After six amazing years, the founders of Hexanine have moved on to other independent design work and creative endeavors. Read more
Concrete brand talk in an ephemeral world

We are all brand anthropologists.

Yesterday we had a parting lunch with our Hexanine interns and Tim and I shared about our own experiences in teaching. One thing I had wished I had brought to the conversation: this notion of brand gap.

What’s brand gap? It’s taking a walk through Macy’s and missing Marshall Field’s. It’s trying to find something quickly at Babies “R” Us. It’s staying at a Westin and having a dirty pillow case. A brand’s identity must culminate at the level where the user experiences the product or service. If this fails, then all of our work in design and branding and marketing is for nothing.

Brand Gap can more formally be defined as the distance between what you say the brand is and what the customer says it is, and, it can be bridged. Marty Neumeier has talked a lot about this. The brand must be honest, must be firm in the foundation of the promise and must link with the customer’s reality, if it is to be traversed.

The very best, most talented designers must be committed to communicating the brand experience through the work, and equally so, must commit to helping their clients understand what the brand is perceived to be. We are brand anthropologists of consumer culture, always working to effectively align brand perspectives between business and consumer.

And, that would have been a lot to share over lunch.

Jun 24 2010

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3 Responses to “We are all brand anthropologists.”

  1. [...] we are all brand anthropologists from [...]

  2. This reminds me of a client I’ve worked with, a small operation limo driver. He specializes in exotic limousines like triple-axle Hummers, 26 person-capacity Escalades, etc. However, regardless of the slick, flashy graphics implemented in his collateral and on his website, and the high-end brand they build, he insisted on slapping his home address on everything. Talk about a disconnect: imagine a young woman expecting a storefront/office to shop for his services in–to flip through a portfolio of brides slipping out of 1930s Mercedes Benz, ready to walk up to the church, and down the aisles as rose petals lightly graze her shoulders, falling from the sky… only to find themselves in a forgotten corner of some suburban housing development, weeds growing between the sidewalk cracks and oil stains under the rusty Dodge Caravan on cinder blocks. Poof! Business gone! I can almost hear the tires squealing.

    It’s important to also distance yourself from the ugly reality without being dishonest. We know you have to slaughter animals to get hot dogs, but we’d rather see the smiling kid putting ketchup on the end product. So, the obvious solution for this limo business was simply to put a generic location (city), and a way to get in touch. After all, most shopping is done on the website, and the customer doesn’t need to arrive at his apartment doorstep to see inside of the exotic coaches. Without a physical address, most people don’t really even miss having gone anywhere to do business. Problem solved!

  3. [...] brand perceptions come from, and how are they made? If designers are brand anthropologists, as Erin recently touched on, then consumers should be considered explorers, traversing shelf and window in search of that [...]

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