Do lesser known brands know more about branding?

Do lesser known brands know more about branding?

Probably, yes.
What’s a brand. According to David Aaker, a brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. But, not many think in these terms. How many global brands, that provide us with business cases to be studied and learnt, qualify to be brands as per this definition. Aaker may not hold the supreme power of branding and its study, but it is hard to dismiss his take. If we define a brand in these terms, it appears that several low-key and under-the-radar brands seem to know more about branding than the giants. See what some lesser known ten brands have to say about themselves:

Check this: Branding for Startups

    • 10.Deep® is an independent, street fashion brand founded in 1995. Springing out of the mix of niche musical and visual subcultures that fueled the New York / Tokyo / London streetwear scene of the 1990s. 10.Deep® embodies the spirit of independence that has driven youth culture for decades. 10.Deep is you against the world.
    • “We (WTAPS) started around 92/93. There was something in society against the majority. The majority had the majority culture and the minority had of course the minority counterculture. We fell into the minority.”
    • Farfetch exists for the love of fashion. We believe in empowering individuality.
    • Since its inception, Post O’Alls’ style remain unchanged – authentic in details and construction, distinctive in eclectic mix of various styles and fabrics, some adjustment if desired, with original characters built-in – and always rooted in vintage work clothes and other functional garments such as military outfits and outdoor garments, which were all evolved from work wear platform.
    • The world has changed—the world of fashion has not. That’s why we started A Day’s March. […] A Day’s March makes clothes with long-lasting quality and design. Instead of following every fashion trend, we want to create clothes that last and that you’ll love to wear for years. This is good for the planet.
    • Horses Atelier was founded in 2012 by best friends and novelists, Dey and Sopinka, with the philosophy of making pieces based on the values they hold in everyday life: utility, beauty, wildness, and endurance. […] Horses Atelier believes in the local economy and in the rare skills and empowerment of those who make our garments.
    • Ffixxed Studios makes clothing and objects that respond, adapt to, and inspire changing conditions for contemporary living. The ready-to-wear label evolves seasonally alongside a variety of other projects and collaborations that inform the evolution of the brand. reflecting on the everyday, the collections respond to the construction of daily life, exploring notions of work and life in contemporary culture.
    • Icebreaker is about icebreaking. We explore the relationship between people and nature. It’s about kinship, not conquering. Nature is our hero. Driven by the belief that nature has the solutions, we provide natural performance alternatives to synthetic based apparel […].
    • Tender Co. has its roots in antique workwear and machinery, especially from the Great British Steam Age. […] Important face of Tender’s British-made clothing is the nurture which is put into the clothes: in their research, design, manufacture, and wear. Just as a gardener tends to a vegetable patch, or a shepherd is the tender to a flock of sheep.
    • On (-running) was born in the Swiss alps with one goal: to revolutionize the sensation of running. It’s all based on one radical idea. Soft landings followed by explosive take-offs. Or, as we call it, running on clouds.

You may also like: The iconography of Olympics: A look back

Skim through the underlined parts. It is amazing to see how each brand is founded on a story, a purpose, a memory, a way of setting expectations and a method of serving the need they care about. Knowingly or unknowingly these brands have been redefining branding. One of the recent issues on brand management principles holds that a brand has to aspire to grow and expand. But not all brands have big aspirations and it is not the aspiration of the brand that makes it what it is, but it is the aspiration of people they care about. Sooner or later, branding professionals have to start looking at the other side.

Looking for Branding for Startups? Click here.

The iconography of Olympics: A look back

The iconography of Olympics: A look back

For decades to come, Indians are going to remember the striking image of the athlete Neeraj Chopra clutching the javelin firmly and sprinting on the runway for his last throw that earned him a gold medal in Tokyo Olympics. For a moment, he looked like a fierce Greek statue that came to life. Talking of Olympics and the Greeks, it is fitting to go back in time to know the philosophy of the event, which originated on the land of the western thinkers. That very philosophy will give us the ticket for a quick ride to the icons used in the Olympics events.

What is it like to be an Olympic athlete? If your own country is not hosting the event, you will be invited to a foreign nation and you will undergo rigorous training to participate. At last, the moment arrives, your name is called, and you burst out into the arena, ready to face the challenge and be tested in front of everyone. This ancient event was a matter of great pride and prestige, but the legacy did not continue for long. In the ancient Greek society, shame and failure were ruthlessly brushed away. There were no consolations for losers or rewards for taking part. Despite the prevalence of such idealistic hypocrisy, what inspired athletes and sportspersons to test themselves against others? Greek philosophy says that the burning desire to transcend limits and transform into a champion is ingrained in human nature. This transcendence, as opined by Aristotle, comes with morals and ethics. It is well known that these ancient Greek ideals were what inspired the modern Olympics’ founder, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He is credited for reviving the Olympics in the late nineteenth century by gathering the world at a place and representing this unity through the famous logo with five rings. He modernized the ideals of Olympics by saying that ‘the important thing in life is not the triumph but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.’

Check this: Branding for Startups

By the mid-twentieth century, the event of such magnificence was partnered by curious design elements resulting in a visually appealing and comprehensible sign system called pictograms. They are popularly known as icons. The motive of this sign system is to communicate with the audience and participants without employing language. This easy-to-understand system took birth in the Tokyo Olympics, 1964. Later, Lance Wyman, the designer of 1968 Mexico Olympics gave it an artistic punch that remained in the history of the Olympics as one of the most influential design projects. In the Olympics that followed this design turn, pictograms have undergone several iterations inspired by geometric shapes, sports objects, cave paintings and human ergonomics. The most memorable and highly appreciated pictograms appeared in Munich 1968, Lillehammer 1994, Sydney 2000, Salt Lake 2002, Athens 2004 and London 2012.

After nearly six decades, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics took this practice to a higher plane with kinetic pictograms. Though this Olympics’ pictograms are said to be the modernization of those designed in 1964 by the same host city, the overall communication with the rest of the world surprised everyone by not reaching the roots of Japan’s heritage and culture, as in other iconic Olympic pictograms, but fusing manga and anime art practice. Until now, the history and heritage of a host nation, in the Olympics, have been showcased with reference to the ancient and medieval ancestral traces. Occasionally, a completely contemporary path was chosen. This may be the first time that a nation considered pop-culture as an integral part of its history.

You may also like: How Sexy can a Tea brand get?

It may seem trivial at first to pay attention to the pictograms and the design techniques of a sports event, but if you reach back to the philosophy of Olympics, it adds up to the whole picture. The Olympics is not about inviting people from all over the world and hosting a majestic event, but about exchange and experiencing cultures. It is also about recognizing, acknowledging and respecting each other. You might have stumbled on the phrase global-village at first but convinced yourselves that it might as well be true because technology is connecting us. If it is true, why do we still feel strange when we are around a foreigner? There are people who seek answers to questions like, even after so many centuries, why couldn’t the human race develop a common language? Most of such questions are answered by pictograms. In terms of language, pictograms have grammar rules, syntax, semantics and history. Despite the availability of a host of media, pictograms are what came to realize the phrase global-village in the Olympics village.
Looking for Branding for Startups? Click here.

How Sexy can a Tea brand get?

The iconography of Olympics: A look back

For decades to come, Indians are going to remember the striking image of the athlete Neeraj Chopra clutching the javelin firmly and sprinting on the runway for his last throw that earned him a gold medal in Tokyo Olympics. For a moment, he looked like a fierce Greek statue that came to life. Talking of Olympics and the Greeks, it is fitting to go back in time to know the philosophy of the event, which originated on the land of the western thinkers. That very philosophy will give us the ticket for a quick ride to the icons used in the Olympics events.

What is it like to be an Olympic athlete? If your own country is not hosting the event, you will be invited to a foreign nation and you will undergo rigorous training to participate. At last, the moment arrives, your name is called, and you burst out into the arena, ready to face the challenge and be tested in front of everyone. This ancient event was a matter of great pride and prestige, but the legacy did not continue for long. In the ancient Greek society, shame and failure were ruthlessly brushed away. There were no consolations for losers or rewards for taking part. Despite the prevalence of such idealistic hypocrisy, what inspired athletes and sportspersons to test themselves against others? Greek philosophy says that the burning desire to transcend limits and transform into a champion is ingrained in human nature. This transcendence, as opined by Aristotle, comes with morals and ethics. It is well known that these ancient Greek ideals were what inspired the modern Olympics’ founder, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He is credited for reviving the Olympics in the late nineteenth century by gathering the world at a place and representing this unity through the famous logo with five rings. He modernized the ideals of Olympics by saying that ‘the important thing in life is not the triumph but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.’

Check this: Branding for Startups

By the mid-twentieth century, the event of such magnificence was partnered by curious design elements resulting in a visually appealing and comprehensible sign system called pictograms. They are popularly known as icons. The motive of this sign system is to communicate with the audience and participants without employing language. This easy-to-understand system took birth in the Tokyo Olympics, 1964. Later, Lance Wyman, the designer of 1968 Mexico Olympics gave it an artistic punch that remained in the history of the Olympics as one of the most influential design projects. In the Olympics that followed this design turn, pictograms have undergone several iterations inspired by geometric shapes, sports objects, cave paintings and human ergonomics. The most memorable and highly appreciated pictograms appeared in Munich 1968, Lillehammer 1994, Sydney 2000, Salt Lake 2002, Athens 2004 and London 2012.

After nearly six decades, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics took this practice to a higher plane with kinetic pictograms. Though this Olympics’ pictograms are said to be the modernization of those designed in 1964 by the same host city, the overall communication with the rest of the world surprised everyone by not reaching the roots of Japan’s heritage and culture, as in other iconic Olympic pictograms, but fusing manga and anime art practice. Until now, the history and heritage of a host nation, in the Olympics, have been showcased with reference to the ancient and medieval ancestral traces. Occasionally, a completely contemporary path was chosen. This may be the first time that a nation considered pop-culture as an integral part of its history.

You may also like: How Sexy can a Tea brand get?

It may seem trivial at first to pay attention to the pictograms and the design techniques of a sports event, but if you reach back to the philosophy of Olympics, it adds up to the whole picture. The Olympics is not about inviting people from all over the world and hosting a majestic event, but about exchange and experiencing cultures. It is also about recognizing, acknowledging and respecting each other. You might have stumbled on the phrase global-village at first but convinced yourselves that it might as well be true because technology is connecting us. If it is true, why do we still feel strange when we are around a foreigner? There are people who seek answers to questions like, even after so many centuries, why couldn’t the human race develop a common language? Most of such questions are answered by pictograms. In terms of language, pictograms have grammar rules, syntax, semantics and history. Despite the availability of a host of media, pictograms are what came to realize the phrase global-village in the Olympics village.
Looking for Branding for Startups? Click here.

Writing a touching letter to customers: A three-step guide

Writing a touching letter to customers: A three-step guide

2008 was an unforgettable year for the world. The financial crisis that began that year was so severe that it uprooted centuries old banks, shut down businesses, forced many people to live hand-to-mouth, and even to migrate to cheaper places. When the markets were falling apart during this economic upheaval, can you imagine the fate of a prosperous brand like Starbucks that was on a downward spiral simultaneously with the crisis? It is a brand that sells one of the most admired espressos in the west. It was also a brand that compromised on quality for business expansion during this period. By the time the company realized that they failed in delivering the promise to serve the best espresso, it was too late for them to orchestrate damage control. But, as the classic maxim goes – better late than never, one Tuesday afternoon in February that year, the company closed more than seven thousand stores indefinitely and put up a letter on the locked doors saying:

“We’re taking time to perfect our espresso.
Great espresso requires practice.
That’s why we’re dedicating ourselves to honing our craft.”

Check this: Branding for Startups

Apart from the meticulously planned and well executed business revival strategy, what stood out for us is the bunch of words that the brand put up on the closed doors. Shortly, the brand could reclaim its customers and was lauded for making its coffee better. Being branding professionals at an elemental level, we sometimes wonder as to the stunning power of a small letter compared to an advert or a huge campaign. Emotional letters, notes and e-mails to customers simply amaze us sometimes.

Twelve years later.

2020 is a mightier nightmare than 2008. The entire world took a break in turns just to survive the COVID 19 pandemic. Business activity was restricted, brick and mortar stores were closed indefinitely, people stayed at home for months, goods production was halted and businesses ran out of money. Like any other brand, Entireworld (known for its sweatpants and loungewear) feared extinction. The CEO decided to send across a message to their customers about the uncertain situation. He wrote:

“Wow. I mean, WTF.
“Am I sick already? Can I leave my house?
What do I tell my employees?
Will my mom be OK on her flight home today? Can Zod” —
Sternberg’s dog — “get coronavirus?
Did I buy enough T.P.? How long will this last?
Who’s in charge? What’s next?”

You may also like: Not all ideas are bulletproof. Know which are.

He went on writing an emotional letter. The email worked better than any advert. Reportedly, by the end of that month, Entireworld saw a record 662% rise in its sales and they ran out of sweatpants. The pandemic caused a problem to the brand that sells sweatpants, and the pandemic itself became a solution. The pandemic restricted people to home, which meant work-from-home, which inturn meant there is a need for more sweatpants.

That’s how an emotional letter conveys a message. So here are the steps to write such and such a letter/note/e-mail to your people:

Step 1: Get brutally honest.
Step 2: Make a note of what you want to tell your customers. Rewrite.
Step 3: Print/hit send.

Looking for Branding for Startups? Click here.

The secret privilege of User Generated Innovation

The secret privilege of User Generated Innovation

Newton was an innovative PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) developed and marketed by Apple Inc., released in 1993. It was defined as a device that was ahead of its time by techies, and the marketers simply called it a device that nobody needed. Later, after the end of its production in 1998, it was called so many things besides an innovative product. It has been more than two decades since its disappearance, but would you believe if you were told that there is still a cult group of its users who are trying to keep Newton alive today by rewriting the operating system solely for the last device they own? They make a group that is hardly a little more than five thousand people, but their commitment to the product is unbelievable considering the leaps Apple has made in the smartphone and personal computer industries. The strange fact is that there is a guy who uses only the Newton he bought decades ago, and believes it is better than the iphone. It feels strange to learn that there are hardcore fans for this failed product all over the world including the countries like France, UK, Kuwait and Japan. They all keep their shrinking population alive and active with the annual world wide Newton conference.

Check this: Branding for Startups

While Newton narrates a different kind of user innovation, there are other cases that show how users contribute to the growth and development of a product, and therefore the brand. There are many brands that heavily rely on user innovation even today. GE (General Electric) sells medical imaging equipment such as MRIs to skilled technicians at a lower price in exchange for the rights of their innovations as the company found that the technicians who put the machine to use everyday made certain technical arrangements to better the performance and made interesting improvements. Another global brand Lego worked with professors at MIT for innovative designs but shortly found that there are enthusiastic adult users out there in the real world who are better innovators. So Lego allowed them to post their designs on their website.

You may also like: Not all ideas are bulletproof. Know which are.

Sports and sports equipment have an affinity for user innovation. Rodeo Kayaking took a commercial turn transforming itself into a $100 million business through user innovations. The tweaks and alterations that the users came up with were a surprise for the manufacturers. Mountain bike modifications using local information, surfboards modification and improving skiing equipment brought about significant benefits to the respective brands and manufacturers. Nordic sports equipment manufacturers such as Bergans and Exetrem recognized the contributions of the users and started to make them stakeholders of their brand equity. Even Nike+, a joint project with Apple, is a case for user generated innovation as the app turned out to be a free marketing portal that helped the brand keep in touch with the runners’ community. Finally, baby joggers may be the odd one out in this short list, but the joggers too have had their dose of tweaks and modifications which are popular for a long time.

So if you ask what’s in it for brands, this piece of information is not for you.

As brands care about user innovation, branding agencies too have a moral responsibility to care about it equally. This calls for a renewed attention to the word end-users. Users are a source of brand equity and value. The information that certain brand communities develop and disseminate contribute immensely to the growth of a brand. This set of cases reveal with evidence that the communication that happens between brands and users is something more than feedback, and it is called innovation.

Looking for Branding for Startups? Click here.

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.

You may also like: Thinking of brands

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.

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.

You may also like: Notes from our design studio

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.

You may also like: Thinking of brands

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.

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.

You may also like: Notes from our design studio

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.

You may also like: Thinking of brands

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.

You may also like: Putting oneself in an athlete’s shoes

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.

You may also like: Thinking of brands

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.

You may also like: Putting oneself in an athlete’s shoes

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.

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.

You may also like: Made in China

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.

You may also like: What this pandemic means to us in 480 words

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.