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The Power of Connotation in Branding

By: Micah Touchet at NewBirth Creative

Submitted on Thu, Jan 15th, 2009 2:15 am

Recently, I was in conversation with a marketing guru at a large corporation we have as a client. We were tweaking the direction of a crucial project and he brought up an interesting point about which I’ve always felt strongly. He made the statement that what we were connotating through this particular media was very important.

I heartily concurred and replied that, oftentimes, what is implied is as important—and usually more memorable—than what is said directly. In everyday life, we all realize the significant role that body language plays in a conversation. I’ve heard the joke about the many meanings of the words “fine” and “okay” when used by a woman. And we’ve all heard the cliché, “Actions speak louder than words.”

What is interesting to me is how indispensable a role this all plays in brand identity development and marketing. Here at NewBirth Creative, as a design agency we provide a wide variety of creative services, but at the forefront of every creative project is a focus to strengthen brand identity. We realize the vital function for marketing and design to be memorable—yet never doing so at the cost of the brand.

So, in everyday terms, how does this apply to your brand? Well, the aspects are many and varied. Take, for example, your company’s color scheme. If you are in the business as a mortician, don’t expect people to love your magenta and lime green colors. No doubt, you will be instantly recognizable and unforgettable, but the bottom line is the bottom line and you won’t be taken seriously. The same is true if you are the proprietor of a candy shop—nobody thinks your steel gray and deep navy look cool or exciting.

Or consider font choices. People will not take your business as a serious investment management company if your logo is based off of Gigi. Likewise, if you are trying to portray a light-hearted, whimsical childcare facility, don’t draw your logo with the font Haettenschweiler.

Now, I’m not advocating connotation such as subliminal messages flashing or backmasking or any other dubious means of persuasion. What I’m talking about is the subtle, yet powerful, expression of thoughts and ideas that invoke memorable cues deeply ingrained in us all.

Most of what I’ve discussed thus far has been sight related. However, as Martin Lindstrom has pointed out, every one of the senses can be utilized to create a powerful brand experience. Consider the sense of smell. I was with a colleague at a semi-fine dining restaurant about a week ago, and the first thing we noticed when we walked in was the very fragrant aroma of some freshly-baked, cinnamon flavored delight. Partially out of curiosity, but mostly out of sheer hunger, my friend questioned the manager about the source of the fragrance. The manager admitted that what we were smelling was nothing more than plain waffle mix, a large amount of cinnamon added, placed on a hot stove to fill the air with the delightful scent. He said that they did this only to make customers order dessert.

Perhaps the intricacies of these ideas will be beyond some people. But when correctly implemented, these cleverly indirectly implied insinuations can connotate a compelling, convincing and cogent brand experience that will be absolutely phenomenal and prodigious. And profitable.

Questions? Leave a comment or email me.

About the Author

Micah Touchet
NewBirth Creative
Creative design has always been an integral part of life for Micah. Commissioned to do oil paintings at 12 years old, Micah soon progressed to the world of computer-aided graphic design. Always a stickler for perfection, his work soon fostered a respectable clientele. In 2001, he began Perfection Graphics, a small graphic design firm aimed primarily at startup businesses needing quality creative. After various positions of Advertising Director, Brand Manager or Creative Director for diverse corporations, Micah formed NewBirth Creative Design Agency, where his ardor for excellence drives every project. Micah was selected to be included in the 2008 Cambridge Who’s Who. In the evenings, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Casey, and their baby boy.

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