on 14 Sep 2020 6:02 PM
  • #marketing
  • #design
  • #branding
  • #universe
  • #occasions
  • #truths

A lot has been written about brand design, and especially by agencies. At Brand Reveal, we are a bit peculiar as we have built most of our experience from the client side. In this article, we share the 3 questions - or "super trio" - to look for in designs, from a brand perspective, to formulate winning briefs, AND assess proposals.

Having worked over a 100 product and packaging designs from a client's and agency perspective, I often ask myself what makes good design, simply to know if we are on track. Why? Because product design is about transforming a brand positioning in tangible touch points, and so every design element, explicit and implicit, has to work as hard as it can, with the right message. Gordon Smith, the designer behind brands such as Ciroc or Tanqueray Ten, once said that "a good design tells a good story". And a good story needs a good plot, good characters and a captivating world.

And so these questions pave the foundation of what we call the "Super Trio", i.e. the combination of 3 elements which, brought together, are key to produce superior work. These elements are the Brand Truths, the Brand Universe and the Brand Occasions.

Brand Truths, Stories or Product Truths are tangible characteristics that you want to put forward to support an emotional claim. If your whisky brand is about masculinity, then perhaps a blend with strong flavours are the brand truth to put forward.  If your brand is about discoveries, then perhaps the brand truth on special blends needs to be put forward. Interestingly enough, brands with appellations (e.g. champagne, cognac ...), often believe that their Brand Truths are not compelling because of category production specifications are perceived to limit innovation and differentiation. However, a closer look at respective production process will alwaysreveal interesting stories.

In this respect, "Craft Brands", have liberated the way brands speak about their products, with a more casual and engaging angle and tone. This was often done out of out of necessity, because these brands did not have massive communication budgets, so their design had to explain the product to establish credibility. So when defining a design brief, be clear about the Brand Truth the design must bring to life.

Brand Universe, Brand World or Stage is about the historical and cultural frame the design is referring to. For instance, is your brand referring to Art Nouveau or Bauhaus? This is also loosely referred as Vintage and has become a "must have" in many briefs. Some of the reasons behind this movement are explored in the "Age of Nostalgivc Innovation" article. Having a clearly defined Universe is essential, because every reference will trigger implicit feelings. For instance, if your Brand Universe refers to the Art Nouveau, it will send echo a certain sensuality. lushness or organic feel. If however, your Brand Universe refers to Bauhaus, the feelings evoked will be about plainness, simplicity or intelligence.

If you are inventing a brand, the options of Universes are endless. If your Brand has been around for 100 or 200 years, tapping into the original universe can unlock huge expression possibilities. So next time you see a "Craft Brand" with a Victorian or Americana look, ask yourself if the proposition is well rooted in these eras or if it just a "pastiche exercise".

Brand Occasions, or Consumer Motivation, refers to the social occasions in which the brand will live on. This model taps into social dynamics roots and postulates that Brand are first and foremost Social Facilitators, i.e. ways for a consumer to look and feel in the way which matches the social occasion. For instance, you will not chose the same brand for a formal dinner or a nightclub party.

This approach allows to decode and recode design cues. For instance, if your Brand Occasion is all about Status, the design cues will need to reinforce a superior look and feel. In this case golden elements, medals or stylish shapes can help establish this feel. whiskies or champagnes play a lot on this motivation.

Or, if a Brand Occasion is about feeling well within the group for inclusive moments, such as BBQ or watching a TV game and home, the design will reflect a more laidback and warm feel. Think for instance beers or uncomplicated wines... Brands who understand Occasions and Motivations have a powerful way to market themselves.

Eventually, the Brand Truths, the Brand Universe and the Brand Occasion must work hand in hand and are interconnected. If your brief if clear about these points, it will facilitate and inspire the work of the design team. If on the other hand, some of these elements are not clearly defined, the brand team can enter into a fruitful conversation with the designer to bring an answer. For instance, are we clear about the Product Story? As it is often said, a question well laid is often 90% of the problem solved.

At Brand Reveal we work with a network of talented designers, who understand brand requisites, because in the end, design is an art meant to drive preference, i.e. a choice bias. Within this process, Brand Reveal job is to help uncover these choice elements so that they are expressed with the right brand tone. 

Brand Reveal is a network of Marketing experts based in Porto, Paris and London, with a serious passion for drinks. If you would like to (re)connect the Strategy with the Creative side of your brands, centenary or new born, do give us a shout. [email protected] or +351 913 779 822