Every year we decide to face new challenges that allow us to go a step further than where we are. After our deserved holidays, March finds us with renewed energy and we finally embark on the tasks in mind. Here is the challenge we are to face: to explore issues that affect brands as discoursive platforms, and their interaction with local and global communities in the continuous process of building their identity and reinforcing their brand value. This will be the aim of a collection of articles we will publish on a weekly basis from now on. Looking forward to your viewpoints and comments, the intention behind the proposal is to create an open space for genuine exchange that can enrich the daily practise of Design as a discipline and way of life. So… Here we go!
In the first place, we postulate that the actions companies implement, within the framework of their brand discourse, are interesting to study because they have a close relation to the different cultures and local practises of the community they are part of. In the age of economic globalisation, multimedia communication and social media revolution, the gaps and ways in which actions are planned, designed and developed are constantly changing. On another level, they influence people’s lifestyles and, as a result, their consuming practises, habits and preferences.
Given this scenario, brands are in need of new strategies that can help them build, strengthen and maintain long-term relationships with their interlocutors. But, where to begin?
With the objective of exploring new relationships between brands and communities, we will keep the focus on Brand Design, on the backdrop of two concurrent trends: (1) Actions Design and (2) Experience Design.
A core motivation of our column is to find innovative ways in which brands can connect to people, starting off a conversation aimed to enhance brand value by exchanging opinions, enabling and embracing criticism; while listening, detecting, anticipating and proactively responding to the changing needs of communities.
Brand Design, Branding, Identity Design, Experience Design, Actions
Design, Design thinking, Experience Marketing, Communication, Emotional Branding.
Due to the great offer of mass consumption products and services, most brands are faced with oversaturated markets, where products and services tend to become more and more alike each day. This leads to the question: how can a brand stand out from the rest?
Aside from the aesthetic dimension of the issue, which seems the obvious differentiative factor, brands actually vary widely in terms of the experiences, expectations, interests and attitudes they are related with. And the answer to the question seems to lie in this direction.
In the context of a worldwide competitive market, brands –as one of the multiple components of the system–, have to deal with a new mobility where change seems to be the only constant. Furthermore, the speed velocity at which these occur, together with the growing importance of the intangible and consequent process of dematerialization to be undergone in the subsequent years by many objects and products helplessly condemned to disappear, seemingly leave no other option for brands but to adapt to the changing circumstances, interacting, influencing and embracing change as a new reality.
On the other hand, the question regarding the underlying reason why consumers aimlessly drift from one brand to another has become increasingly controversial in the recent years. A comprehensive approach on the subject reveals that what people appear to be struggling for is a brand they can identify with. A brand with which they can share moments, experiences; a brand they can make part of their life; a promise, a purpose, a brand to love.
Previous projects dealing with how brands are lived by companies have
indicated that brand-guided companies occur across all industries, not
only significantly out-performing their competitors, but also boosting
profitability margins nearly twice the industry standard.
In the light of this, the question arises on how companies, indistinctively of their size, can successfully integrate a participatory design approach to their everyday activities, starting from clearly-defining brand values and making them the ‘guiding star’ for the entire organization. At this point, coherence and consistency seem vital goals to achieve as to deliver on the brand promise. But when it comes to developing the brand reputation, the actions companies implement and the experiences they create as part of their brand promise, are key aspects typically ignored. I hypothesize that by drawing awareness to
these, and as a result, start promoting innovative solutions design,
companies can indeed change the whole scenario, bringing major
improvements to their overall brand performance.
Moreover, given the rising importance of close social connections, a well-connected organization –both in the inbound and outbound–, will help to strengthen links, gain trust and exponentially multiply the company’s stakeholders. For, after all, consumer loyalty only seems possible within a culturally evolved, emotionally engaged and holistically connected relationship between brands and people. Because brands ARE people, and brands are alive.
[To be continued…]
 Wolff Olins, “Managing Brands for Value Creation”. Booz Allen Hamilton GmbH. 2005.