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  • Posted by: Michael Mitchell on Tuesday, March 18 2014 04:22 PM | Comments (0)
    The Art of Storutelling

    We know that words matter. They have an incredible power to move people, and when used thoughtfully—even poetically—they can change the way people experience brands.

    For example, there’s something poetic about Volkswagen’s 2013 campaign encouraging us not to text and drive. In one ad, a nearly blank page simply says, “See you n…” —cleverly incorporating auto-correct to anticipate the last word as either “now” or “never.” It’s a powerful use of four words to tell a story, affect behavior and solve a problem.

    If design thinking is how brands can use design to solve problems, perhaps poetic thinking is how brands can use language to solve problems.

    The suggestion is not that brands begin speaking in iambic pentameter. But, if we craft a brand's language to be as poetic as its design is artful, we can have a significant impact. As our new article on the art of effective storytelling notes, the key is “finding that balance between having a living and breathing expression while still remaining true to the core what, how and why of a brand.”

    Artful language helped HSBC claim the second highest rank of any financial services brand on Interbrand’s latest Best Global Brands report. Delivering on their positioning as “the world’s local bank,” their iconic advertisements featuring a single word seen from multiple perspectives was a sublimely poetic way for a bank to raise its brand value by conveying understanding, empathy and humanity.

    In an equally poignant mix of design and poetic thinking, an Asian non-profit, Samaritans of Singapore, promoted their crises-prevention services by crafting phrases that convey different messages from different angles. These heartfelt ads show that depression can hide in plain sight, reading, “I feel fantastic” when right-side up, and “I’m falling apart” when upside down.

    The thoughtful use of language is essential to helping brands express an emotionally engaging, strategically consistent and differentiated point of view. When combined correctly, an inventive piece of design coupled with a poetic turn of phrase can move hearts—and business margins—in powerful, world-changing ways.

    For more on crafting language and story to elevate brand communications, download our new article on “The Art of Storytelling.”

    Michael Mitchell is a Senior Consultant, Verbal Identity, at Interbrand Singapore.

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  • Posted by: Jennifer Vasilache on Thursday, June 20 2013 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

    Etymology Banner

    The Language of Sustainability

    This is a special Best Global Green Brands 2013 issue of Etymology. To experience our full report, click here.

    The New Shades of Citizenship

    When it comes to long-term brand strategy, corporate citizenship is now mandatory. But as the shade of that responsibility shifts from green to blue and beyond, how can brands raise awareness of the ways in which they give back?

    As we’ve noted before (and Clorox has so eloquently stated), "something's gone wrong with green." The green gold rush went bust and the term went from being a powerful symbol of sustainability to a suspicious and undifferentiating claim.

    Some brands have already taken a simple approach toward solving the green-light jam: give sustainability another color. Blue has become the color of choice for those who want to signal new, renewable energy sources and technologies, while signaling that they’ve gone beyond green (a.k.a. building value into their supply chain) and designed their business to give back more than it takes. Volkswagen brings this concept to life literally, with “BlueMotion” technology and its “Think Blue” campaign, but across the board, brands are beginning to ambitiously name with the net positive they hope to create for the world in mind.

    Then Then Again Now

    Is this color trend sustainable (pardon the pun)? Or, as responsibility and sustainability become part of everyday business, will there be a point at which we become color blind?

    Brands early to exit the “green” conversation in favor of owning a bigger one have reached a critical point as well. IBM’s “Smarter Planet” started a trend of speaking about the world, possibly inspiring names like Starbucks’ “Shared Planet” and Nike’s “Better World.” They speak to engagement and participation, and they certainly capture a global consciousness around citizenship, but these names are starting to sound similar—and make it difficult to determine how they’ll talk about where their efforts will go next.

    We suspect we might see brands headed in the other direction too, shifting from macro to micro responsibility. The shift from “everyone” to “just one” is profound, but brands are inviting their customers to give back more than they take, right alongside them.

    TOMS Shoes established their business model on the buy-one-give one promise, with its “One for One” initiative, donating a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. That kind of intimate, personal responsibility has caught fire with startups (like eyewear company Warby Parker’s “Buy a pair, give a pair” program) and is finding its way into the lexicon of larger corporations (we see IBM narrowing its scope from Smarter Planet to Smarter Cities and Smarter Buildings) as they seek new ways to get credit for their efforts to make the whole-wide world even bluer.

    This week's guest author, Jennifer Vasilache, is a Senior Verbal Identity Consultant for Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Nick Wright on Friday, March 4 2011 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

    Volkswagen Brazil recently sponsored the biggest music festival in Sao Paulo, the (sold out) Planeta Terra Festiva. It used the event as an opportunity to bring its trendy car, the Fox, closer to city’s youth.

    Volkswagen hid tickets across the entire city, and then displayed them on a microsite using Google Maps. The catch was, the map was zoomed all the way out, and the only way to zoom back in was to have the community band together using the #foxatplanetaterra hashtag. The more tweets, the more the map would zoom in, ultimately revealing the pinpoint location of each ticket—at which point, finding the tickets became a foot race in the real world.

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  • Posted by: Fred Gerantabee on Friday, June 4 2010 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

    Over the past decade, there have been some excellent examples of how big brands have redefined themselves beyond the brick and mortar box by creating cutting edge online experiences. Whether it’s the Nike shoe configurator, Volkswagen’s “Build your VW” or an entire online playground delivered by Disney’s Imagineering group, many top brands have learned how to leverage the latest web technologies to build a virtual experience that mirrors or deviates (in a positive way) from the store, dealership, theme park or whatever real world venue has been a part of that brand’s evolution.

    However, what about those household names that never had a store? What about those brands that are built in the depths of cyberspace without doors, store hours, a product on the shelf or a slew of TV commercials? The next generation of “brands” have built their bones on the intangible: experiences, mouse interaction, features and full exploitation of eye-catching and tactile technologies that are transparent to the average user, but active on the mind of every web developer and digital designer in the marketplace today.

    Amazon was an experience before it was a brand
    I’ve used this phrase a couple of times when addressing brick and mortar and traditional businesses that are concerned with redefining or merging their brands online, or even just rolling out an existing brand into a viable web experience. The sentiment is that if you can create or mirror a great experience online, the brand (even an unfamiliar one) can evolve, in part, from its success. After all, in the web world, competitors can originate from very different places, whether it’s traditional retail dynasties or pure cyber-businesses that have grown from venture capital and a series of unusual ideas.

    Amazon is a great example of the new kid who could run marathons before it even learned how to speak its own name. Is it possible that without many of the key elements of brand identity (such as carefully developed visuals, verbal identity and a concrete business strategy) that a bunch of pages and code files can become the next household name?

    It’s all in the tabs
    When Amazon launched in 1995 as an online bookstore, the web was in its infancy. E-commerce was finding its feet, and many traditional businesses that had managed to roll out hundreds of stores across the country couldn’t manage to get a proper shopping cart up and running. Most e-commerce sites from established brand names were clunky and unpredictable, and most of all, did no justice to the excellent customer service and in-store experiences that their retail equivalents had achieved.



    Source: The History of Amazon’s Tab Navigation (LukeW Ideation & Design)

    With easy to use manila folder styled top tabs, a Spartan design and useful features galore, the Amazon experience (as well as those infamous tabs) became one of the most copied designs on the web. Most of all, as Amazon continued to grow, it paid special attention to how it re-organized its offerings, and expanded to include features such as recommended buys, one-click shopping and wish lists. All of this came from a company that didn’t see a net profit until January of 2002 (which by our own Best Global Brands standards, would have put Amazon in the waste bin before that year). The moral of the story, is that Amazon defined itself as an experience before it became a viable brand, complete with profit, projections and a clear strategy. The Amazon logo is easily recognizable from yards away – not because you’ve seen it on the face of retail shops or milk cartons, but because that logo emerged from one of the most notable online experiences ever developed.

    Ebay also holds a similar honor; not only did the online marketplace giant redefine how we shop (our parents never had to put in a “bid” to buy designer shoes), but created a series of shopping and user experience mechanisms around a very basic, almost child-like design and little to no verbal identity or supporting imagery. Those defining brand elements, by our standards, may not have been there – but the experience itself compensated for it…and well. It too, like Amazon, has become one of the most recognized brands in the world–so recognizable, that you may feel like it’s always been there.

    Now, the next generation of experiences is coming fast and furious. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, all with no evident or clearly defined long-term profit model, have redefined the way we expect the web (and everything else) to work. Cutting-edge, clever and transparent uses of technology (Flash, Flash & H.264 Video, HTML/CSS and JavaScript, iPod OS) have redefined our expectations for what a service should do. Like the things we grew up with (Tropicana, Kellogg’s, Barnes & Noble, the Walkman, to name a few) we associate these services with our own lifestyles—with our daily activities and with our social interactions with others. The experience in all of these cases has far outrun the viability of the brand, but in many cases is instrumental in carrying that company to brand stardom.

    User experiences and functionality, shaped by today’s technologies, can make or break the next big brand in cyberspace. These intangibles don’t replace the core aspects of what defines a brand, but they most certainly have become an additional factor in an already complex formula for success.

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