A successful brand identity development exercise must always lead to a sustainable mnemonic, a memorable element which acts as a shortcut to brand meaning. This could be an element of design in terms of the logo, a graphic element and the font, or even an audio, visual or audio-visual property that is truly ownable. Many modern brands miss out on this crucial aspect, thus denying themselves the chance to secure a distinctive space in the ever-cluttered mind of the customer.
Fortunately, the world of Marketing, including the technology space, is filled with examples of branding programmes that have done this successfully, proving its effectiveness in modern times as well. The Google Doodle is an inspiring benchmark as its dynamic and intelligent construct engages daily with the users, compelling them to spend time with this digital object that teases the brain. It effectively combines the classical technique of a design-based mnemonic with the dynamic energy of the digital world and the ability to be customised in every geography quite effortlessly. In the old-economy arena we are overwhelmingly familiar with the Golden Arch, the Coca Cola logo and hobble-skirt bottle, Colonel Sanders, Betty Crocker and the many airline identities, including the Air India Maharajah. The last brought to life through the eclectic vision of Bobby Kooka and captured beautifully in ‘Foolishly Yours’, a brand mnemonic expansion from the 1960s way ahead of its time.
Other prominent examples from India include the Asian Paints Gattu and the Amul Girl in the static space while the TV boom led to some very compelling multi-sensorial properties as well. The famous Britannia sign-off and the Pepsi brand lines uttered ecstatically are just two notable instances of the attempt of most brands to achieve this ownable identity. TV and radio channels, most predictable AIR and Doordarshan, enlisted world-class musicians such as Pandit Ravi Shankar and their constant repetition led to a truly enviable identity. However, there are sufficient learnings from yesterday and today to develop a credible yet inspirational set of guidelines while designing the brand mnemonic.
Starting with some absolute basics, the logo must consist of a separate design entity which goes beyond how the name is written, thus bucking the recent pattern of typographic formations. While they are certainly smart and minimalistic their ability to command exceptional memorability is severely restricted by the absence of visual elements, as has been proven in most cases. The human mind identifies patterns and colours more easily than words, leading to superior potential for developing a property.
The second basic element will be to identify the most relevant and rewarding medium for exposing the mnemonic, in terms of memorability and as a magnet for business. For a Mcdonald’s born in Expressway America, the Golden Arch was the perfect solution while TV-spend intensive Britannia was wise to put its money in an audio-visual identity, just two of many other successful examples of this strategy.
While securing the above fundamental elements, the real opportunity is to think totally afresh connecting mnemonic design to category drivers as well as consumer behaviour, recognising this to be an opportunity for distinction unlike any other. For starters, we must consider the mnemonic as a Brand Experience property and not just an advertising element, with possibilities way more immense than ever imagined.
Every time aboard a Singapore Airlines flight, you get a whiff of the customised fragrance ‘Stefan Florida Waters’ from the attendants to the hot towels to naturally the ambient cabin air, thus making it an equally compelling mnemonic as the Singapore Girl. This is an idea that can be easily adapted by not just every airline but hotel, restaurant, spa, salon and every other environment where the customer spends considerable physical time. In tune with extroverted Marketing, fragrance can become an inimitable mnemonic, changing hues with every season or perhaps with the profile of the establishment. A traditional Sattvik eatery coming to life with a Haridwar aura while a Street Food-themed establishment deliberately investing in a mild cacophony of natural noises.
Even the audio-sensorial crunch of a piece of Fried Chicken can become a unique mnemonic, operating from a truthful insight that we do associate sounds with both cooking and eating like the crispy crunch of a wafer and papad, the silent endorsement of a soft kebab or the shrill shriek of a barbeque announcing the readiness of the meat. A patented cone design can do the job for an ice-cream brand while a cultivated cry of the server inspired by a street vendor can become the mark of a traditional restaurant. As we climb up the luxury stakes, the possibilities become farther eclectic with crockery, cutlery, furniture design and a signature house drink doing the job.
For Domino’s Pizza, the 30-minute promise was an under-exploited mnemonic which can inspire other service distinctions to play a higher-order role in brand meaning. A ‘No-Questions-Asked’ return policy can become a powerful policy, an element of logo and also the subject of memorable advertising quite like a lifetime warranty. For a hotel, the ‘Same-Day-Freshness’ guarantee for food, linen, flowers and natural elements will be a distinguisher while a policy of recruitment from a specific under-privileged cadre with appropriate training will be compelling when expressed by a visual identity.
With appropriate imagination, the same principles can lead to compelling mnemonics in FMCG, Durables, Fashion, Automobiles and every other conceivable category. The sound of a horn for a car, the trademark version of every primary colour for a lipstick or wall-paint, the sound of a sports shoe on a track, an audio-visual human character with powerful digital life or a packaging innovation like Paper Boat if exclusivity is ensured. In tandem with technology, interactive brand mnemonics that come to life when the customer is engaged seriously can lead to the next wave of inspirations.
The brand mnemonic is poised for an overdue comeback from the lens of experience and not just communication, with a very clear eye on forging customer relationships and generating further business. For this we must revisit the core of our consumption engagement and identify uniquely opportunities that can lead to long-term brand properties. Most importantly, this exercise will become an important pillar for brand valuation due to the reduction in identity confusion and the definite potential for enhancing memorability. In this cluttered environment, brands urgently need shortcuts to desired meaning and that is where the progressive mnemonic is inimitable.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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