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"And the stars are projectors, yeah, projecting our lives down to this planet Earth." - Modest Mouse


6.13.2004

Corporate Branding In The New Age 

Here's a curious document I ran across about market branding in the new age - it's a transcript of a speech by Cheryl Swanson given to the Business of Marketing Strategy Conference Institute for International Research, April 27, 2004 in Boston. While it is creepy to the core, explaining how branding must evolve to capitalise on the emerging humanism in our culture, it's also intriguing to note that the advertising world agrees that such humanism is indeed growing.

This highlights a conflict I've been struggling with for some time: is it ultimately beneficial when advertising co-opts the underground? Thinkers like Grant Morrison and Doug Rushkoff maintain that media advertising and it's desire to be ever-hip provide opportunities for radical artists and ontologists to present their visions to a huge audience, essentially using the exposure of the corporate brand as a vector to deliver the ideals of the progressive underground. But it begs the question, "Does corporate co-option dilute the message of the underground, tying it to consumerism and desire instead of engeandering progressive social evolution?"

Some excerpts:
The visual landscape of the 21st century is morphing from a masculine, machine-based vision, rational, geometric, linear and logical world, toward an organic, bright, sensory reality that celebrates the human spirit. This viewpoint provides a wake-up call filling us with optimism. Organic shapes and sensory textures reunite our biorhythms (if but for a moment) with our emotions. This new world combines masculine with feminine principles; organic, soulful, soft, inward oriented, producing a more humane landscape...

As we compress the sleep cycle, man finds himself losing touch with his wellspring of myth and fantasy. Brands take on a subliminal, emotional role in society, replacing myth and fantasy to become the defining cultural artifacts of our hopes, dreams and fears...

How does this human inspired vision of the future affect design and brands?" The "human principle," a sharing of our imperfections, weaknesses, feelings, and idiosyncrasies, rather than the perfection of machines or a divine being, is highly relevant to brands. We have identified four themes that make brands relevant in this "Survival of the Fastest" era. Brands can remain relevant only when they remind us of our humanity. Brands need empathy, sensory, simplicity and optimism ("ESSO") to make a solid human connection...

Indoors we yearn for the colors, textures and forms of nature. In reaction, home design is integrating the sounds of water and natural light.

The yoga craze expresses our need to reunite with our bodies, to re-learn how to breathe, to stimulate our senses with aromatherapy, strong mints, body lotions.

Our senses hunger - we must nurture them.

A feeling of excitement and relief exists when our senses are engaged. Materials and manufacturing innovations will continue to create unique sensory shapes, textures, and colors.

The SOFT concept is being embraced at every level, from softer lines and materials with skin-like qualities to highly textured things that respond to touch. These products can be high-end like the Cappellini Gel Chair, or mass like the elastic techno-gel pens at the local drugstore.

Brands are investing in high-sensory experiences. Design is breathing new life into packaging in an almost magical way. Packages are becoming experiences, especially high-end fragrances and liquors, even waters like the Fiji brand...

Optimism is a celebration of the human form. We will continue to see fewer unapproachable corporate signatures as we favor lighter, brighter, more emotionally evocative symbols.

The human face and form is enjoying a renaissance in everything from corporate identity to product marketing to design. Institutions and utilities, insurance, medical, science and technology companies are choosing to visually communicate their human spirit.

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