excerpted from
Brandjam:
Humanizing Brands Through Emotional Design

By Marc Gobé

 
 


Preface


In a century rife with the predictable, the dehumanizing, the dispiriting, Jazz affirmed the fresh, the human, the hopeful and it came to represent humanity at its best.
—John Edward Hasse, Jazz, the First Century

Design is to branding what jazz is to music. As people clamor for more emotional
brand experiences, the world of branding has been slow to respond to
these new demands. Most corporations are managing their brands through
disconnected communications departments, which ruptures brand perceptions
in the eyes of the public. Often a brand personality comes across as splintered
in its offering because broadcast advertising, product design, public
relations, promotional strategies, Web promotions, and buzz programs cannot
deliver a consistent voice. The desires created by TV commercials often fall
flat when people face the reality of unexciting products and the uninspired
environments in which those products are sold.

The almost-exclusive reliance on a narrow and limited form of communication
–broadcast advertising–as the major outlet for communication is failing
to engage consumers in a more sensorial and surprising way. Focus-groupdriven
research is the dominant form of relationship made with the market,
where unprepared and unsuspecting customers are secretly watched
answering important questions about a brand’s future in the most uninspired
and cold environments. Marketers, customers, advertisers, and communications
groups are looking at each other with mistrust and frustration.

Brandjam is the concept that brings all these forces together around a coordinated approach that opens up the dialogue between brands and people in
order to bring a new level of consistency, stimulation, and excitement to the
brand experience. This new vision promotes a jazzed-up collaborative and
trusted partnership between marketers, consumers, and designers as a new
element in the marketing process. It shows how a true creative dialogue can
exist between people and brands, and how jamming around a brand brings
out the best in people, allowing for the creation of the most innovative ideas.
Brandjam bolsters the opportunities that are born when a brand communication
or narrative is consistent and richer and explores new ways to stimulate
people beyond the thirty-second TV commercial.

Transformative Jazz
When American jazz swept across France—where I was raised—and around the
world, it inspired its listeners’ cultural spirit, their aspirations. It opened the
door to a new way of thinking, of being, that not only refused convention, but
also made innovation, improvisation, and imagination their own institution.

Jazz music was transformative, creating new sounds with traditional instruments
around a clear understanding of engagement. Then it was pleasure and
freedom, exploration and magic, new voices that reached our senses, a music
that relied on an organic participation on the part of the player, and that was
based on sharing emotions through sound–“jamming,” as we call it. As an
amateur guitar player, I have participated in jam sessions that began with one
tune, evolved into explorations of entirely new sounds, then wended their way
back home to the original melody. Jamming is about different people playing
in harmony, the sensation of joy when new music starts to emerge, and the
elation of coming to the end of the journey. It is an ongoing process, constantly
evolving and experiential. The instruments are worked in order to go beyond
the norm; the musicians must take risks with the notes in order to explore
new harmonies as a group, and they know when it’s good. Eyes are shining,
hearts are pulsing . . . Yeah! The crowd loves it too. The music resonates with
body and soul.

Brands today must shift from “communications” and “commodities” to emotion
and inspiration. We must revive our exhausted, overly familiar offerings.
It is time that branding embraces the same philosophy that is at the heart of
the jazz culture and starts “jamming,” or more exactly, “brandjamming.”

Brandjamming is a metaphor that I use in this book to support the idea that
brands need to connect with culture and reach people’s hearts. Brandjamming,
not unlike the musical comparison, relies on collaboration, innovation, intuition,
and risk. Brandjamming is about making brands motivating for the
players and the audience. Brandjamming is about bringing in diverse talents
to build iconic cultural brand phenomena, breaking rules and changing
people’s perceptions by energizing their minds. Brandjamming is an inspiration
for brands and people as it advocates the transforming impact brands
have on an audience.

In my first book, Emotional Branding, I emphasized the importance of connecting
with people’s hearts. The book explored a variety of meanings and
expressions that reveal how consumers’ expectations are changing. I suggested
that design could help companies fulfill those changing expectations.
Since then, the most potent development has been the emergence of design as
a communications tool, as the best “instrument” now out there for jazzing up
a brand.

This book is about design inspiration and how it brings a heightened level of
excitement to people in a new world of consumer engagement. It is about
design’s power and meaning, its transformative impact and positive message
of progress. Emotional branding needed a new lead instrument in order to
build a new “brand sound” that would energize people–heart, mind, and soul.
Design is that new instrument, that new tune, the influence, and for some corporate entities it is the expression of an entirely new culture–a culture of
innovation and advocacy that focuses on human well-being.

The New Sound of Design
We keep hearing it from the visionaries. Proctor & Gamble’s CEO, A.G. Lafley,
is transforming the culture at P&G to endorse design as the main product communicator.
“Design is a really big part of creating the experience and the emotion,”
and his company has embarked on one of the farthest-reaching
business transformations by embedding design at the center of its business
strategy–a revolution for a consumer-goods company. So why beat the drum
now, and why is it so relevant to understand the experiential connection
design has with people and its transforming power in a business culture? This
is the question I want to answer in this book.

I will explore how brands have become cultural phenomena and individual
messages for people, and as such need to build up an emotional soul as part
of their message. I will explore how design is the reflection of the true nature
and personality of a company and its window to the world. Most importantly,
the changes in our world and the postmodern societal evolution that privileges
the individual in democratic societies will be at the core of my observations.

As a metaphor, I use jazz to show how a well-designed brand can connect with
people in a more visceral way than traditional broadcast commercials and
how the instinctive nature of a participative creative process leads to unusual
solutions that make people gravitate toward a brand and make brands resonate
with people.

Ideas That Are Fundamental to Brandjam
In my first book, I volunteered some of my insight and feelings about the emotional branding theory and its impact on our world. My observations were the
results of years of work in the design field, building brand expressions for
major corporations worldwide. I also reviewed some of the most insightful
global visual research we did that gave me a clear vision of the new expectations
people have for brands. Since then, my continued branding experience
has been enriched by the numerous conferences and intimate dialogue I have
had with leading corporations as the consequence of their interest in my book.
Those connections have led me to a new mental process, revealing the fact that
people have such tremendous expectations from brands and that brands have
transforming powers beyond the simple delivery of products or benefits.

Through my passion for design and the creative process, I suggested a new,
more sensorial way to think about branding. I was then, and am now, especially
committed to “the designer’s way,” which mixes instinct, sensory experiences,
and visual analysis in a relentless quest to understand the role brand
design plays in human culture.

At the core of Emotional Branding lie the following ideas, ideas that will be
fundamental to this new book:

1. The marketing and service shift: The fundamental change in our
economy from a factory-based, capability-driven, production-focused
model to a consumer-based model. This leads to branding as a new language,
in which flexibility, innovation, agility, and speed to market have
become the competitive edge to reckon with.
2. Consumer rule: In an emotionally driven economy, the importance of
moving from mass marketing to the marketing of one. We must leverage
the power of customization as it applies to different cultural orientations
and beliefs. Brands need to acknowledge ethnic groups, gender, age, and
other factors’ influence on perception and desire. I was one of the first
writers to speak about the gay market as a leading force in moving new
ideas and the power of women as the new “Shoppers-in-Chief.” However,
the consumer never stands still, and the present book will bring the demographics
and cultural shifts up to date for today.
3. Design reframes experiences: This is the ultimate, provocative expression
of a brand. Through experience it escapes commodity and market
sameness. Sensory design is the most provocative way to shift in brand
expression on the level of emotional desires. Sensory design is the inspiration,
the research, the message, and the commercial, a provocative way to
bring aesthetics and beauty into our lives.
4. From head to heart and gut: Emotional branding is about exploring more
intuitive ways to reach and connect with people. Understanding the subconscious
aspirations of people leads to innovative concepts and ideas bringing
differentiation and excitement. Inventive and experiential messages emerge
here, from within emotions, instinct, and intuition. This requires marketers
to think more with their guts and feelings in order to innovate. And it
demands that executives learn to trust and support their designers.
5. Brand citizenship starts at home: Corporate culture’s commitment to
society is absolutely integral to success. Emotional branding is about trust and
involvement, commitment and leadership, making our world a better place.

These five underlying concepts have inspired many corporations. Entire books
have developed more specific facets of these ideas. However, writing
Emotional Branding was only a part of the larger goal of seeking design solutions,
innovative research methods, and breakthrough creativity techniques in
branding. I never looked at Emotional Branding as the holy grail of marketing;
it was a way to challenge ourselves, provoke our own creative decision
making, and bring richer innovations to our clients.

Writing on branding is never easy: it requires developing theory, but also transcending the clean and neat “ideas” to bring real products to life. Branding is
messy! But my relentless passion for advancing the understanding of brands
has paid off and is still my focus and my love. When people ask me what I do,
I answer, “My job is to make people love brands.”

Why Another Book?
This book takes the emotional branding concept further, going in depth to analyze
the new languages that have been and could be created to communicate
an emotional message–the language of design. This is the most powerful of
all languages in terms of business today. It informs and transforms, seduces
and reassures. Design brings a human touch to the products we buy. This
book is about design and its irresistible message.

Design puts the face on the brand: the curves of the Mac reveal Apple as the
thinking, creative brand. The new BMW factory designed by Rem Koolhaas
expresses that company’s commitment to reinventing the culture of car manufacturing. The Gates by Christo and Jeanne Claude captured New York City’s spirit and optimism in a post-9/11 world. Design permeates all aspects of life, delivering memorable messages that inspire life and fuel emotion.

My goal is to bring you ideas you haven’t thought through before. I will show
you some of the objects that have inspired my own creative work. I want to
bring you closer to the brand innovators who shape your life and your brands,
and open up your thinking about their vision. My goal will be to demonstrate
how designers think and arrive at their conclusions, showing why instinct and
gut creativity triumphs over the numbers game. You will discover also how
billions of dollars are wastefully spent by brands in research and communication
by using the wrong research technique and obsolete media vehicles in
an emotional economy.

If I am successful, I will even help link branding to the larger intellectual currents
of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The concomitant rise of
branding and postmodernism is no coincidence. Branding, finally, is not
modern, but postmodern. Branding rejects dogma and elitism and pursues a
people-driven politics of design. Corporations do not own brands anymore
–people do! Brands need to look and most importantly feel the part.

I will let you inside the world of design creation and show you how designers
think. You will discover the creative process through the designer’s eye and
see how the powers of observation and critical analysis complement traditional
methods.

I place designers as equal partners and decision makers in marketing and
business policy. I show how design impacts and motivates people emotionally.
I will show how visual research is the most inspiring and insightful research
possible when done by visionaries and interpreted by designers. Far too little
thought goes into the relationship between branding and design today: this
book redresses that shortfall.

Some readers will pine for the hard data that has obsessed so much brand
management today. Some may cringe, charging me with simply speculating,
using intuition and inspiration to shape my “impression” of branding. So be
it! I leave such critics to their calculators and slide rules, where they will
measure markets but never invent one.

Looking over my years of close work with top executives at Coca-Cola, AOL,
Victoria’s Secret, IBM, Este Lauder, Unilever, P&G, Abercrombie & Fitch, and
others, I am happy to admit the fragile and tenuous basis that my entire
industry builds itself upon: brand design is based on instinct and feelings, it
is based on intuition and belief, the curves of desire, the wax and wane of
beauty, and the slope of inspiration, because all of these make up the inspiration
process.

Shifting Your Vision to Resonate with People
This book is about meeting shifting consumer expectations through new ideas
and design language. Brands that are successful will reframe their image
through a unique, differentiated visual and verbal vocabulary, in the process
crafting original messages that reach the heart. Design visionaries like
Starbucks, Red Bull, Apple, Virgin, and even the Bush administration have
changed our perceptions through communicative strategies that inspire belief.
To understand this, this book will lead the reader through a series of topics,
such as:

• How design has become the most powerful communication tool in branding
strategies
• How to connect the world of business logic to consumers’ emotions
• How you can “imagine” your brand through a better understanding of the
world of emotions
• How to bring out your “inner designer” in a collaborative way to create
brand innovation
• How the leading designers have successfully changed the corporate cultures
and business practices of their companies

So, here’s to inspired reading–and brandjamming.

Introduction
Coca-Cola’s New Wave

In 2000, Coca-Cola’s Doug Daft (president and CEO), Steven Jones (chief marketing
officer), and Steve Crawford (global marketing director) selected
Desgrippes Gobé to redesign the Coca-Cola brand with visual graphics
inspiring to a new generation of untapped cola enthusiasts. A cynic might have
suggested that our task was tantamount to transforming an aging Vanna White
into the sex symbol for a generation raised on MTV, Maxim, and Internet
gaming. Fortunately, we were blessed with a great design team and strong
leadership at Coca-Cola, and we discovered branding’s closest equivalent to
the fountain of youth: the Coca-Cola mythos.

Smart design and good branding never come out of a vacuum: branding
requires a commitment supported by a rich corporate culture, a dynamic
engagement from top executives, and a passion for innovation. Steve
Crawford’s presence was a tremendous boon on all fronts. In the cultural partnership
between client and designers, there’s no substitute for inspired and
visionary partners immersed not only in the “numbers” but also the actual
affairs that inspire real people. Crawford brought culture in spades: an avid
sportsman, an African American, and an intuitive designer, he also understood
trends in hip-hop, extreme sports, and youth culture. His extensive worldwide
travel infused his perspective with a peculiarly transnational, “wired” sensibility
that shared much in common with the so-called MTV generation raised
on fast-paced, international fashions and product cycles. Steve brings this rich
palette of life experiences to bear on all his work. His famous work on Sprite
exudes his hip, urban, “attitudinal” visions. He manages brands from the gut,
no two ways about it.

Desgrippes Gobé was awarded the project in a most unusual fashion. Knowing
that other competitors would bend over backward to get this plum assignment,
we were beating ourselves up over the best way to “wow” this major account.
Up until the last minute we were coming up with new ideas, tossing them out,
and resuscitating old ones. Since my first book, our group has been known for
emotional branding, but how do you translate this into a compelling presentation
for the top executives of the number-one soft drink company in the
world? It’s one thing to sell an idea to the public, but entirely another to sell
to a small group of important people. The whole spirit of emotional branding
is premised on an intimate, tailored encounter with consumers, not brand
managers. Frankly, although the measure of any campaign’s success is the
public’s response, reaching out to the client first may be the hardest step (a
dilemma I hope the present book will help alleviate by bringing designers and
brand managers into a closer understanding).

Usually a firm lands a job by hosting the client, bragging about its success
alongside a slick presentation, and then highlighting the talents of the team
working on the job. The routine really has not changed that much since
Darren’s desperate tactics on the 1960s TV show Bewitched. Darren, of course,
was married to Samantha, a witch who time and again used her magical
powers to land Darren a prize account. Although Desgrippes Gobé’s innovative
brand vision was strong, and our global network a major asset to help
jazz-up the brand, we still hadn’t found our Samantha for this one: that magical,
supernatural inspiration that goes beyond the rational commodity and
touches both client and consumer. We needed something special, something
inspired and different.

We worked a full week preparing for this meeting, brainstorming about strategic
angles and outrageous ideas, like painting the entrance to our lobby Coca-Cola
red. (You don’t know how far firms like us are willing to go to win such an
account. If someone had argued for Coca-Cola-laden parachuters landing on the
roof, I probably would have listened intently!) Indeed, one difficulty in emotional
branding is not getting caught up in flashy, obnoxious stunts that can be
so in your face that the sensitive, emotional encounters with consumers are neglected.
Fortunately, level heads prevailed, and the final decision was to give an
international presentation showcasing who we are: we would assemble twelve
people from our group, including representatives from Europe and Asia, to
show our broad-based, personal, and emotional commitment to the project.

Everyone was on pins and needles when the client arrived. Steve Crawford has
an impressive presence and a truly sharp marketing mind so we had to be
great, unique, and “sans bullshit.” After about ten minutes of friendly professional
introductions, we prepared to present our work. These presentations
are the bread and butter of design firms: full of PowerPoint slides and carefully
crafted images, they showcase the firm’s strengths in a well-planned
manner. If they’ve done their homework, an agency can put the PowerPoint on
autopilot and let the work speak for itself. Design firms love such exhibitions.
However, while sense and formula dictated following this course, my
designer’s gut abruptly overrode my executive’s rational sense of judiciousness.
The facts, planning, discussion, expectations, and data called for a
sober presentation, but the emotional brander in me realized I had to jazz it
up: this encounter needed to be personal, idiosyncratic, and inspired.
Emotional branding has always been about inspiration, personality, and connection,
and this occasion needed to embody that. To my colleagues’ surprise,
I pushed aside our presentation and asked for everyone’s memorable
experiences of Coca-Cola.

What was meant as a brief, unscripted aside led to a spirited two-hour digression.
In accounts traversing the sublime as well as the ridiculous, the subliminal,
and the rational, my team began recounting what Coca-Cola meant to
them. We could not stop talking about Coca-Cola, and even Steve was drawn
into what quickly became a brand-loving jam session among friends. Everyone
poured out their feelings about the brand in a most revealing fashion. Our
account director recalled getting lost in the desert of Morocco, seriously wondering
whether she might make it home, when she discerned a Coca-Cola
sign in the distance that suggested a mirage but instead provided safe passage
home. Others offered up interesting insights, including a designer from Tokyo
who told us that the existing graphics–a Coca-Cola bottle gushing cola–suggested
decapitation for Asian audiences!

For my own part, I recalled discovering Coca-Cola as a young kid in Brittany,
on vacation from my rural village in France. This recollection of the first rush
of “coke,” that strange American elixir, elicited the whole room’s interest and
engagement. Desgrippes Gobé had never before had such a personal and
broad-ranging conversation, and I wished that everyone from the company
could have been there. It was truly intimate, and a tribute to the designers’
trust in one another.

And then: the client left for another meeting.

I thought I had blown it. We had presented no work, did not mention anything
about the firm, and had bizarrely collapsed under a frenzy of emotional sentiment.
Our rigorous approach to brand building fell entirely by the wayside.
Instead of images of excitement, Steve went away with pictures of decapitation
in Asia. Though others felt the meeting went well, I wasn’t so sure.
The client had told us they would get back to us in a couple of weeks, and I
went to bed that night anticipating two long weeks of stewing over my misstep.
But a call came the next morning: Coca-Cola had cancelled its appointments
with other agencies and told us that our belief in the brand and our
vision for its needed shifts made us the right partner. We were, needless to say,
dancing all day and night.

Emotional Design
In this project the important step, from an emotional and design perspective,
was to “observe” the audience we needed to communicate with. We had to
determine what deep subconscious values young people were looking for.
Furthermore, we had to identify and understand what deep subconscious
emotional values Coca-Cola was best positioned to respond to. Understanding
how young people live, the music they listen to, the sports they like, and the
moments they treasure was crucial. With these answers we might begin
answering the key emotional branding questions:

• Who are we?
• Are we loved?
• What’s our passion?
• Who do we want to share our passion with?
• Are we believable?

From these questions, it is possible to establish an emotional personality that
lays the groundwork for an inspired design language.

Coca-Cola’s own research data, accumulated from consumers worldwide,
complemented and enriched our insights. However, we also relied on our
international offices to get our own readings and perception of the brand and
its reputation abroad.

We also undertook a visual audit, taking stock of the brand’s philosophy and
personality. The visual audit systematically traces the look and feel of the
brand across many sites and platforms. For Coca-Cola, the same graphics
were used on the shelves of supermarkets, in nightclubs, at the beach, and in
sports stadiums, regardless of the different experiences people had at each
venue. The same ubiquitous graphics were displayed universally without any
regard for “site-specific” harmony with the environment and its experience.

Coca-Cola’s visual narrative was based strictly on the green glass contour
bottle, imposing a rigid message that did not make room for people’s interpretation
or imagination. We thought this was too dogmatic. Furthermore,
people’s perceptions of the brand revealed that this contour bottle was perceived
as dated by younger consumers. Something new, but also consistent
with it’s rich legacy, was called for. The evolution of the graphics of a brand is
not an unusual thing. Logos are updated every so many years. Look and usage
varies. Nike famously disconnected its iconic symbol from the logotype.

Our design team knew that our exploration would have to look beyond the famous green
glass contour bottle symbol without losing the importance of such an icon. But such endeavors are a sensitive, intuitive affair: the right design must come from the heart,
the brand community, the best of the corporate culture. Furthermore, one
must keep in mind that that final decision will reshape and redefine the brand
expression to the world, becoming a permanent part of the brand legacy.

The bold task of shaping a new visual, emotive narrative excited my team. Its
brand already resonated with people in an emotional way, and yet it could do
so much more. There were so many audiences to whom Coca-Cola was in
danger of being seen as another sugary commodity, in a world of refreshment
that was evolving toward noncarbonated and healthier drinks such as fruit
juices and water. Coca-Cola, we believed, had a premium value and lifestyle
appeal that could help shape a new path for the brand; this was our chance to
intervene. We wanted to help audiences recognize it as a beacon of optimism,
energy, and diversity, and such elusive, ethereal sentiments are best conveyed
through thoughtful emotional design. We were there to craft the “feel” of Coca-
Cola in a new consumer reality.

Our challenge was to humanize the iconography in new, more powerful emotional
ranges. Graphics would be tailored for consumers according to our now
famous emotional lens: an emotional need to be reassured (head), the desire to
be socially responsible (heart), and the craving for visceral engagement (gut).

Our new emotional model dictated a new design that responded uniquely to
consumers’ life moments. We recognized and leveraged the way consumers
respond to brands differently at different times throughout their lives, and also at
unique sites. Vending machines, billboards, delivery trucks, blogs, sporting
events, beach placement, retail environments: each elicits unique matrices of
expectation and engagement. Through meeting these site-specific needs, we
could shift the brand’s iconography from sameness and ubiquity to dynamic,
evolutionary involvement.

How Can We Not Change?
An interesting aspect of Coca-Cola’s design history struck us as we worked.
We spent countless days in Coca-Cola’s Atlanta archives reviewing libraries
of the brand’s history. Tracing out the brand’s myriad visual iterations, the
color yellow kept dancing before our eyes. On delivery crates in the 1930s,
promotional materials in the 1940s, even actress’s dresses in the 1950s.
Coca-Cola was truly a defining and innovative brand by then, but one aspect
of the brand that caught our eye and helped change the look of the brand
was the yellow wood crates used to carry the coke bottles at the beginning
of the last century.

Instinctively and intuitively the team was excited about the idea of bringing
yellow back into the visual narrative. We even considered making an alternate
yellow can, a promotional bottle. Perhaps yellow coke trucks could speed
across highways in the summer! The question was, how far would people be
willing to go to enjoy and experience the brand? What bold steps would excite
their desires to delve in? Once again visions of parachuters, this time with red
caps and yellow cans, were tempting to us. Ultimately, however, we were
starting to unlock the energy and fun nature of the brand in ways we would
not have thought possible.

But first we needed to focus on leveraging the existing graphic equities.
Pushing the limits of a brand expression is a process of evolving the graphic
narrative and often leads to interesting discoveries. But at this point presenting
a bold idea might distract the team and puzzle the client. I did not want to get
a rejection for an idea that might be more profitably offered later.

Such varieties of “creative flirting” are practiced often, particularly as a way of
floating modest ideas before a client before moving to the bigger, potentially
disturbing ones. This prepares the right context to eventually showcase larger
ideas. We decided to include “Coca-Cola yellow” in a modest way at first. It
was used to highlight the brand’s packaging, making it more energetic, but
also reframing and foregrounding Coca-Cola’s “full red.” Yellow helped to differentiate
and make more inspiring the dominant red. Moreover, the touch of
yellow brought a surprising energy and optimism that could enhance the
imagery and packaging. Though difficult to measure or demonstrate “objectively,”
our design team felt its power.

However, the yellow was barely talked about, so as to avoid threatening the
client. Instead it was our little secret weapon and insight, embedded in the
graphic image. But from our own perspective and intuitive feelings, this little
color yellow was a huge step in complementing our other big idea: the return
of the “dynamic ribbon.”

The Dynamic Ribbon Returns
In evaluating the brand’s visual assets, we realized there was a powerful but
abandoned icon that emotionally trumped all others: the dynamic ribbon, or
“Swoosh”! This powerful, abstract visual icon, created in the 1970s, was truly
a brilliant idea; it almost suggested the action painting of a Jackson Pollock
in its sprawling, dynamic flight, and was predecessor to the Nike logo. We recommended
bringing back this icon but evolving and energizing it to sensually
and emotionally connect with today’s markets with a new design
language, particularly with the addition of effervescent bubbles to enhance its
refreshing image.

We recommended replacing the contour bottle displayed on the coke can with
this dynamic ribbon. Created in the 1970s, the white ribbon signified the identity
of Coca-Cola until the 1990s. When launched in the 1970s, the ribbon was
part of the company’s growing global brand visual vocabulary. As non-Western
characters were introduced onto the coke cans and bottles in growing foreign markets,
there was a concern that its visual iconography and identity would be
diminished. The dynamic ribbon became part of an international graphic
language that could be understood by everyone around the globe.

Putting the Project into Perspective
The entire project took about two years to complete, including revisions in
design as we tested consumer feedback on the new iconography. Coca-Cola
worked with Censydiam, a research group from Antwerp, Belgium, that
brought a qualitative approach especially suited to and compatible with the
insights of emotional branding. Censydiam’s approach, as I will explain later
in Shift 5, is not based on asking consumers to judge a design, but rather in
observing and discovering through in-depth interviews and interactive visual
exercises how people respond to given presentations. Results are gauged by
the emotions and feelings people experience with a particular design. This is
vastly superior to soliciting “design evaluations,” which at best provide skewed
rational accounts of a design idea.

Design evaluation by consumers is a surefire method to miss out on the best
potential of a design. The danger with the traditional qualitative techniques is
their tendency to selectively reinforce familiar ideas while downgrading or
underestimating the appeal of newer concepts. The unfamiliar is always suspect in
these rational, explicit measurement techniques and surveys. In this way, design evaluation
is inherently conservative and inappropriate for brands that see their future
course charted in growth, expansion, new markets, and expanded imagery. The
Censydiam techniques, by contrast, leverage the past while charting new, more promising
paths in the future. We wanted a design that would “catch on,” that would come to elicit
more powerful consumer responses. Censydiam’s psychologists believe that the
more relaxed the atmosphere, the more conducive it will be for people to share their feelings. Their approach is in depth, and entails spending four hours with individuals, patiently peeling back the layers of emotion and response until a more powerful, unconscious kernel comes to the surface. For this study alone they talked to 160 people worldwide. On a continuous basis, designs that scored best featured our added yellow
color. It seemed to communicate the most energy and vitality even though
people interviewed did not relate their comments to the yellow color specifi-
cally. Our design was particularly appealing to young people and women.
Needless to say, we were thrilled. I am not sure our clients understood rationally
the power of this yellow “artsy” touch, but they understood the positive
response. The combination of the positive surveys and the client’s trust in
our design team advanced the project to the launch stage. Yellow, according
to Steve Crawford, “communicated globally particularly with Latin cultures;
it was the sun, the warmth of a relationship, the energy, the togetherness and
the ‘we’ moments that coke needed to communicate. This yellow addition
was right on.”

Setbacks
Then to our surprise, the company demanded to have a meeting in our New
York office to discuss another set of quantitative results that contradicted the
Censydiam results. If you haven’t ever attended a quantitative research presentation,
it’s hard to explain how daunting and intimidating they are in general,
never mind when they generally contradict what you otherwise believe.
The complexity of analytical data is so sophisticated that it is nearly impossible
to understand, particularly for designers like me who are already suspicious
of such highly “scientific” charts and graphs as they relate to emotions.

In a nutshell, after a two-hour presentation, their recommendation was the
absolute opposite of the qualitative Censydiam research. “Don’t change anything.
The market is not prepared to see Coca-Cola change its graphics! The
old design will do just fine!” was the new message.

All I could think then was that people are never ready for any disruptive bold
changes if you ask them. That’s why it’s called “bold” in the first place; it transcends
people’s reality! Emotionally, people will tell you a different story if you
know how to listen and probe deeper into their subconscious to connect with
their hidden dreams. But no matter, we already thought we were doomed!
There was a caveat that was unveiled in the research by the Coca-Cola marketing
team that suddenly gave a new life to the design.

In the quantitative research, the new design was not preferred overall (and
therefore the basis for not recommending the new design) but was most
preferred with youth particularly after we had added more refreshment cues
such as bubbles and condensation droplets to the white dynamic ribbon. “As
we were losing in brand acceptance with youth, we knew what the course
needed to be,” Steve Crawford explained to me. “We were a bit panicked at
first, but the overall quantitative data was minor compared to the more decisive
impact on young people. We decided that the brand’s future was with
young people, and we decided to go for it.”

Steve Jones, the chief marketing officer representing Coca-Cola, and Steve
Crawford, Coca-Cola’s worldwide brand manager, listened carefully, then
asked around the table what people thought. After a few minutes of tense conversation
it seemed to me that the group just felt better with the change; it was
visceral and intuitive. After the two Steves consulted with each other for a few
seconds, Steve Jones said, “I appreciate the research but how could we not
change? We are moving with the new design.”

To see a project like this come off was a watershed of relief, reward, gratification,
and delight. Suddenly the sweat, blood, tears, and passion came to life in
a new brand direction led by a cutting-edge, emotionally compelling design.

The new design had a far greater impact than anticipated. Because consumers
responded so well, the new design also helped shift the internal culture. It
changed how people there viewed their brand. This bold change opened doors
for people to innovate within the company. That little bit of yellow backed by
a floating ribbon unleashed the energy native to the brand. Good design did not
reinvent the brand, but released the latent potential within its image, its audience, and its company. The emotional energy of the brand was brought to life.

I never felt at any point that we were designing a new packaging as much as
leveraging the design process to see how much potential for innovation was
inherent in the brand. The process helped the company’s management team
to articulate its belief that Coca-Cola was not fully leveraging its emotional
capital and to rethink how to connect the brand with the youth market.

One seminal moment crystallized my impression: when Doug Daft, Steve
Heyer (at the time, his groomed successor), Steve Jones, and Steve Crawford,
while being presented with new designs, engaged in masterful and consistent
brandjamming to determine the brand’s long-term future. The team was
coming together; they were executives inspired by new visual stimuli.

How That Little Bit of Yellow Jazzed Up the Brand
Less than a year after the new can’s launch, I was bowled over to receive a
copy of Vogue Australia featuring a model on the cover holding the new coke
can design!
She was wearing the yellow and red colors of the can. The new
design had itself become a fashion statement! Inside the magazine, a four-page
pictorial featured this same model with yellow and red fashion accessories
likewise modeled after the new can.

I cannot convey the excitement we felt at the office when we saw how our new
designs had reached the pages of a major fashion magazine–what’s more, an
edition from the other side of the globe. You can’t buy this kind of thing, and you
certainly can’t predict it through research. In fact, it’s precisely this kind of result
that ultimately shapes and determines the public’s perception of the brand. A
huge error in traditional marketing research is believing that consumer
response and taste are a fixed target. In fact, they constantly evolve and respond
to other cultural changes. Something like Vogue designers’ picking up on the
new design of course is good for the brand, both recognizing and amplifying its
design power. But more importantly, it helps cast a new aura around the brand
that comes in the wake of its design. These kinds of changes, and in fact most
of the important but subtle changes that create design success, can’t be anticipated
in advance, which is why intuition, emotion, and the designer’s sensibility
are, at the end of the day, the most promising resources one can have.

Our inspiration had worked. Our visual observation, our designers’ sense of
magic and the future, found an insight that was provocative. We had been a
partner in bringing fashion style to the brand and changing perception. This
was one of the greatest moments of my life as a branding professional.

Three months later, I was watching a French news program on TV. Something
strange caught my eye: the fall 2004 ready-to-wear collection runway show by
John Galliano featured what looked an awful lot like the new Coca-Cola can decorating
the hair of at least three of the models. Likewise, the color scheme for
the makeup and accessories was coke yellow and red! In this fleeting moment
my mind swam with delight. When I looked again I seemed to have lost it, and
the models were gone. I turned to my wife and asked, “Did you see that?”

“See what?”

“The coke cans in the models’ hair!”

At this point we both thought that stress had gotten to me and that it was time
for me to see some kind of specialist. Obsessive behavior combined with
design delusions, even in the branding world, is not a good thing. But, it was
too late for me; I was already a casualty of design obsessions. So, I immediately
searched the Internet, and there it was: three gorgeous models, each
sporting the new can design for the world to see. This was the ultimate consecration
of Coca-Cola as a fashion statement and lifestyle brand. It was now
up to the rest of the organization to capitalize on this exceptional event.

Brandjamming with Coca-Cola
The success of this brand strategy revealed again the fundamental shifts and
attitudes that connect a brand to culture:

• A company where the top management believes in imagination and design
• An entrepreneurial spirit that was not afraid of risk
• An innate belief in the cultural impact design can have on people
• A company culture that is ready to “brandjam”

“Brandjamming” resulted in the creation of Coca-Cola’s inspiring new look,
intuitively supporting a new identity and relying on the combined talent of the
group to make breakthrough decisions. Theirs was a dedication to see the
brand reach out for more, connect emotionally to new audiences, and break
away from the expected.

A subsequent CD brought this new identity to life with music and liberated the
brand to be creative and innovative again. The exercise was not only about
that color yellow or the gracious clin d’oeil John Galliano gave to the brand; it
was about the spirit and emotions that were locked up in the genie’s coke
bottle suddenly being liberated and reaching out to people’s desires. It was
about an identity that transcended the design message to be more about the
feeling the brand can convey and the joy that is inherent to it. Design unlocked
that potential for people to enjoy.

The Coca-Cola cans on Galiano’s runway is the product placement everyone
dreams about. Those ideas, those connections can only be found through
imaginative and intuitive thinking; the entry door to the world of the unconscious
is only possible through the creative mind. The experience taught me
that the corporate world needs logic and the consumer world is driven by
emotions; this gap needs to be bridged. Brandjamming is the powerful idea
that reconnects the business world to people’s subconscious desires.

When a jazz band starts jamming on a melody, you recognize the tune and the
premise, then it evolves and reaches out to new melodies, inspired by a known
music piece but then evolving into a more exciting, transforming, and emotional
piece that leads you into a new mental and physical space. Not unlike jamming,
design is the basis for connecting emotionally with people, and its most powerful instrument. Emotional design is visibly sensorial and reaches our emotions faster
than any other means of communication, yet it is the most underleveraged of all communications approaches. Design conveys innovation in the most potent way, addresses our social and personal expectations, and builds loyalty for a brand, but the amount of money invested in new products or in the manifestation of a visual identity is abysmally small compared to the budgets spent in broadcast media.

It’s More Than Design Aesthetics
Effective branding is about the emotions design creates. “Brandjam” is a perception
and a vision, a style and a tone of voice. “Brandjam” is an innovative concept
constantly needing a new, inventive, and refreshed vocabulary. One must use
evolving aesthetics and style to forge a sensory language that connects with
people’s desires to experience life in an uplifting, changing, and positive way.

While brandjamming, here are a few thoughts to remember as you read
this book:

Think about intimacy and the disruptive power of a new shift
People will react to what they don’t know. If you see the ocean for the first
time, it is overwhelming, awesome, and entrancing. Don’t be afraid to show
people the ocean, even if you have to start out by limiting yourself to one
narrow “ribbon” of it. The enemy of branding is ubiquity and sameness.

Research feelings, not opinions
In doing research, it is important to see how design connects to emotions. It is
not about visual like or dislike, but making an impact at a profound emotional
level. Research is not the thumbs up or down of innovation but a way to probe
people’s life experiences and hopes, a way to benchmark and ground the best
creative ideas. Research is subservient to the creative process; it does not lead it.

Leverage design as a tool for innovation
By connecting to all the rational, social, and visceral experiences people want
to have with a brand, design humanizes it to connect better with people.
Design is the emotional touch that stimulates and enhances a consumer’s
experience. Brandjamming is a process of constant discovery; it must be flexible
and engaging. When you leverage design as an inspiration for your brand
language, you also invite consumers to redesign their expectations.

 
 

 

 


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