For a while the debate of what branding really means has been a hot topic. Brand is often seen as a collection of visual elements built around a central logo graphic. It’s become the norm to open up a ‘Brand Guidelines’ and be confronted by a smattering of pages about typefaces, colour palettes and logo exclusion zones.
But as I have touched on in previous blogs, a brand is much more than that.
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”Jeff Bezos
And if that’s the case, branding is the craft of influencing what an audience thinks about the subject. So a brand designer should be looking at the bigger picture. A brand designer should be designing what a brand ‘feels’ like. Designing the brand aura, brand presence, or brand spirit, and not ‘just’ the brand appearance.
For a designer to do this, we need to consider how the audience connects to these feelings. It’s important to remember at this point that all decisions are controlled by the emotional side of our brains. And that our emotions are guided by sensory information.
“Our emotions and senses are very tightly intertwined and as such, senses play an integral role in our emotional processing, learning and interpretation. What we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch can influence how we feel.”Kristina Dimitrova
Because we experience everything through a combination of our senses, it only makes sense that a brand is understood in the same way. Life is experienced through all five senses, so it goes without saying that utilising all five senses into a brand expression will help build a more immersive and memorable experience for the audience.
Starting with a deep understanding of a brand’s ethics, ethos, personality and even brand mood, it should be easy to guide and influence how the brand is crafted with the five senses in mind.
If you look around, you can find some great examples of brands excelling in each of these disciplines — Visual branding, Sonic branding, Tactile branding, Flavour branding and Aroma branding. But this shouldn’t be left up to different people down the line. A brand designer should consider, define and lay the foundations for how the brand is experienced by each of the senses.
So to have an understanding of the full spectrum of sense design, let’s look at each.
Designing for touch. How we experience a brand through texture.
Despite selling digital products, Apple are a great example of a brand who utilise the full sensory range. Every product, piece of packaging and shop has been designed to be touched and interacted with. This is where the quality of the Apple experience really comes through.
Touch plays a big role in luxury products. The Tiffany packaging is a great example of how texture, weight, motion and feel can be carefully crafted to create an elaborate brand experience.
Cinema is an experience heavily associated with sight and sound, the other senses often get forgotten about. But the Electric Cinema considers the wider experience. An extravagant experience featuring leather armchairs, footstools and double beds await you inside.
Designing for taste. How we experience a brand through flavour.
Coke has to be the number one example of how a company can create a single, distinctive and instantly recognisable taste that is heavily associated with their brand. The taste of Coke is so constant that for many people is has an emotional and nostalgic connection. After all, no matter where you go in the world Coca-Cola will taste the same.
The KFC Original Recipe is a legendary mix of secret herbs and spices that produce the KFC flavour. Unsurprisingly this ‘Finger licking good’ flavour plays a massive part in the brands connection with their customers.
Obviously food and drink brands are going to utilise flavour branding, but it’s not just exclusive to them. Mastercard are a brand that focus on enable their customers to experience the world and make everyday priceless. Because of this they introduced ‘Priceless Tables’ allowing their customers to experience unique dinners in unexpected places.
Designing for smell. How we experience a brand through scent.
Now this one goes without saying. There is one specific smell that Starbucks want associated with their brand — freshly ground coffee. Not only do the baristas create this smell, but it is also added to the ventilation systems, ensuring the smell permeates throughout the shop and the surrounding area.
Many shops utilise different senses to engage their customers, with different levels of success. But Nike are a great example of a brand who’s signature scent is used as part of a full experience to immerse their customers. It is said that when Nike added the scent to their shops, customer purchase intent jumped up by 80%.
The ‘new car smell’ is such a distinctive experience that the phrase is part of our everyday language. Rolls Royce refresh this unique scent in their cars every time they are serviced, ensuring that their luxury cars remain a luxury experience across all the senses.
Brands now more than ever need to connect with their audience on an emotional level, and that means utilising more than just one of our senses.
As brand designers it’s our role to create the brand vision or brand mood for all the elements to follow, and that comes from a strong strategic approach to the design process.
If you want to find out more about how we can work with you to inspire your brand’s audience and achieve real change — say hi!