We must now remember to think of digital as the first step rather than the last.
Lulu Raghavan
Managing Director,
based in Landor Mumbai

Despite the advent of smartphones and applications, the basics of logo design have not changed. The challenge is to create an idea that fits the brand and embodies what the company stands for in one visual; however, we now have to remember to think of digital as the first step rather than the last. The icon must look good not only on the website, but also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


The proliferation of brands and products has made it difficult in this age; however, we are able to offer many more digital deliverables to the client. We must realise that fifteen years ago, the touchpoints were stationery, fliers, and posters. Five years ago, it was all about PowerPoint presentations. Today, the logo, website, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn page form the face of your company; however, there should be symmetry between e-commerce and retail stores. They cannot look and feel different. You have to marry them to craft a seamless look and feel for the brand.

Posted as part of “ Points of View: Has logo design changed?” in Afaqs. 

© 2015 afaqs!.

Category: Identity & design

Alphabet soup

August 25, 2015
Google’s proven, in a genius move, that you don’t have to be a branding genius to come up with a simple, effective name with impact. (Although it helps!)
Marc Hershon
Senior Manager, Naming and Verbal Identity,
based in Landor San Francisco

When the new name for Alphabet, the new holding company of which Google is just a portion, was announced this week, wags and pundits didn’t even have time to start sniping before the company’s stock shot up six points. Sergey Brin and Larry Page were once again embraced. No longer wunderkin, they’ve gracefully aged into their roles as tech industry darlings.

Big G

Strategy for the new name was key. Google, as everyone knows now, was derived from a word—a number, really—that painted a suitable backdrop of the entirety of the Internet against which the search engine’s algorithms play.

Alphabet, on the other hand, represents the simplest building blocks upon which the world’s languages are built. With the power of the alphabet, you can spell the names of all the companies that make up the holdings of the new entity. And any other names that future investment might bring. Also, by standing for the most basic of basics when it comes to words, Alphabet makes for a great storytelling bookend with Google, which represents the highest of numbers.

Furthermore, the new name flies in the face of recent online naming trends—made-up nonsense words or horribly corrupted spellings of real words that may or may not have relevant meanings for the sites to which they’re attached.

Introducing an original brand name in today’s cluttered, confusing, and not to mention litigious market, is no easy task. Especially when the company rolling out the name is not a hatchling of a startup but is one of the most visible high tech entities around.

Another side of the name equation is how confident and strategic you are when the time comes to introduce the new brand to the world. Some companies opt for a “soft opening,” in which the name is quietly, almost timidly, offered to see how it will fly. In the case of Alphabet, there was no hesitation about the launch of the new entity. No apologies either.

As someone who crafts names for a living, my natural question is not so much how Google came up with Alphabet—I’ve probably cooked that up at least half a dozen times over the years for various projects—but what other names were in the mix that didn’t make it as the finalist? That story may never be told, as Google is keeping pretty quiet around the process behind the new name. But that shouldn’t keep us from speculating. Or trying to make up our own Alphabet-beating names instead. Right?

With strictly name-game playing in mind, here are a handful of ideas that may well have been on Google’s brainstorming whiteboards on the way to finding Alphabet…

Olio. This real word means “a miscellaneous collection of things,” a great metaphor for a virtually limitless collection of companies under a holding company banner. It’s short and yet, with those full, round Os at either end, it sounds very expansive for a dinky, four-letter word 

Hive. Another real word but one that creates a natural world image of what Google’s offspring is all about: growing and nurturing a potentially limitless supply of products, services, and companies.

Totus. Here’s a classic Latin word, meaning “all at once,” or the whole of something. It could have represented all of the companies in the Google vortex. And benefitted from the sense of history and gravitas that Latin brings to a name, which financial and medical institutions have used for decades.

Plum. A simple but lush name for a fruit that has many positive associations—a plum assignment, plumbing the depths, and Little Jack Horner pulling out a plum with his thumb, for starters.

Gather. A two-syllable word that starts with a G, feeling very similar to Google and creating a deeper relationship through alliteration. There’s meaning as well in the sense that Google has gathered its many companies together under a single umbrella—a gathering of businesses, as it were.

Would any of those names really have been an apt alternative for Google holding company? We’ll never know. With even a few weeks since the announcement under its wings, Alphabet is already solidifying itself as the one and only name that could have been the right name. Because while there’s a combination of art and science in creating a new brand, once a company embraces and gets behind it, a kind of magic takes over.

That magic is no guarantee of performance over the long haul, of course—although early indications are positive. Only time will tell if Google’s Alphabet is going to spell success.


Category: Naming & verbal branding

Agile brands focus on audio

August 24, 2015
Brands are too often overlooking sonic branding.
Dominic Twyford
Country Director,
based in Landor Kuala Lumpur

The best brands display agile characteristics; they recognize that to keep up with the modern speed of business, they can no longer be set in stone. Instead they need to be designed and built to flex. Agile brands are multifaceted, working across all communications platforms and engaging all of the senses.

Our technologically advanced world is helping create rich brand experiences; brands can engage people quickly with digital content whether with words, sound, or imagery. Despite this, last year the Harvard Business Review  concluded that, considering the current audio-enabled world we live in, sound is one powerful branding tool being overlooked.

Sound stirs emotion

Given the importance and ubiquity of technology it is surprising that more brands aren’t using sound as a key brand touchpoint or signature. Sound has the ability to move people; through it we define ourselves with playlists on Spotify and ringtones for phones. Brands obsess about creating emotional connections with consumers but neglect one of the most emotive senses.

The idea of sonic branding or the creation of “sound logos” for brands isn’t new. Intel’s five-note mnemonic is over twenty years old and Nokia’s ring tone first appeared in the early 1990s. It’s surprising that more brands haven’t tried to extend brand experience to sound.

Sound helps make sense of brands

In my opinion, brands often confuse sonic branding with jingles and music. In the case of jingles, there is a fine line between creating a brand asset and a public nuisance. Music can enhance a TV ad, making it more memorable, but does it really help leverage the brand?

An intelligent use of sound builds on and helps make sense of a brand. A personal favorite of mine is the opening sound sequence for cable television channel HBO. To me, its sonic logo signals the start of another brilliant television episode. Scratchy static gives way to a satisfying melodic hum. In just five seconds the brand establishes its exceptional credentials; this opening sequence is a crucial part of my viewing pleasure. And, it can’t just be me; one video of the 5-second sequence has been viewed 144,000 times on YouTube.

Honda is another brand that makes use of sound to position its brand. At the end of its most recent adverts, a snippet of an Formula 1 engine roars and is suddenly spliced with a digital tone. It is so brief you barely comprehend it, but once your brain catches up, Honda has reinforced that it is much more than the saloon car you saw in the preceding commercial. Instead the brand is built on innovation and has a stellar track record across F1, robotics, and aviation.

Interestingly, while Honda establishes its technology credentials using the sound of an F1 car, the F1 sport has its own sound problem affecting fans’ experience. New engines have lowered the decibel level of the cars, which has led viewers, drivers, and team owners to complain that the sport has lost some of its spectacle.

Handcrafted sound

Given that sound plays a significant part in the auto industry, it isn’t at all surprising that auto brands are effectively using sound signatures. Bentley is another brand that has explored sound, but not by focusing on the engine. Instead, it has used sound to improve the experience of driving its Continental GT model.

Continental GT - Grey Violet

In line with the brand’s handcrafted and refined image, bespoke sounds were created to play when turn indicators and seatbelts are in use. Live recordings of antique clocks and metronomes were digitally remastered to create a sense of authenticity through sound. These sound logos add another sensory layer that adds to the driving experience.

Gibberish and silence sell

From the refined sounds of a crafted piece of machinery to the gibberish of a bright yellow plastic toy. The Minions brand shows little sign of diminishing in popularity; the brand is seemingly everywhere after establishing partnerships with the likes of McDonalds, Kinder, Tic Tac, Twinkies, and Chiquita to name just a few. An incredible feat for animated characters that talk utter nonsense. While advocates of the Queen’s English might be horrified, sound has played an integral role in turning the Minions into a marketing phenomenon with kids (and adults) everywhere.

Thankfully, silence can still be found. The Tesla brand is one of the challenger brands using technology to change an industry. While Honda, F1, and Bentley are using sound to position themselves, Tesla uses silence. Given the fact that it produces electric cars, it can’t outroar the competition, but it has its own way of differentiating itself. It establishes excitement and elevates the driving experience through verbal branding.

Who needs a roaring engine when you have a button marked “insane” that unleashes hidden horsepower like a space ship? Quietly exhilarating.


First published as “For brand agility, listen to audio,” by Marketing Interactive.  

© 2015 Marketing-Interactive.com. Lighthouse Independent Media Pte Ltd.


Category: Brand strategy & positioning
The final post in a five-part series that identifies and details the five fundamentals of great package design
Mary Zalla
Global President, Consumer Brands and Managing Director,
based in Landor Cincinnati

Effective packaging is a crucial part of the marketing mix for CPG brands, and it is only becoming more so. Your package is one of the most fundamental aspects of your brand, second only to the product and the product experience itself. So if package design is so important, then it must be important to leverage the best design for your brand. But where do you start? As with all things, you start with the fundamentals.

My first four posts focused on the importance of insight, perception, ideas, and story. All great design is insight based—great designers seek to know and understand for whom they are designing, and powerful insights drive great work. As for perception, it is crucially important for designers to constantly expand the way they see things, look for new opportunities within existing landscapes, and challenge themselves not to fall into habitual thinking patterns. Of course ideas are foundational, and great ideas are powerful accelerants of great design. Finally, the use of story can be a great way to help clients understand the strength of a design and help consumers meaningfully connect to your brand.

Courage and creativity go hand in hand

Unlike the first four fundamentals of great design, the fifth fundamental is not a capacity or a skill but a virtue. And that virtue is courage. Courage is actually one of the four cardinal virtues, meaning that all other virtues hinge on them. The other three cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, and temperance.

Courage goes hand in hand with creativity.  In fact, I believe that courage and creativity are brothers, which is a notion I put forth in the Eight Principles of Creativity booklet. Why is courage so essential to creativity and design? Because history proves that new ideas and concepts are often met with apathy, ridicule, or even hostility. And this hostility is often directed at the creators of original ideas and design. Which is why creativity values imagination over image, and a willingness to let go of certainties and think expansively; it also demands a strong dose of determination and self-belief. This is why courage and creativity are brothers. 

Courage is necessary at every stage of a design project. Courage is often needed to confront the brutal facts of a situation.

Courage leads to breakthrough 

Sometimes you need courage to advocate for the optimal approach to a design project. Clients often display courage in investing and believing in that approach. Consider Capri Sun, a successful and popular brand of pouched juice and juice drinks. The brand had always been targeted at 10-year-old boys and positioned as a beverage that drew its credibility from Southern California. However, over time the design had become very flat, using only the most banal and pedestrian images of the region. To become relevant again, Capri Sun returned to the roots of its brand: a healthy drink for kids and SoCal cool. Both of these things drove Landor’s exploration and inspired the final design.

Capri Sun

The designers convinced the client that the positioning was spot on, but that the design was uninspiring. We took a trip to Southern California for design inspiration. While it might seem like one of the biggest boondoggles, during the trip we immersed ourselves in all things Southern California and came back with valuable insights and visual inspiration. This informed a very healthy and productive design exploration that made the existing design look like a preschool version of what was to come.

“The Pacific Ocean does not have a kiddie section” was the mantra that kept the design team focused on the edgier aspects of the region. That sentiment ultimately led to a successful in-market design. Very often it is courage that defines the difference between good design and great design. 

Of course an important part of courage is fear. That may seem counterintuitive, but as Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.”

Or from William Ian Miller: “[Courage] is not fearlessness, recklessness, or rashness. It is a well-considered, wise, and brave decision to behave constructively despite the fear, discomfort, or temptation....It is the discipline to act on wisely-chosen values rather than an impulse.” 

It is important to understand fear and the human response to fear, especially if you are in a business that requires the constant generation and application of originality and innovation to succeed. And make no mistake—if you are in the design business, you are.

In Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step, Edward de Bono writes, “There is a fear/stress response innate in all of us, and it usually serves us quite well. Millions of years of evolution have produced a very active stress system that can actually override every other system in the brain.”

And it is important to understand that the stress system is not rational. It is by its very definition irrational; it is physiological. The stress system reacts to provocation, and that reaction is often very powerful, powerful enough to prove a great hindrance to innovation and reactions to innovation.The inability to tame the stress response therefore is a major design (innovation) inhibitor. Why? Because fear can paralyze action and inhibit new thinking and responses to new thinking.

If fear permeates an organization’s culture, organic growth is nearly impossible. Fearful organizations tend to stagnate or drive growth only through the acquisition of other’s inventions. 

Author Anaïs Nin once said: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

Display courage in pursuit of great design

It is the natural human response to fear that often keeps us from making the bold moves necessary for a brand to break out and succeed. To paraphrase Stephen Denning in “Telling Tales,” in a fear-based context decision makers display a strong bias toward alternatives that perpetuate the status quo.

There are many ways to overcome the effects of fear. In business we often confront the irrational with reason, with a sound argument. Other times we use facts and statistics to make our case. Research is often commissioned to help prove the validity of a concept. An often-overlooked way to overcome fear is simply time.

When we are first exposed to something highly novel and unexpected, our initial response is often fear. This is called the amygdala response, amygdala being the name for a set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe. This subcortical brain structure is linked to the fear responses (and interestingly also pleasure). The point is, what is often perceived as scary at first becomes more acceptable over time. So give people time to warm up to things. 

Don’t demand approval on the spot. Allow your clients time to work through their natural fear response. Don’t fight physiology. Display patience in the face of fear. Do as noted author and neuroscientist Gregory Berns advises in Iconoclast: “Think of fear like alcohol. It impairs judgment. Don’t make any decisions while under its influence.”

KFC Australia and Ogilvy Sydney showed great courage, even with one of design’s most protected assets, equity color. In an effort to drive brand participation during the cricket Ashes series, KFC changed its equity colors from red and white to Australia’s green and gold in support of the Australian cricket team. Its courage paid dividends—sales increased by 178 percent and KFC sold out of all 330,000 green-and-gold chicken buckets.

Green -and -gold -store

Display courage in the pursuit of great design. Great design matters. It creates competitive advantage, drives commerce, and can improve people’s lives and experiences.  That does not mean to have no fear, or to belittle the fear of others during the process. It does mean that the benefits of great design are worth working through those fears, overcoming them, and putting a great product out into the world.

Courage is the strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Great design requires the bold exploration of new territories, perseverance, and a willingness and ability to overcome difficulty. Design is often a long game and can require resolute endurance, which is the definition of fortitude, which is often used synonymously with courage. That is no accident.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts on the fundamentals of great design.


Category: Packaging design

Tesla: The agile automobile

August 04, 2015
Every now and again a brand comes along with an agile mindset that challenges industry paradigms and creates its own niche.
Nick Foley
President, Southeast Asia, Pacific & Japan,
based in Landor Singapore

Conspiracy theories on the failure of a viable, electric car have abounded for years. Indeed, a number of Hollywood’s elite felt so strongly about it that a documentary titled Who Killed the Electric Car debuted to wide acclaim back in 2006. Depending on whom you asked, those that contributed to the death of the electric car ranged from U.S. car manufacturers to self-centered oil barons to upper echelons of Congress and, eventually, the White House. Move ahead 10 or so years and it seems difficult to believe that Tesla is not only manufacturing electric cars, but those vehicles are now in mass production.

The power of brand has played a fundamental role in the seismic shift that has occurred in the global car industry. Most automotive products have an inherently functional feel about them. Brand adds the zing that triggers a deep-seated emotional connection for the consumer.

Think of the Nissan Micra and the Fiat 500. Similar power to weight ratios. Little difference in chassis length, and for both cars you’d be nervous going above 130 kmh! But here is the power of brand. The Fiat commands a higher price and has consistently achieved higher awareness than the Micra. The Fiat’s history, cute styling, and retro features all give it an allure that the Micra can only dream of.

Reframing perceptions

Environmentally friendly cars have struggled to become mainstream. When considering a car with green credentials, the consumer has been forced to make trade-offs. Toyota did an outstanding job with the release of the Prius in 1997. The compact-size hybrid was the first of its kind to be mass-produced. Other companies have tap-danced around the parameters of “green motoring,” but their success has been varied. Despite noble efforts, being green has been more of an afterthought for most manufacturers. The prevailing hope is that a single product may provide environmental credentials that halo back favorably to the masterbrand.

Enter Tesla. It is a prime example of an agile brand. Designed for speed, beauty, and the environment, the Tesla is geared to revolutionize the car industry through a unique approach. Not only does this car not require a combustion engine, it has managed to achieve something other green products have not: It looks cool and it is fast. Really fast. The Tesla Roadster can go from 0 to 100 kmh in 3.7 seconds. Previously, this type of performance from a hybrid, fuel-efficient diesel or fully electric car was a pipe dream.

Tesla [1]

The bespoke offer of both the Tesla Roadster and Model S should not be underestimated. Tesla is a pioneer. The company’s recent actions dramatically shifted perceptions of clean motoring. For too long, consumers have had to forgo something when choosing low-emission vehicles. The sleek styling and high performance of Tesla will change this.

A principled approach

Agile brands must be clear in what they stand for. They find areas of relevance with their target audience and are guided by an overarching promise. When a brand promise fuses with a desire to do something good for the planet, that can be quite compelling. Furthermore, when the consumer does not need to sacrifice something for that brand, then its appeal will only heighten.

It is interesting to compare car brands’ approaches to doing good for the planet. Mercedes is quietly offering models with the Blue Efficiency option. Lexus is now offering long wheelbase with V8 hybrid technology. BMW went one step further with the release of its i3 and i8 models. However, Tesla put considerable distance between its brand and those of other green contenders, thanks to its unequivocal focus on what the brand stands for.

Leading the way

Some brands are simply reacting to changing consumer perceptions of an environmentally friendly offer. Indeed, much of the behavior of well-known vehicle manufacturers reflects a hedging strategy: We will offer our normal range, but we will have a green offer, too. Not Tesla. New possibilities were identified and priorities refined in order to deliver a car genuinely reflecting what one would expect from an agile brand. Proactivity became a core philosophy for the teams working on the brand.

Tesla’s brand custodians have not stopped there, though. They are still leading the way. The biggest criticism of Tesla was that the electricity the car uses comes from dirty, coal-burning power stations. So priorities were refined further by Tesla’s R&D team in order to develop home batteries capable of storing photovoltaic energy for up to three days. Tesla consumers can now put solar panels on the roof of their homes, store the power, and then transfer it to the Tesla sitting in their garage. Not only has the brand led the way with emission-free motoring, but the running cost of a Tesla Model S or Roadster is significantly lower than vehicles running on petrol or diesel.

Landor believes a brand experience takes place whenever and wherever a brand delivers unique value. Brand experiences that resonate most with the target audience occur when a series of actions ladder up to deliver a brand promise. Tesla’s single-minded ambition to bring the world emission-free motoring is rapidly becoming a brand experience that comfortably delivers its promise to the consumer.


© 2015 The BrandLaureate. All rights reserved.

This article was first published in BrandLaureate Business World Review  (July 2015). thebrandlaureate.com

Category: Innovation & new concepts
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