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Building for Branding

According to Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, co-authors of The Experience Economy, the competitive battleground lies in staging experiences. For Anna Klingmann, author of BrandscapesArchitecture in the Experience Economy, we are no longer consuming objects but sensations and lifestyles. Anna strongly believes in the potential power of architecture in creating and dramatising customer experiences. Building for branding: “architecture can use the concepts and methods of branding – not as a quick-and-easy selling tool but as a strategic tool for economic and cultural transformation”.

BMW pioneered the idea in the seventies when they built their German headquarters. The BMW four-cylinder tower has been shaping Munich’s cityscape for more than 40 years now. The floor plan includes four cylinders arranged in a cross shape as in the engine of a car. It was declared a protected historic building in 1999. The architecture not only conveys a sense of engineer’s pride, it also demonstrates how focus is the company’s passion to create the ultimate driving machines.

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Opened in 1995 to mark the centennial of the company’s founding, the Swarovski Crystal World is now the second most visited destination in Austria. Here the magic of crystal is staged in a stunning way with fourteen “Chambers of Wonder” created by world-renowned artists and designers such as Alexander McQueen, Tord Boontje and Brian Eno.

On a more intimate scale, Bourdon House in London’s Mayfair is the true spiritual home of Alfred Dunhill and incidentally, the former London residence of the Duke of Westminster, another symbol of grandeur and distinction in British heritage. The decision to open it to the public and transform the house into a Dunhill emporium (including a bespoke tailoring room, barber, cellar bar and museum) makes tangible, opulent and stylish the Dunhill experience.

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Drinks brands have not stayed indifferent to this architectural renaissance. Bricks and mortar for them mean stills and casks to display and dramatise. So timely with the rise of local authentic artisan spirit brands. It is likely Guinness led the way in 2000 in opening its storehouse at St James’ Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland. The building covers 7 floors surrounding a glass atrium in the shape of a pint. In 2006 a new wing opened incorporating a live installation of the present day brewing process.

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Beefeater also realised that owning a distillery in central London was a great asset to claim to the world. Last year the original building, located in Kennington since 1958, was opened to the public. Here visitors can discover the history of Beefeater entwined with the history of London gin and learn how the hand-crafted production process is still following the secret recipe of founder James Burrough.

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If you don’t have a beautiful structure to show, don’t worry. . . Build one! Bombay Sapphire, the legendary gin brand, created its landmark distillery from scratch but not just anywhere – in rural Hampshire. With the help of designer Thomas Heatherwick, the company transformed Laverstoke Mill, a 300 year old paper mill. The site, which has over 1000 years of history, is within a Conservation Area and is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). In recognition of all this, the distillery was awarded the highly prestigious BREEAM Award for Industrial Design in 2014.

By creating some architectural drama around their manufacturing or inspirational places, brands literally build their presence and influence. They not only magnify their legacy but offer immersive multi-dimensional experiences. Back to the real stuff.

 - Patrice Civanyan

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The Marvellous Menagerie

Animals have an enduring appeal – they are a crucial part of our culture – part of growing up and being told stories. Whether the big bad wolf in Red Riding Hood or the industrious ant in Aesop’s Fables. We are also prone to anthropomorphise animals: in turn we become as ‘wise as an owl’ or, ‘sick as a parrot’. We are ‘primed’ with animal images from an early age and this is key to their successful use by brands. Think of Jaguar cars, Lacoste crocodiles, Ralph Lauren horse, or the Hollister seagull.

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Building on psychological research about processing fluency, Labroo (University of Chicago) and Dhar (Yale University) wrote a paper called ‘Of Frog Wines and Frowning Watches’. They found that consumers have an easier time processing images when they are already ‘primed’ i.e. they have already thought about the image earlier in an unrelated context or if they already associate the image with something in their personal lives.

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In one experiment, participants did a word jumble either searching for words related to dogs or words related to cats. They then participated in an ostensibly unrelated study and were asked to rate a series of products, including batteries and dog shampoo. Those who had done the word jumble relating to dogs, rated the dog shampoo higher, than those who had done the cat-related jumble. The influence was most pronounced when exposure to the product before evaluation was limited to 16 milliseconds, a period of time shown in psychological experiments to be pre-cognitive, i.e. below the threshold of awareness.

We remember the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild as an inspiration when we redesigned Mouton Cadet, a pioneer brand of the 60’s. The label featured decorative drapes forming a border, which we learnt reflected her career on the stage. The label was in effect a theatre but, there was nothing on the stage!

Mouton Cadet Label

We looked to the brand name for inspiration, and brought alive the ‘mouton’ with ram’s head resplendent and a beard of grapes. The new label made both a real connection with the Baron and, provided an emotional hook that engaged consumers, it also was a gentle reminder that this was the accessible cousin to Chateau Mouton Rothschild.  Art became performing art.

The word gazelle comes from the Arabic word ‘gazal’ meaning elegant and quick.  Appreciated for its grace, the gazelle is a symbol most commonly associated in Arabic literature with female beauty. Sogrape Vinhos is launching Gazela Slender, a lighter, refreshing wine with a lower 5.5%ABV. Lewis Moberly’s design for the stylised, iconic gazelle on the label wins the eye and epitomises the beauty, grace and elegance that women aspire to, in a light hearted, contemporary and colourful way.

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In St Moritz’s venerable Hotel Soldanella there is the ‘Zoo Bar’ so called for its serves of alcohol bearing animal names and images. Once intrepid Cresta run riders were welcomed into the bar with an “Elephant”, a drinking ritual whereby the guest, accompanied by loud feet stamping and cries of “The elephants are coming over the Alps!”, were expected to down Elephant beer through a drinking straw. Legend has it the Elephant beer supplies soon dried up and were replaced with a beer called Giraffe.

Who knows what is fact and what is fiction? Either way, animals provide a rich source of engagement and brand inspiration when it comes to branding. The French-language “Methodical Encyclopaedia” of 1782 was apposite when it defined a menagerie as an “establishment of luxury and curiosity.

 

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Welcome to the new Aesthetic Age

Gilles Lipovetsky, the French sociologist, explains in his latest book  “Living in the age of artistic capitalism” why we are entering a new ‘aesthetic’ age.

If art has always been an integral part of human activity since the beginning of mankind, four major eras can be defined. In primitive societies, art was related to religious rituals with no specific aesthetic purpose. Come the Renaissance, the first aesthetic society was born through the aristocratic courts of Kings and Princes which prevailed until the 18th century. The third era started with the modern age when the artistic sphere freed itself from religious and aristocratic patronage to establish art as a world apart, with its own agenda and purpose.

The theory proposed is that we have now entered a fourth phase, in which artistic activity is  incorporated into the commercial offer. And this is not only true for fashion but for all product and service categories. Difficult to argue against this, when you look at the recent drink introductions of Absolut Originality, Ruinart and the Cup Sake in Japan.

If this fourth era is going to last and it probably will, we need to pay homage to the visionary Baron Philippe de Rothschild who was the first entrepreneur to introduce art on the labels of Mouton Rothschild. In 1945 he commissioned contemporary artists such as Miró, Chagall, Braque, Henry Moore, Tàpies, Francis Bacon, Dali, Balthus and Jeff Koons to illustrate each new vintage of the Premier Cru Classé.

In 1987 Lewis Moberly bought ‘art to the masses’ with the multi award winning Asda wine spirit range. Fledging artists, ceramicists, sculptors, and painters graced inexpensive labels with their talent.  It was liberating work, a retail revolution followed.

The use of art to add commercial value continues apace. Absolut Originality builds on the brand’s signature cobalt blue colour in an imaginative and branded way. The new bottle has been created by releasing a drop of cobalt blue into the clear glass during the manufacturing process each time (4 million times). Each bottle a unique creation.

The Ruinart Champagne Brand, the oldest champagne house established in 1729, recently commissioned the Dutch artist Piet Hein Eek to design casing boxes made of scrap wood for the Ruinart Blanc de Blanc. The artist selected recycled pine in shades of pale grey, white and cream. Ruinart was born with art in its name, part of its dna. What is extraordinary with this work is that all boxes have been crafted in-house. They project authenticity through the aged wood and modernity through the straight shapes. The boxes can even be stacked to form a bigger shape as a circle or an arch to dramatize the discovery.

Given the success and the media response, the House of Ruinart also commissioned the artist Maarten Baas for Dom Ruinart new vintages. Maarten Baas famous for his charred furniture creating an extraordinary tension between the black colour, the sophistication of the objects and the charred effect.

This year, at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, Cup Sake won a Lion for the design of five sake cups using traditional glass craftsmen to turn the banal into the beautiful. All five varieties were sold out in the first month although they were priced at 36€ each when the usual sake cup is sold at 1.25€.