(article from http://www.ameinfo.com/80422.html )
This left me pondering… What makes people go that far? What are the ingredients that make up such an extreme brand obsession? And ultimately, what can the world of advertising learn from this when setting out to build a brand?
The best answer to these tough questions seemed could be found in the controversial topic of religion. I embarked on a fascinating journey in an attempt to discover what is it about religion that creates such staunch devotees. I also wanted to know what are the ingredients that create steadfast and strong religious faith.
The exploration resulted in a list of 10 powerful criteria. As I was writing BRAND sense, I wanted to call this list the Ten Commandments, but my publisher felt that this was pushing it a little too far. What’s interesting about this list however is that the parallels between it and the world of branding are surprisingly strong.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not wish to imply that religion has learnt anything from branding, but branding has definitely been inspired by the world of religion. These were the 10 components that I found:
1. A sense of belonging
Think Weight Watchers, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. This amazing community of more than two million consumers is run almost exclusively on peer advice and support. Without a peer community Weight Watchers would not exist. Needless to say that sense of belonging is always a strong component of any religion.
2. A clear vision
Steve Jobs’s powerful vision for the Apple Company dates back to the mid-1980s. He said, ‘Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them.’ This vision was referring to computers, but 20 years later and a few billion iPods later; it still applies, and will probably still be relevant in 20 years’ time.
3. Power from the enemy
If we play a game of association and I say Coke, more than likely you’ll say Pepsi. The rivalries gone on for so long, that it’s legendary. A former executive at Coke once stated that going to work was like going to war. In fact the chances are that Coke would not be what it is today if there was no Pepsi. The rivalry has forced both brands to grow and perpetually challenge one another for market leadership.
Authenticity is hard to define. Is Las Vegas or canned laughter authentic? Without thinking you may initially answer no, but a reconsidered answer might just be yes. Are the Olympics authentic? This answer to this is unambiguously yes, because it contains the four defining components of authenticity. It’s real, it’s relevant, and it has rituals and is part of a story. More and more brands are required to be authentic – just like religion.
In world where everything is changing so quickly, consistency is the king. You know how to operate your Nokia phone; you know how to order a sandwich at Subway and how to navigate your Apple Mac. It has all become a branded routine, which, if changed, is likely to hurt the brand more than if the logo was to disappear. The fact is that more and more brands realize the importance of brand consistency, not only in terms of its graphics, but also in terms of every aspect that represents the brand.
Google Harley-Davidson on the Internet and you’ll find 521 websites dedicated solely to the fine art of how to polish the engine. For most outsiders this would sound rather pedantic but for the true Harley-Davidson fan, this is a must. Perfection is the brand, just as Apple’s fine sense for details or Louis Vuitton’s extreme focus on quality has made the brands what they are today.
As the market place becomes more and more crowded simple yet powerful symbols are taking over – a global language – an instant language. Apple was first to designing the famous trash can, and the greeting smiley when the computer was turned on. Every single Apple icons passes the ultimate test of being singularly associated with Apple, even when they stand alone.
Have heard about KFC’s 11 secret spices? What about the secret Coca-Cola recipe? Are these stories true, or not? Regardless of the truth, these are good stories that create mystery, and add yet another dimension to the products.
If you remove certain rituals from a small group of powerful brands you’ll soon notice their power disappearing. Take for example Corona beer and the lime in the bottle neck. How would the Olympic games fare without the flaming torch relay? The fact is not many brands leverage the power of ritual, yet so much of religion’s power is based on this very aspect.
10. Sensory appeal
Imagine for a moment walking into a temple, a church, a synagogue or a mosque. Each one offers a unique sensory experience. There is incense and bells, incantations and candles. The world of branding can learn a lot from this. Some brands get it right. A visit to Disneyland can quickly draw you in to another world. As flagship stores become more commonplace, the sensory appeal is becoming more prominent.
Whether we love it, or hate it, the world of branding is becoming increasingly inspired by the world of religion. Religion offer a powerful roadmap for how branding can evolve over the years to come. All it needs to do is look to the ancient ingredients that make up religious followings. In some cases this is so powerful that the brand becomes more than a brand, and it becomes a way of life.
Here’s a good example of why so many people stay away from religious branding, not only are you alienating your product from a large population of people who might not share that belief, but…it just feels like your exploiting a faith for money reasons. Not a good look. Plus the main difference is that my project will design each package to reflect a different religion. These, with maybe the exception of the hands design, could only be interpreted as one religion. There’s nothing wrong with only representing your faith, it’s natural, but my project wants to compare different religious-based identities and how that changes the same product.
So it looks like my thesis project has changed again. This whole thesis process has really made me question why I design things the way I do and what it is I’m trying to say. I guess that’s been one of my biggest problems, really I’m just trying to comment on behaviors trends or attitudes involving religion. So long story short I decided what I knew all along, although I very much enjoy experimental film and motion graphics I do so from an audience point of view, actually making them…not my thing. So I focused on what i do consider to be “my thing” and that is graphic design. The question then became how do I merge design and religion and what am I trying to say through that connection? As a graphic designer we are often entrusted to develope identities, for people, companies, organizations, you name it. Religion is one of the greatest examples we have in society of an identity that reaches it’s audience in many different ways and instantly conjurs up ideas of what the people or culture that follow it are like (for better or worse). I find the similarities between religious identity as a brand and branding in our more common consumer driven sense of the word to be really revealing. Taking something which is very similar in many respects and presenting it in such a way that it seems completely foreign and no where near similar is a powerful technique which could benefit that said organization or brand but also alienate them and create more of a spiritual divide then is necessary.
This design and title was inspired by my visit to the Unitarian Community Church this past week. The simplicity of the church with nothing more then pews, a podium, some banners, a small organ and a piano was pretty significant to me visually. Also the title comes from the suggestion to approach religion with your own sense of reason, and how that reason changes and morphs across cultures. This is just a work in progress. It’s meant to express how reason changes and evolves, how what might not make sense to you might make perfect sense to others, and the importance of understanding and respecting that idea. Either way, it makes sense to me…
So this past Sunday 1/11/09 I visited the Community Church on 35th street as suggested by Prof. Kirwan. It was my fist real Unitarian Universalist experience and I have to admit I found it pretty interesting and very logical. What I mean by logical is the importance they put on approaching religion with a sense of reason as opposed to blind acceptance. The Rev. Bruce Southworth made many good points regarding this approach but did so in a very open and respectful way of different religions. It was a nice change to hear a “sermin” that referenced not just the bible or any other of the many holy texts out there but of poets, community activists and artists within the past 200 years or so, it was almost easier to relate to on a personal level. Visually the church, as simple as it was, was very striking to me for different reasons. Being raised a Catholic my whole life, as much as I tried not to, you can’t help but subconsciously compare everything your experiencing to that which is familiar. As I walked in I immediatly noticed the large banners hanging from the walls, each with a different symbol representing a religious belief (Judaism, Catholisism, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinudism, Islam, etc..), what struck me next was the level of simplicity with which this large room was decorated. In Catholic churches you are used to seeing statues of saints lining the room, stained glass depicting different biblical scenes and accounts, and definitely a large sculptural depiction of the crucifiction front and center behind the altar. The room was certanly large enough and structurally resembled that of a Catholic church but was stripped of any specific Gods or saints, the Rev. stood behind a simple podium with an organ on his right and a piano and small choir on his left. It’s ironic that the large empty wall behind him made a bigger impression to me then the heavily decorated Catholic churches I am used to seeing. I found this space to be quite beautiful in and of itself, and it’s simplicity to be almost poetic and symbolic at the same time. Overall my first experience with Unitarianism was a pleasent one, one that introduced a new approach to spirituality and something I could see myself visiting again in the future.