Walk into a typical American home these days and you'll see something you perhaps didn't see a decade or two ago -- brands on display.
And not simply Chanel No. 5 perfume on a dresser or Glenlivet on a living-room credenza. Now, even the kitchen sink has become a place of pride, and that bottle of liquid dish soap can tell you a lot about its owner. Sculpture and art have replaced the basic squeeze bottle -- Method, Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, and yes, even Palmolive all have something unique and beautiful to offer. Why? Some time ago, brands began to pick up on the growing consumer behavior of squeezing their soap into creative containers such as olive oil carafes -- possibly a remnant of the Martha Stewart craze.
In this, brand managers may have stumbled upon an even larger trend -- that consumers want something beautiful to use every day that becomes part of their self-expression and décor, and aren't ashamed for that to be a brand.
From an agency perspective, we are seeing this type of brief more and more. Brands want their products to earn a rightful place, either in the home or on our person, displayed with pride, not shoved away in a cabinet or stuffed in a bag. As brand strategists, we understand this is a key to unlocking growth. Of course brand managers want their brands to be visible, to be loved, and to be a recurring part of consumers' lives. Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, wrote a book in 2005 called "Lovemarks," detailing consumers' love for brands, and then even rebranded the agency with the tagline The Lovemarks Company.
But why on earth is this important for everyday people?
On some level, marketers have been attuned to this truth for a long time. Quite simply, what we choose to display says something about who we are, our values and even how we care for our families; brands have badge value and they can ignite conversation. Today more than ever, everything we do sends a signal about who we are and everything is a story. The perfect pic on Instagram of your Starbucks cup, or a "haul video" on YouTube from a recent trip to Bath & Body Works. We tell the world about ourselves by the brands we choose to associate with.
This behavior is not entirely new, and not limited to any category or price point. A millennium ago in ancient Egypt, the invention of glass vessels became prized for their display-worthiness as a better alternative to hollowed gourds and dried animal organs for holding our stuff. Nowadays, the "rose-gold" iPhone, launched in May, has achieved this same effect, the reasoning dissected in a recent New Yorker article. Why do we desire it so much and perhaps more interesting, why are we so apt and proud to display it?
With products such as these, each brand sends a slightly different nuanced message, but the core sentiment among consumers is very similar: "I have the different one, the one that makes me unique, the latest release, and I'm worth it." We're hard-wired, down to the DNA,
Take note the next time you stroll through a store (and even through a friend's house) and see items like tampons (U by Kotex), cat litter (Purpose) and condoms (Sir Richards), with a high sense of design aesthetic. This is the new normal among consumers, and it forces us to not only address this behavior, but to get ahead of the curve.
People are yearning to connect with a brand on an emotional and designed level, but also want the reassurance to know it will perform for them. One way we solve for this is to focus on what we see as the three I's -- "Instinctive. Involving. Identifying." It's how we frame the conversation, judge our work, get brands to break through and achieve a visceral human connection. Here's how we break it down:
Is it instinctive?
Do I instinctively reach for it on a shelf, like a shiny red apple?
Is it involving?
Do the graphics and messaging help me quickly understand that this brand deserves to be part of my life?
Is it identifying?
Have I fallen in love enough to tell my friends about it and make it my own?
As consumers increasingly put their favorite brands on a pedestal, think beyond the retail shelf and make your brand one that consumers want, love and ultimately find display-worthy.