Question: What do brands and religion have in common? Quite a lot if Martin Lindstrom is to be believed. Religion has certain sacrosanct rituals, cult following, brings about a sense of belonging, unquestioning reverence - pretty much what one would want one's brand to be isn't it?
Now think Harley Davidson, Apple, the Olympic games, Google - these brands over the years have built up a dedicated band of worshippers that can't be weaned away by any amount of inducement. That's successful branding for you.
International branding guru Lindstrom, who is on a whirlwind tour of 51 cities across 31 countries with his series of Brand Sense Symposiums had a captive audience of people from the industry, advertising, media as well as B-schools in the National Capital on Tuesday.
His major lament has been that marketers, advertisers, CEOs are so hung up on the visual element and to some extent the aural element of a brand that they just fail to deliver a complete brand experience to their customers.
Smash your brand
That's right. Take your brand, smash it into pieces, and if you can still recognise it as your brand, well congratulations, you have a successful brand indeed. "Forget your logos," said Lindstrom, "what if you can't use your logo? Can you still make your brand recognisable?"
According to Lindstrom, TV ads no longer worked, yet the industry was unable to wean itself away from them. With new technologies like TiVO, which can enable viewers to skip ads altogether, what are the chances of one's ad getting noticed? "And how can one remember your brand among the plethora of other brands also advertising on TV?" he asked.
"An average American would have watched 200,000 ads by the time he reaches the age of 65. What are the chances of his recalling your brand?" Lindstrom continued.
A complete sensory experience
The solution, according to Lindstrom, was to provide a complete sensory experience of one's brand that involved all the five senses - sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
But, "consistency is king," Lindstrom cautioned. Giving the example of Coca-Cola (one of the many during his nearly seven-hour seminar), he said that initially the colour red was associated with Coke, which even managed to give good old Santa Claus his red costume, but over the years Coke shifted to other colours, losing its association with red, which now is associated with Vodafone internationally. (One can say Eveready in India with its "Give me Red" campaign.)
"Bad branding," admonished Lindstrom. But Nokia on the other hand has been constant. It's signature tune (which incidentally was the ringtone of a participant's cellphone ringing at regular intervals, much to everyone's amusement) has been consistent over the years.
Over the past year, 11 movies had the Nokia tunes playing in them, and the cost to the cellphone giant - $0!
According to Lindstrom, "Smell is the most underexploited sensory element. We buy emotions all the time. Smell revives memories." Giving an example, he said the Singapore Airlines had successfully tapped into this experience. The fragrance inside the aircraft, the perfume worn by the air hostesses, the perfume in the hot towels given to passengers - came out of a patented smell, exclusively belonging to the airlines.
"And the way a new car smelled, well it too comes out of a bottle," said Lindstrom.
This apart, the feel of a Bang & Olufsen remote control, the crunch of a Kellogg's cornflake and the sound of the closing of a Mercedes car door, the Intel signature tune, Tiffany's blue box; all these "sensations" have been carefully designed to reinforce the brand's image. And they can have a Proustian power.
Lindstrom further said, "Create a vision, which unites people, creates a sense of belonging. The vision should allow your brand to go a little bit further than it normally would. It should not just be a beautiful vision, but the brand has to execute it. A strong vision is no longer enough"