If you don’t stand for something you fall for anything, or so the old adage goes. Irrespective of its non-attributed status, it takes nothing away from its on-the-nose pithy brevity that has you nodding in agreement. We’ve always sought belief, needed belief and that hasn’t changed.
Marketers have a fondness for words and jargon that have become part of everyday brand parlance. And whilst few would dispute that ‘authenticity’, ‘purpose’ and ‘memorable’ are key brand features/goals – JDO, the award-winning creative agency, has taken it up a notch. They are in the business of creating belief.
It’s a bold statement and it raises two pertinent questions – Why do brands need it? and how can they achieve it?
Here, JDO founders Ben Oates and Paul Drake (one with tache and tats, one without) chew the cud and take us on a guided tour of belief and the leading parts played by image, shape and colour.
Why have you made it your mission to help brands create belief?
Paul: It’s why we do what we do. What has always excited me and continues to excite me is the emotional connection we can have with ‘stuff’: the phone that keeps you connected; the bike that keeps you fit; the bag that keeps you organised. And while the function is clearly important, we want to locate the subconscious, the sweet spot that urges us to choose one product over another, that makes us feel good about ourselves, that encourages people to see us in a way we want to be seen.
Ben: It’s about making people believe and feel something. And It’s about power too, tipping the scales in favour of one brand over another. Is it ‘puppeteering’? Possibly. But it’s fundamentally about locating a belief system and accessing a primeval visual language that has evolved over time.
But ‘belief’ is a tough nut to crack. Faith is waning and cynicism is thriving. What’s the secret?
Paul: Every brand has its trigger, that thing that is distinctive, that’s personal. And it could be a context, a history, a brand truth, a narrative, a legacy. And our job is to dig deep, find it and bring it to life and ultimately lock it to the brand through image, shape and colour.
Ben: Walkers Sensations is a good example. The premise, the distinct part, was that here is a crisp brand that is more discerning, the gourmet choice. We adopted a kind of cosmetics semiotics approach – satin soft touch, gloss blacks, grown-up graphics. It was bold, it was polarising and Sensations was the first to subvert the crisp/snack market. People bought it, they believed in it. Those visual triggers did their job and continue to do their job.
Paul: Bonne Maman is another good example. It knows what it is and who it’s for. It’s premium – it’s about buying into the faceted embossed glass jar, the instantly recognisable gingham lid, the handcrafted font. A perfect storm of image, shape and colour designed to encourage belief. A brand buy-in as much for what it is as for what it says about the person who buys it.
Ben: It’s using the right shape and colour to communicate the consumers’ thoughts and values back to them.
What about the word, a name? Does image, shape and colour trump word?
Paul: Every time. We believe images more than words. As hunter-gatherers, we worked out what was going to feed us and what was going to kill us without the luxury or benefit of words. Plus an image gets you there quicker.
Ben: Mastercard recently dropped the name from its logo. It felt like a smart move from a confident brand. And they join a select gathering of superbrands including Apple and Nike that have also gone cold-turkey with copy, flying the flag for image-first branding. I predict we’ll see more big brands follow suit in 2020.
You’re known for talking about the ‘Golden Thread’. Can you explain it and how you use it to create belief
Paul: It’s the thing that joins the dots. The magical brand constant that has stretch and longevity. Distinct enough to be recognisable but not so rigid it can’t be changed and ‘abstracted’. It allows brands to grow and flex, and it nods to our belief our commitment, keeps the essence of the brand family close.
The Absolut bottle physically determines the brand but does it allow for growth and change? The Veuve Clicquot orange defines the brand but does it translate across multiple variants?
Ben: I like to think of it as a stick of rock – the brand always there, present through every touchpoint, from the beginning through to the very end. And you don’t need to see it but you should definitely feel it.
It’s about values, it’s about feelings and fundamentally – it’s about belief.