The New Age of Branding

The New Age of Branding

September 19, 2014

Day 6 Pill 1 (Morning)

Sensory branding and the power of appealing to “Nose”

The hottest development in marketing over the last few years has been neuro-marketing as well as sensory branding, where a brand appeals to all five senses instead of just one (eye) which all brands used to aim. Soon, marketing will be using terminologies like share of senses (instead of the now dated share of voice and share of mind).

Is there any real life proof that it exists?

Ever wondered why restaurants always play more soothing and melodious tunes whereas fast food chains place more upbeat music? That’s because research shows that if music can slow down our heart beat, we can actually eat more.

Lets talk about one of those four previously unexplored senses: the nose. How important is that small little organ?

1.75% of our emotions are generated from what we smell

2.80% of what we taste is because of what we smell

3. Research shows that by increasing the pleasant aroma around it, the consumers spending in a Las Vegas slot machine increased by 44%

All of a sudden the snooty wine tasters and food critics who complain about a “hint” of woody smell or slight “burst” of citrus flavor; starting to make sense (pun intended). Not only that, the perfume brands of this world really go beyond traditional storytelling and try to create fragrances and a smell profile that will transport the consumer to a particular state of mind connected to a hidden corner of a brain neuron or a memory.

Whats so important about nose?

Nose is the only sensory organ which can directly evoke feelings among us without those emotions being filtered by brain. No other organ or sense has that direct unfiltered link. Therefore if you want to evoke a certain emotion or imagery from exposure to your brand, where you want the rational like price, color and shape to play a reduced role, triggering a smell is probably the quickest route to that!

No wonder Singapore Airlines use a distinctive perfume inside its aircraft which they wanted to patent. No wonder when you think of Rolls Royce; you think of that wonderful classic car smell of mahogany+leather+motor oil (Which Rolls Royce sprays through a diffuser underneath the car in the factory). No wonder Starbucks at one point stopped serving eggs in the breakfast because it interfered with the strong aroma of coffee.

And the latest to join the smell wagon is Pepsi. According to a new patent filed by the soft drink manufacturer, PepsiCo Inc. is looking to develop a “scent capsule” under the cap of its plastic bottles so that each time the bottle is unsealed, a refreshing smell wafts over as you consume the sugary goodness.

Day 6 Pill 2 (Noon)

Can Super Heroes Change Perception of Islam?

Much of what we perceive of the world is enforced upon us by this excessive force called mass media. Thats why Ethiopia for us is eternally poor (not a beautiful country which is right now in the middle of a telecom boom and improving GDP) and America is a land of freedom and opportunity (not a country of failing family values system and ever increasing unemployment). Perceptions can be misleading. And sometimes it takes something as radical as Arabic super heroes to change the current perception people hold about the Arab world and Islam in general.

Now, even if you try your damn hardest to dream up the least probable superhero ever to walk the world, it’s unlikely that you’d manage to come up with a character as mind bending as Batina the Hidden. Batina is a superhero of a kind the world hasn’t seen, until now. It’s not just that she’s a Muslim woman, from a country best known for harbouring al-Qaida operatives – Yemen – but that she wears an altogether new kind of super-person costume: a burkha.

She, along with her fellow crime-fighters, a vast team of characters from around the world, including

Jabbar the Powerful from Saudi Arabia and Hadya the Guide from London, collectively known as “The 99″, are the world’s first Islam inspired superheroes. And in what is perhaps the ultimate comic-book accolade, they will join forces with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. DC Comics, the US publishing giant, will publish the first of six special crossover issues in which The 99 will be fighting crime alongside the Justice League of America, the fictional superhero team that includes Superman and Batman.

What’s even more remarkable is that The 99 only came into being in 2007 with some remarkable firsts: the first comic book superheroes to have Muslim names and be directed at an international audience and the first to come out of the Middle East. Crossovers don’t happen often and even less often with characters that are just three years old. Even The 99′s creator and mastermind, a Kuwaiti-born, American-educated psychologist and entrepreneur called Naif al-Mutawa, seems to be having some trouble believing the Superman link-up.

It’s his conviction that has seen him so far raise in excess of $30m in three rounds of funding from private investors, fight off a ban in Saudi Arabia (he’s subsequently been re-banned but he’s fighting it again), and persuaded Endemol, the company behind Big Brother, to produce a multimillion dollars, 26 part animated mini series which will be shown on Hub, the US network previously known as Discovery Kids that goes into 60 million American homes.

The 99 is not the only piece of progressive news coming out of the Arab world. There is a new channel called 4Shbab which is taking the Arab world by storm. Dubbed as the MTV for Arab world, 4Shbab is aiming at changing the way people perceive Islam and reaching out to young people with a very effective vehicle: music videos. Headquartered in Egypt and running out of Bahrain this channel is airing different Arab pop music videos with religious themes but very progressive cinematography and is fast becoming a source of liberal congregation in Arab world.

Day 6 Pill 3 (Evening)

The power of good design

Design is once thought to be good-to-have. Very quickly it has established itself as a must have. Apple is the company that may have been credited to give design the due attention, but the revolution of industrial designing and other forms of art and designing is less a “revolution” and more an “evolution”. It came out of the necessity of the most fundamental strategy of marketing: appealing to the emotional, right brain side of consumers by making product more attractive and differentiated when consumers are spoilt with abundance and choice.

In some unlikely effectiveness testing of good design, it has been found that test scores of schools increase as much as 11% simply by better interior decoration of the school. Also, in public hospitals, patients recovered faster if the rooms are better designed and they needed fewer anesthesias if the operating room is better designed.

There is a revolution that has gone in the liquor brand’s packaging and bottle design. Forced by the restrictions imposed in such “sin” categories, liquor brands like Absolute has gone out of the box and created designs that itself transcends the mere need of someone needing a good time on Friday night. Impact of design can be found in consumer electronics, automobile, household durables, set top box, garden hose…you name it. In fact brands are now co-designing with their consumers to create a more personalized, intimate experience. In a recent campaign, “Coca Cola” has left out its logo and used real people’s name in that place (Unthinkable as it is, a Coca Cola campaign without Coca Cola logo) to drive home the core campaign message: share a bottle of Coca Cola to share happiness with people you love.

The days are gone when categories are dominated by engineers telling you which product is revolutionary. The best business hires the best designers who are as important as the engineers. Think about your mundane toaster. Its used probably 15 minutes a day at best. For the rest 1425 minutes, the sole job of a toaster is to sit there on the kitchen table. So does it make sense to make use of that 90% of the time and make the toaster look good when its not functional? Absolutely.

What are the implications for business this brings? This tells you that the more choices that consumers have, the more likely peripheral add-ons like “beauty” will play over “function”. And that means the CEOs of the world have to be less of a number cruncher and more of an aesthetic artist who can visualize things, not just calculate.

Day 6 Pill 4 (Night)

What Sherlock Holmes teaches us about branding?

It seems the whole world is going crazy with the question: How did Sherlock Holmes fake his own suicide in the popular BBC series “Sherlock”? Now, it seems is an appropriate time to learn from the super sleuth a thing or two about branding.

One of the tricky parts of building a powerful brand is creating a verbal and visual identity that is unique and compelling at the same time. In that measure, the creation of Sherlock Homes brand excels in all levels. The “bowler hat wearing shadow with smoking pipe” and the “221 B Baker Street” address are some of the most recognizable visual icons in entertainment industry. Moreover, through words and catch phrases like “Deduction” and “Elementary, My Dear Watson”; it also created a unique verbal identity that can easily build on the lure of Sherlock brand.

However, like every brand that has to go through a period of refreshing after existing for a 100 years, Sherlock Holmes also transformed for the digital generation. And what a transformation that was!

First, the new Sherlock Holmes is more contemporary and lives in modern day London and has more real life, mundane problems to deal with. The pace of the show is break neck, not the leisurely detective stories that we come to expect, which is partly because of refining this show more as an action thriller rather than the traditional “Whodunnit” and also because the attention-deficit Millennials are the target audience for this, not the nostalgia seeking oldies. The new Sherlock is dark, flawed and moody, a sort of Dark Knight-ish anti-hero. Nowadays, he fights terrorism, not hounds in a dark, foggy water body. And with Watson, he is defining the 21st century romance, which is not only about binge drinking or trading midlife crisis secrets.

But the biggest trick that the creators used to make this show a global phenomenon is building hype at the same time limiting supply; a classic marketing trick. Every season has 3-4 episodes and even the seasons come after every alternate year. Compare that with the typical American series which runs every year and has 12-23 episodes every year. By limiting the supply, they keep the fans craving for more. And then of course ending last season (Two years ago) with the mother of all cliff hangers where Sherlock committed suicide in broad daylight only the audience finding out in last frame that he is still alive and then creating a two years gap; you can imagine the buzz in the internet and forums; which only got bigger and louder with passing time. As of now, the unveiling of Sherlock Season 3 in BBC One on January 2, 2014 has truly become a global mega event.

But none of this of course would happen if you didn’t have an outstanding actor like Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead. This again stays true to the universal marketing wisdom: you may have the best marketing trick in the world, but it always come down to how good your product actually is.

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