keeps you in business longer than you expected.

Just to let you know, don’t worry – we wouldn’t suggest you give away your watch to a dissatisfied diner. We shall think of some other way out.

Not to mention, the target audiences are not sitting ducks, but migrating Pelicans.
We are here to help you target the right audience, with the right arms, in the right season, at the right time.

Oaks and Stones

Oaks and Stones

An in-line logo for an outspoken brand.

Oaks and Stones is a newborn brand that is waiting to be discovered in the infrastructure and real estate industry. The brand name and it’s visual representation make an ensemble of building experts. The contrast of bold lines on mild solid background gives a firm pedestal for the brand to make it’s presence memorable. The brand is making it’s way in the construction industry with a keen focus on niche services.

The [funny] art of naming a nail polish

The [funny] art of naming a nail polish

American Hustle (2013) is a peculiar movie. This highly entertaining flick is put together brilliantly. Don’t know how many of you noticed Jennifer Lawrence’s (Rosalyn Rosenfeld in the movie) obsession over her [supposedly] beautiful nails and the particularly beautiful nail polish she wears. In one of the scenes, half way through the movie, she goes on and on about her fragrant nail polish while she is dining in a restaurant with her husband and another couple. The sweet spot we are interested in this scene is the way she describes her nail polish. She says, ‘There’s this top coat that you can only get from Switzerland and I don’t know what I’m going to do because I’m running out of it but I LOVE the smell of it’. And then she asks everyone to smell her nails and describes it as ‘perfumey but also something rotten’.

Painting nails is not a new avocation. It has been there for centuries. The commercial practice of it started only in 1878. The first nail salon was opened in Manhattan during this time when women entered the workforce. It started off as an inexpensive luxury. It was so in demand that people bought nail polish even during the Great Depression. Back then, when asked what makes nail polish so desirable, women said that it makes them feel good about themselves. People certainly couldn’t disagree with this opinion as men had too many things to feel good about themselves. Later, Hollywood stars and advertisements propagated the appealing nature of nail polish and it eventually became a great topic to talk about among women.

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When people talk about something, they use names of people or places or events or anything related to it. However, initially, nail polish had only numbers for each shade. Each colour had multiple shades and the manufacturers didn’t think much about numbering each tiny bottle. The unpleasant fact is that we have only limited terms for colours and infinite numbers. Both are equally displeasing. A great thinker once said that to name something is to begin understanding it. Perhaps, Jennifer Lawrence attempts to name her nail polish only to fail, but ends up giving a glaring description. She understood it, but could not name it.

It is interesting to notice the way language restricts our verbal expressions. A linguistic study revealed that there are only 6-8 colours that can be recognized and associated universally with a set of words. Some tribal languages have only three colour terms – dark, light and all the others. Russian has two words for blue (wonder what they say to ask for a pair of blue jeans). Most Indian languages do not have words for colours like pink and purple. Some of the colour terms are even borrowed from fruits, vegetables and animals’ nomenclature. We have hundreds of colours and their respective shades, but only a few terms to represent them. But, all these linguistic barriers did not stop Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, the Hungarian-American businesswoman who founded O.P.I, from inventing new names for all the lovely shades she had produced in her company. She was so unstoppable that she named one of the shades ‘Lincoln park after dark’. The company is known for it’s hilariously witty, funny and innovative nail polish names.

O.P.I was originally Odontorium Products Inc., a small dental supply company. After it was sold out, Suzi and her partner turned this company into a nail polish manufacturer. They started giving funny names to different shades and every collection holds relevance. When the company plans a limited collection to be released in a particular city, Suzi flies down to that city, explores all the iconic places and makes notes. Later, she will be accompanied by her naming squad, typically consisting of people from different departments of the company, and they thumb through maps, atlases and books to arrive at a clever name. No wonder they came up with a name like ‘Sun, sea and sand in my pants’.

Suzi was hit with this idea of giving clever names to nail polish when she was at a Starbucks once. She wondered, when a coffee seed can be brewed in different ways and it could be sold with different names, nail polishes too deserve a new identity like that. Other nail polish manufacturers too followed their naming architecture and created a gorgeous industry. When asked about what she feels about nail polishes, Suzie said it’s a ‘personal experience’. It’s true. This experience comes alive when a friend or a stranger at the bar comes up to a woman to know the name of the nail polish shade she is wearing and the name the woman utters is what makes it tick. It circles in their social circles until the stock is sold-out.

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Here are a few names that didn’t leave our mind after we read them.

A butterfly moment | My Chihuahua bites | I’m not really a waitress | Crawfishin’ for a compliment | Don’t Bossa Nova me around | Can’t find my Czechbook | Alpaca my bags | Vant to bite my neck? | Don’t make me wine | Tea with the queen | Jealous boyfriend | Jamaican me crazy | Pet my peacock | Cougar attack | Don’t pretzel my buttons | Did you ear about Van Gogh

The last one is our favourite – not the shade, just the name.

There are two interesting stories worthy of sharing. Suzie was bitten by a Chihuahua when they were under the process of naming and hence ‘My Chihuahua bites’. A woman from the naming team was in a restaurant once and the waitress spilled some wine on her accidentally and said ‘I’m not really a waitress’ and that apologetic phrase turned into a name instantly.

If this is the way to name things, ‘Rotten flower from Swiss Alps’ would make a perfect name for Jennifer Lawrence’s nail polish in the movie American Hustle.

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Notes from our design studio

Notes from our design studio

The taste for identity and an urge for differentiation is nothing new. Like we have corporate logos today, the Japanese created their own family ‘crests’ for each family name, centuries ago. Each crest represents a surname (usually called a family name). These pieces of identity are also called Coat of Arms in some parts of the world. This fact might belittle a graphic designer at first but it reinforces their efforts towards their work of art as they are practicing one of the oldest arts, but in another way and by using modern tools. Nothing we do today is born out of thin air and nothing can all stand by itself. Artists seeking originality today have to attempt a dialogue with history.

A researcher once said that his passport is more powerful than him because it has all the information the other person has to know about him and it looks cuter than his whole self and that it can cross borders alone, but he cannot without carrying it. His argument postulated the inevitable inclination towards brevity and information. Although his statement corresponds to a different field of study, it seems more relevant in the context of design. Communication is essential in this world and we are more and more dependent on machines and mechanical persons for that purpose. To declutter the process, downsizing has to take charge.

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You are bound to reinvent the wheel and yes, it is useless. While thinking about a graphical/artistic representation of a product/brand you might first produce something that is close to an already existing piece of art. You will then go for some other unexplored areas to get a hold of a new perspective. This happened with the invention of the hand axe for the first time. During the hominin evolution, those who invented the hand axe could not transmit the knowledge of how it was made to the next generation and so it was invented several times over centuries. The hand axe and the subsequent compound axe were invented over and over again. Against this epic failure, a designer must avoid reinventing things by transmitting his knowledge from project to project about how not to think and where not to look for inspiration.

Design (graphic design for that matter) is closely related to semiotics. The French thinker Roland Barthes had a distinct voice in this regard. His idea of semiotics and the interrelatedness of every object within its vicinity sheds light on mass culture. Film is one such culture. For instance, the movies made in the early 60s and 70s had a nature of feeding information with every frame. Posters and titles have had many direct visual and symbolic representations of what the maker wanted to convey. So, it seems, film has always got the necessary semiotic perspective, if we reinterpret one of Roland Barthes’ statements that meant – the audience always looks for signs to interpret a narrative. For example, Saul Bass’ ‘Anatomy of a murder’ is one iconic poster designed for the film by the same name. Sometimes design acts as a substitute for language and thought, and other times it cannot be substituted.

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Orson Welles didn’t make ‘Citizen Kane’ all by himself and had a number of inspirations for many scenes of the film. Xerox didn’t invent photocopiers. Microsoft didn’t invent Windows. Apple didn’t invent MP3 players. Amazon didn’t invent online shopping. Sony didn’t invent games consoles, video recorders, or portable cassette players. They all just brought together all the greatest inventions and consolidated them to make the best product. When you don’t have an idea, stay open to the world and work things in your way later. A person, a word, a street or a coffee might give you an idea (not restricted to these and not necessarily in this order).

Few designers talk about Design Thinking, few others talk about Design Doing, some talk about Design Being but you can always end with Design Feeling.

Inkube

Inkube

Making design not just the extension of the environment,
but the environment itself.

INKUBE – a coworking space – is the definition of contemporary in the modern world. It’s where a lot of young ideas will bloom into the voices of the future. We did not want to limit the environmental branding (space branding) to just complimenting the vibe, but also generating it. Therefore, pragmatic designs that blend seamlessly into the space and create one positive aura, and bright colors to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit.

Thinking of brands

Thinking of brands

People think of a brand as much as a brand thinks of people.

People thinking

People do not think about a brand unless they have a need and a brand serves it well. Those needs could be functional or emotional. Several products came into existence to serve the many needs of people and brands drop their ads and visual identities whenever and wherever possible to grab their attention. Early in the infancy of this industry, naive-experts (oxymoron) understood that a brand is what people know and what they think about it and not what the brand actually wants to be. A brand exists as a knowledge structure in the mind of the consumer The power of a brand lies in what resides in the minds of customers. And, so, accordingly those brands that make people think become stronger brands. Such strong brands are always rooted in culture or in daily lives. To emphasise, stronger brands deliver customer value by providing culturally resonant stories and images that customers use to buttress their identities.

Marlboro was reintroduced in 1955 as a filtered cigarette targeted to men. The new advertising showed tough men sporting a military tattoo on the top of one hand. The ads told stories of these men enjoying themselves working on their car or fishing. This launch was a huge success that fetched a 5%increase in share. This tattoo campaign was pulled in 1959. For the next four years, agencies experimented with a variety of ideas intended to communicate masculinity and none of them worked. Finally in 1965 the brand took off again with a campaign depicting the autonomous life of industrious cowboys laboring on the range, with music from The MagnificentSeven playing in the background, and named this new imaginary place‘Marlboro Country’.

Budweiser was a competitive but not dominating brand in the 1970s, strongly challenged by other well-known brands. In 1983, they launched “This Bud’sfor You,” a campaign that showcased men working cheerfully and industriously in artisanal trades, men whom Bud saluted with abaritone-​voiced announcer proclaiming “this Bud’s for you!” The results were startling. American men, particularly working-class men, flocked to the beer. By the middle of the decade, Budweiser was unchallenged as the most desirable beer in the country, dominating the premium segment.

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People think for themselves and not for the brands. They are insanely busy and unapologetically forgetful. A brand can have a moment with them provided the brand relates itself to them culturally and individually.

Brands thinking

Brands have no choice but to think about people. ‘People can remember brands but brands cannot remember people’ is an obvious overstatement but it emphasises the need for doing something worth remembering.

A Lexus dealer once delivered a serviced car to a customer. The next day, the customer complained of a leak from somewhere which left a dark stain on the concrete floor of his garage. The usual apology of a luxury brand would consist of two more free services or something in that line. But the dealer serviced the car for free again and instead of getting the floor cleaned, he replaced the entire concrete floor with a new one.

When Apple first thought of opening their own stores, the primary thing they are worried about is the customer experience. Their idea of brick-and-mortar stores were those that offer an immersive experience. To test their ability, they erected a wooden replica of their pre-planned store in the outskirts of the city only to dismantle it because Steve Jobs didn’t like it. Though they fell short of time and budget, they worked around their shortcomings and what we see today is a result of months of experimentation. The idea of the GeniusBar too holds a similar back story.

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Brands have so much to lose with each touchpoint. The ad could be great but the shopping experience could be dissatisfying or the product itself could be poorly designed. A brand’s job is to assimilate everything onto the same page. An average product and an average service creates an average impression. A Great product and a great shopping experience create a lasting impression. Sloppy product with a great service and an average ad create only confusion. This confusion is harmful in a competitive market. Nike is based upon ‘authentic athletic performance’, which exists as a knowledge structure in customers’ minds. Yet, consumers’ knowledge of ofNike’s athletic performance is inconsequential. They hold similar knowledge structures for Adidas, Puma and other athletic brands. This knowledge does not differentiate success from failure, and has nothing to do with why consumers valueNike’s brand symbolism. Consumers value Nike primarily because they find value in the stories that have been embedded in Nike, its symbolism, and draw upon these stories in their everyday lives.

Walker’s Diary

Walker’s Diary

A diary that inspires you all through the year.

The idea for this diary stemmed out of Ucchvas’ positioning statement which says, Re-walk to life. It is loaded with inspiration and aspiration. To take it further, we designed this diary that narrates the lives of the greatest people who contributed to humankind in various ways. This is a tribute to those legends who walked miles and miles in pursuit of knowledge and for a greater good. With this diary, each month begins with an inspiring story. Each day reminds you to never stop your journey. ‘Odyssey’, the name of this diary, aptly summarizes the journey of life.