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Brian Richards
Brand Feelings
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A Multi-Sensory Brand Experience

Brand Feelings

The ancient Greeks believed that memory was in the heart — if you love something enough you would remember it.

The term freshly baked croissant, for most of us, instantly conjures up something very particular, something more than simply taste and smell. This is because both freshly and baked exist not only in the speech and language parts of our brain, but in a more primal part of our brain, which drives hunger and survival. When thinking of either word, we activate circuits in distinctly different regions of the brain.

Italian actress Sophia Loren, 1957

How you think plus feel is the brand.

A brand is not simply a trademark, a logo, packaging or a product service. It’s a collection of thoughts and feelings; your experience with a brand. Thoughts and feelings are intangibles, fed by things you see, hear, touch, smell and taste. Your brain creates feeling, without consciously understanding the pieces of information that have gone into creating your response.

A logo is a symbol for your brand. But, it rarely stands alone. Its power lies in the ability to conjure up the right feelings in consumers, fed by these intangibles. This response is only possible if every other touchpoint of the brand has worked to deliver that.

What you make people feel is just as important as what you make.

Wearing the latest Orca wetsuit into the ocean feels liberating. Experiencing Disney World with your children feels magical, your local airport arrival should feel uplifting. The tools to elicit feelings are as old as mankind. They are essentially sensory ones.

Orca, Chasing Epic image, Richards Partners 2022

Delighting delicate ears

The subjective experience of music across cultures can be mapped, according to Berkeley University, within 13 overarching feelings: amusement, joy, eroticism, beauty, relaxation, sadness, dreaminess, triumph, anxiety, scariness, annoyance, defiance, and feeling pumped up.

Liszt, an influential 19th century composer, is known for his sensory compositions. Listening to his evocative music was discouraged when first heard amongst young women of virtue; those with delicate ears. Presumably one’s daughter could fall from grace if she experienced the composer’s symphonic poems. The French were well aware, in an unusual way, of the impact of the sensory expression of hearing. That the simple act of listening to music could have a primal effect.

How can we make brands today bypass the rational, conscious and cognitive part of the brain, to embed a brand in the heart of the brain? Considering a brand’s sensory experience, including how a brand is heard, is one place to start.

The Swing, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1767

Colour my mood
Colour sets the mood for positive feelings when it comes to brand expression. Emotions drive decisions. The trick is to cultivate a strong emotional connection. Colour affects how customers perceive a brand and relate to it.

Carefully chosen colour should communicate a specific message, evoke emotion and convey unique sentiments. Our brain is wired to pay attention to objects that are of a contrasting colour compared to its surroundings. You need only to think of a police car, ambulance or fire engine — they all employ colour and sound for heightened awareness.

Contrasting and bright colours helped our ancestors to find food, to notice potential dangers and hazards. In the animal and plant kingdom, bright colours serve survival functions; food, reproduction and protection.

Colours are without a doubt a valuable brand creation tool, capable of evoking feelings, being noticed, being remembered. A way of fitting in (corporate blue), or standing out (Nike orange).

Fonts and feelings

An obsession with fonts is a tell tale sign of a designer. They understand something the rest of us can forget — how something is written can be just as impactful as what is written.

Letters, and their design into full alphabets (typefaces) are the physical form of the spoken word. Letters came only after oral language. The importance of letters carrying the spoken word is largely overlooked in our world today. We rely on letterforms to carry a message, but also to deliver that message in a tone of voice. Letters create the feeling behind a message

Typefaces serve as a visual marketing tool and help to tell a compelling story. The font you choose ultimately plays a major role in conveying the message you want to send to create your brand feeling, remembering that things seem easier to do when they're easier to read.

First Direct, Brand Guidelines

Spatial design and the user experience

Be it physical or virtual, we are all trying to create a consistent and seamless brand experience. Easier said than done. These days e-commerce can mean a product no longer sets a time or geographical limit.

The brand space becomes a point to get to know a brand better and to have a product experience that goes beyond the purchase. Flagship stores give legitimacy to a brand allowing authenticity and loyalty to be built through the physical experience. The good ones, such as Apple stores, are beautifully curated through physical space and a culture of helpful staff.

Alas the budget, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

When you set out to create ‘brand feelings’

A long-winded explanation of the benefits of products and services these days seems to be never-ending. While an explanation is of course essential, it should come secondary to the emotion and expression of a brand or product.

Think Small, VW 1959

The best way to get people to remember and believe your story is to get them to smile, to get them to leave their reality behind for a moment and join yours.

We all need a little escape in our lives. Being whimsical now and then can be healthy and fun. Adding some light-hearted escape for yourself and those who support you will go a long way towards helping them to keep believing in your product. Every day people make hundreds of decisions based on feelings, not logic.

The design challenge is to make me, the customer, feel good about you, the brand.

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