New Year, New Brand

My prediction for the design industry in 2016 centers around brand equity. Companies are rethinking the potential power their brands possess, and they are relying on designers to optimize this potential!

Yes, rebranding is most dramatic way to stir up some attention for a brand, but what about realigning a brand? Realignment isn't really a term used in the design industry. Heck, maybe I just made it up. But think about what it means for a brand. Making sure everything connected to a brand aligns perfectly with the standards the brand exhibits and also the voice of the brand is becoming an integral part of building brand experience.

What are some ways a brand can be well-aligned? Well, let's dive into the senses!

1. Visual Brand

Credit: naturalblaze.com

Credit: naturalblaze.com

The way a brand looks is the first impression a customer has. The logomark, colors, typography, imagery, etc. are all subconsciously processed by consumers. The trick is making an identity seem so undeniably consistent and fitting that it makes a big impact in a consumer's mind. It will be remembered, and that's the first step.

McDonald's has been a fantastic example of strong visual identity for decades, and it continues to be one of the largest and most successful companies internationally because of the consideration and importance McDonald's gives its brand. From the Big Mac clam shell box to national television advertising campaigns, Mickey D's retains a strong visual continuity amongst all its collateral and communications. Those famous golden arches sure have gotten McDonald's quite a bit of worldwide recognition.

2. Audible Brand

How a brand sounds is an element designers have only recently begun to seriously consider. The audible brand can be greatly overlooked and underestimated, but if utilized properly, it has the potential to be a very powerful tool. From half second beeps to corporate jingles, consumers are soaking up those catchy tunes. There's a reason you can't remember what you learned in high school chemistry but you know every word of every song your favorite band has ever released. There's something in the human brain that just loves noise, especially music.

When you hear "Like a good neighbor," you know it's going to be followed by "State Farm is there." State Farm transformed its four-second jingle into an ad campaign by adding a really simple phrase that is recognizable enough whether it's sung or spoken.

3. Tangible Brand

What does this brand feel like? Its tangibility likely points to some kind of packaging design, but it can be considered in a way that's outside the box—pun intended. Hershey has done tangible branding in a very simple way from the beginning. A Hershey Kiss is a completely different shape than most chocolate products so its wrappings must also be unique, right? Not necessarily. Hershey made the decision to simply wrap each individual Kiss in silver (or seasonally colored) foil with a thin paper strip printed with the product name. In its simplicity, however, is ingenuity. Instead of consumers picking at foil for days, the paper strip serves as an unwrapping tool. The basic packaging has become iconic for the Hershey Kiss, and it likely will never change.

Tangible branding is just that—how a consumer touches a product and senses its brand. Obviously, digital brands cannot compete in this category, but they can create a "faux feel." This could include how materiality and texture could be incorporated into a digital design.

4. Scented/Flavorful Brand

Credit: The White Glossy Underground Board

Credit: The White Glossy Underground Board

These two characteristics follow the same kind of story, so I put them together to save on repeating myself. Smell and taste are actually two of the most connected senses in the body so it makes perfect "sense" that they be paired. A smell or taste can easily (or not so easily) distinguish one product from another. It may be the competition's motive to be similar as to provide a comparable product. Nevertheless, a scent or flavor is a big deal when it comes to consumer purchasing decisions.

I know it might sound crazy, but I know there are others out there like me: I can smell Dr. Pepper from a mile away. Some people are even weirder and can smell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, and I tip my hat to those fine folks. But I digress. Dr. Pepper clearly has a distinct taste. Hello, does "authentic blend of 23 flavors" mean anything to you? (Click here for the list of the 23 flavors—the big shocker is definitely the tomato) But because of these odd flavors, Dr. Pepper has been able to sell its product as unique and desirable and even make campaigns dedicated to that very fact.

So that's my forecast for 2016—the surge of brand alignment. Cheers to the new year and thriving brands!