Having globe-trotted from Hamburg, I arrived in New York City to a hail of thunderstorms to hold the third meeting of the Brand Perfect Tour. My goal was to join brand managers, creative directors, Web designers and developers to debate the future of branding in the digital space.
Hosted by Lee Aldridge, chief brand officer at Young & Rubicam Group, who introduced me, I began by recapping previous Brand Perfect forums in London and Hamburg. Themes had emerged from these events, such as “kill the logo,” and the “brand book is dead.” There were also questions about whether the traditional notion of brand consistency matters. What would New York bring?
Lee Aldridge set the context for discussion. His session focused on the shift in brand values toward social media, culture and responsibility. He made the point that digital goes way beyond the Web, and as screens surround consumers both at home and at work, there are more and more opportunities for brand presence and interaction. This is a mass market phenomenon, not restricted to a privileged demographic, and the secret to success is knowing why the consumer should want to engage, what to deliver that is contextually relevant and how to maintain the dialogue. Brand authenticity depends on the action taken to a communication in real time – the here and now. Organizations must support this throughout their structure. Getting attention is harder than ever, and brands must think more creatively about how to engage. Giant holographic images of products such as sneakers and juicy pizza were cited as one way to do this.
Charles Bigelow, the Melbert B. Carey professor at New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology, followed with a fascinating study on the emotional values that typefaces were shown to purport, based on an analysis conducted by R.I.T. on 18 to 25-year-olds. The study showed that some typefaces have brand personalities, and choosing a typeface that reflects the tone of your message and indeed your own brand personality can help to carry the voice of your communication more effectively. The study found that Web-safe fonts afford fewer connotations in communications than non-Web-safe display fonts.
The Brand Perfect New York panel discussion featured Paul Owen, executive creative director, Landor Associates New York, Johannes Schardt, co-founder of precious, a Hamburg–based design and development agency, and Dennis Michael Dimos, newly hired creative director of Monotype Imaging.
Paul Owen made the point that technology has only just started to catch up to enable where brands want to be. “We are in constant beta mode,” he said, and keeping up with technology is a bigger task than ever for brands and their agencies. Technology trends can lead brands down tracks that aren’t appropriate. Highlighting the iPhone® device, Johannes Schardt mentioned that he constantly asks, “Why do brands want an i-Phone app? Usually it’s not the best solution.” There was a lot of discussion about brand guidelines and the need to evolve these to suit the environment. “Read the book and then throw it away,” was the advice from Dennis Michael Dimos.
- Steve Matteson, creative type director at Monotype Imaging and the designer of the Droid™ typefaces, then talked about the way that a typeface becomes the voice of your brand. People associate with it in the same way they become familiar with other visual attributes. Similarly, type can be a very versatile way to change the tone of voice for a large corporate brand that wants to appeal to a different demographic in a different tone. He gave the example of Microsoft and its XBox® video game console.
The final presentation of the morning was delivered by John Oswald, business design lead at Fjord London. John posed the question, “Do we over-communicate, and are we driving consumers away with the continual push-marketing tactics employed in traditional channels that just don’t work in the digital space?” Focusing on designing very much for context with the individual at the heart of the thought process, John emphasized the need for visual recognition anywhere, authentic interaction and expected performance.
The Brand Perfect New York master classes were conducted by Rietje Gieskes of Landor Associates who looked at the value of creating bespoke typefaces to suit a brand. Daniel Rhatigan delivered a detailed class showing how to deliver richer communications with Web typography using Web fonts, including how to select fonts and manage layout across different platforms and browsers. The afternoon concluded with a highly interactive class on multi-screen design by Christophe Stoll and Johannes Schardt from precious, Hamburg, which was very well received.
Mark your calendars. The next stops in the 2011 Brand Perfect Tour are London on Oct. 4 and Berlin on Oct. 27.
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