everything says something – the secret arts of communication…

Communication is the lifeblood of human existence. The quality of our ability to communicate effectively, has shaped the development of the world as it stands today, so really, it’s a pretty big thing! In todays digital world, there is a vast plethora of ever-increasing forms and mediums for communication (Snapchatwhatsapp, twitter etc.) that have moved things on from the dizzy days of the humble ‘mixtape’ as a form of personal and intimate communication!

the classic ‘mixtape’ was all about communication

the classic ‘mixtape’ was all about communication

communication | kəˌmyo͞onəˈkāSHən |
noun
the imparting or exchanging of information or news: the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings: social contact: means of connection between people, places or things: a communications network.

Communication takes place at both macro and micro levels. On a personal basis, the very essence of who we are often communicates far more eloquently than anything we can ever say or do. We are in fact the walking talking embodiment of our own ‘brand’. Sometimes communication gets masked, renamed or dressed up in fancy buzz words, but this tends to simply add layers of unnecessary complexity, to what is in essence, a very simple thing. We are our own brand. What we say and do communicates this to all we come in contact with.

In marketing and advertising, companies want to tell (bore!) people every little tiny detail about their product. I think they often labour under the belief that people buy their products based upon these tiny details? They don’t. The details may reinforce their emotional desire or need to justify their purchase after the decision has already been made in their heart. With most things, you have a 3-5 second window to grab someones attention with your message, so the ‘hook’ needs to be clear, concise and one that emotionally engages the audience. When a message is simplified, the power and impact of the communication is often exponentially increased, Apples iconic and hugely successful 1999 iMac ‘Yum’ Poster is simplicity personified!

Apples iconic 1999 iMac ‘Yum’ Poster – simplicity personified

Apples iconic 1999 iMac ‘Yum’ Poster – simplicity personified

‘The more we elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate’
J. B. Priestley

One of the most vital aspects of communication is understanding that it is a two-way process. It should not be a dry monologue, it should be an interactive and engaging dialogue where listening is probably the most essential ingredient.

The Chinese verb ‘to listen’ is interestingly made up from five different Chinese characters – Ear, You, Eyes, Undivided attention and Heart. The fact that it is made up of these different aspects tell us something significant about this multifaceted component of the communication process.

to listen requires more than just your ears

to listen requires more than just your ears

The absence of ‘listening’ is most easily demonstrated in poor examples of customer service. Here the vital aspect of the communication process is not just about passing on good news, or dealing with happy/satisfied clients, more often it is dealing with situations where things have not gone as expected or desired! People can actually deal with hearing bad news, in fact they can be more easily placated simply by keeping them in the loop at all stages as to what is actually going on. Often the biggest frustration of rail commuters if there are delays or cancellations, is not necessarily the delay itself (although this does not help), it is the simple fact that they are not properly kept informed of what is happening. If the rail companies listened to what their customers were actually saying, the quality of their customer service could be greatly improved!

The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.
Sydney J. Harris

As in life, communication is a central component of doing business, but it often gets renamed (or hidden/confused) as dress code, customer service, advertising, product design, branding, marketing, interior design, social media, customer experience, sales, user experience etc. etc. If you don’t recognise these terms as some of your primary sources of business communication, then it could be that you are not in full charge of the messages you are inadvertently communicating as part of your everyday activities?

Everything is connected, everything is reflective, and everything says something about you or your business…

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak – Hans Hofmann

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak – Hans Hofmann

Thanks for taking the time out to read this, much appreciated! Please feel free to share it with your friends, and add any thoughts or comments you might have on it…

Chris

don’t just like it, LOVE it!

Andy Warhol was clearly a visionary artist and thinker… but did you also realise he could see into the future too!? It might be very easy for his other more noted art work to have overshadowed this ability, but the fact is, he saw into the future and summarised one of todays primary social media companies (Facebook) raison d’être very succinctly…

‘I think everybody should like everybody’
Andy Warhol

Is ‘Like’ a meaningless default emotional response?

Is ‘Like’ a meaningless default emotional response?

Or, is it that Facebook is simply trying to bring to life one of Andy Warhol’s philosophies…

‘During the 1960’s, I think, people forgot what emotions were supposed to be. And I don’t think they’ve ever remembered’ – The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

It appears that Facebook and marketeers worldwide would want us to believe that as individuals, companies or even international brands, the ultimate emotional response to elicit from any given item or event, is to simply ‘like’ it. In this ever-expanding age of social media, ‘sharing’ and ‘connecting’ seems to be the primary goal and buzz that companies and brands often aspired to, but is simply being liked by as many people as possible, sufficient an emotional response or interaction to aspire to?

is like the emotional response to aim for?

is like the emotional response to aim for?

‘It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.’
Andre Gide

The word ‘like’ to me, is at best bland, at worst, often wholly inappropriate in the social media context. At Passion 4, our ambition for any work or project we are involved with, is that people totally love it, rather than just simply like it. If our ambition was just for it to be liked, it would be setting our bar of ambition pretty low!

nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion

nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion

‘Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion’
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Having a passion for what you do is a vital driving force if you want what you do to avoid falling into the trap of bland mediocrity. Sir Jonathan Ive recently owned up to an Apple secret;

‘We absolutely don’t do focus groups. That’s designers and leaders abdicating responsibility. That’s them looking for an insurance policy, so if something goes wrong, they can say, well this focus group says that only 30% of people are offended by this and, look, 40% think it’s OK.’ All a focus group guarantees, is mediocrity’

Mediocrity is the enemy of creativity, it lacks ambition. It avoids taking risks, it fears failure rather than embracing the lessons it can bring. It adds unnecessary layers of complexity by trying to please everybody. Creativity however is refreshingly simple!

‘Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity’Charles Mingus

Thanks for taking the time out to read this, as always, it is much appreciated! Please feel free to share any thoughts or comments you might have on it…

Chris

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Is it time for brands to wake up and smell the coffee?

‘Branding’ can often be seen as a rather dry, restrictive and all embracing term to cover any aspects of a organisation or companies presentation. However, in reality, branding can bring a vitality, energy and vigour to a brand that can go so much further than this perception!

When people think about branding, it conjures up definitions surrounding correct logo usage, clear space allowances, colour pallets, typography styles and fonts to be used, tone of voice, photographic style guidelines, various examples of do’s and don’ts, etc. etc. – but even within the most biblically proportioned set of brand guidelines, you don’t often see a section dealing with ‘Brand Smell’!

Thomas Cook Signature ‘brand for breakfast’ – Brand Guidelines. Simplified

Thomas Cook Signature ‘brand for breakfast’ – Brand Guidelines. Simplified

Even in the Thomas Cook Signature ‘brand for breakfast’ brand synoptic guidelines I produced for the pioneers of travel holidays some years ago, there was nothing mentioned about brand aroma. Although I did suggest it at the time, that it was something that could be incorporated into their retail outlets – however I might have been just a bit ahead of my time with that suggestion unfortunately!

There are five main traditional human senses; Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell and Touch, so as it is clearly one of our primary human senses, maybe a bit more thought should be given to it within a branding context?

Smell or aroma is a very powerful, persuasive and evocative sense. To the point where today there are even dedicated aroma retailers! Here you can purchase such things as ‘sensory ambience kits’ for example, to help sell your house!

Nothing beats the aromatic smell of freshly baked bread!

Nothing beats the aromatic smell of freshly baked bread!

The Sell-A-House Kit features two atomisers of fresh bread aroma and fresh coffee smell, two of the most commonly thought of aromas that can help create an ideal sensory ambience.

The love hate aroma of freshly brewed coffee

The love hate aroma of freshly brewed coffee

However in terms of ‘brand aroma’, has the evocative power of aroma really been harnessed to its full potential, or even really been properly looked at yet?

The retail chain Lush has a distinctive, naturally occurring brand smell or aroma from its fresh, handmade cosmetic products that pervades the streets outside of their stores. So that often before you are even aware of the stores actual physical location, your sense of smell informs you they have a retail outlet in the nearby vicinity. The ‘brand aroma’ of Lush therefore generates a 4D experiential brand awareness of the companies products to a much wide audience of potential customers outside of the confines of their physical stores.

To a similar extent, these principles of aroma extend to many different types of business or organisations such as bakers, florists, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, offices, airports, supermarkets, shopping centres, etc. or even to the more nostalgic aromas that are often associated with bookshops, museums, sweet shops etc.

OK, Lush might be considered a fairly overt example, and you may think that a brand aroma does not really apply to all organisations? How can a brand aroma work in a more traditional office environment? Easy. All built environments have an inherent aroma, be it good or a bad. Just as positive aromas can generate positive reactions, negative aromas can do exactly the opposite!

So controlling or creating these brand aromas is often down to you. The choice of whether or not to have fresh flowers in reception areas, the choice of different natural or man made materials used in furnishings or fittings, having planting as part of the spatial layout of offices, positioning of any catering facilities, right down to the nitty gritty of simple things such as automatically timed air fresheners in WC facilities, choice of cleaning products, hand wash etc. all contribute to a buildings overall aroma.

So maybe it is time to get creative with your brand aromas!

Thanks for taking time out to read this, it is much appreciated! Please feel free to share any thoughts or comments you might have on it…

Chris

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Thought is action, action is thought…

It’s funny how something as seemingly innocuous and mundane as the action of going for a walk, can in fact be the perfect stimulus for developing new ideas.

I think it must be something to do with being outside the comparative constraints of a built environment, and being in the open expanse that exists away from the office studio desk. The difference in the spatial dynamics can really help liberate the mind and thought processes therein!

Thought is action – action is thought

Thought is action – action is thought

I’m lucky enough to be based near the sea, so it does not take too much encouragement to go and get some exercise (mental and physical) by going for a walk by the sea. The physical benefits of doing this are obvious, however the mental advantages are not always so apparent, but for me, it is probably the most important aspect.

I’m often working on a series of projects for different clients, and the single common denominator between them all, is that invariably they all require some form of inspired creative thought to bring them to life.

Despite common misconception, not all creative work starts with that fabled single ‘eureka’ moment of design inspiration. More often than not, generating ideas or different solutions can be a process consisting of many varied and seemingly unconnected ‘dots of experience’, insight or awareness that have been built up during your daily experiences, sometimes over a number of years. It is only when these dots are later brought to mind and joined together, that sometimes a pattern begins to develop – a sort of creative chain reaction if you will. From these humble beginnings, creative ideas begin to form and take shape and can become more of a tangible reality.

Recording ideas as thoughts/sketches/words is a vital part of the creative process – it’s a form of ‘physical thinkig’

Recording ideas as thoughts/sketches/words is a vital part of the creative process – it’s a form of ‘physical thinking’

The sketches above, although not prize-winning by any stretch of the imagination, captured some of the initial thoughts/development of a direct mail campaign for a client to gather customer feedback on a particular offer. This concept was based around the notion of ‘a penny for your thoughts’. The scribbles show the idea of using a folding circular direct mail item, that features a large picture of a 1p piece as the front hero image, and how other key information could also be displayed within the circular format.

The one bad things about ideas, is they rarely occur to order! More often than not, they can occur in the strangest or sometimes the most inappropriate moments (the shower, when you are trying to go to sleep etc.)! Hence why keeping a sketch or notebook handy at all times, is such a vital piece of a creatives tool kit.

However, there are many other, more technologically advanced, ways of recording and documenting your thoughts as well which I also find really helpful. My iPhone allows me to capture photographic images, text or voice recordings, so it makes it really easy for me to capture my thoughts wherever I am. One of my favourite apps is Evernote as it allows me to not only capture the idea, but to also to tag and categorise it, which can then be really useful later on if I want to search back through various connected concepts or ideas.

You often don’t know when inspiration can occur, but when it does, it is vital to note or record it in some form. This way it makes it far easier to keep track of the ‘dots’ that I come across in my daily experiences. These ‘dots’ may sometimes seen inconsequential at the time, but they can turn out to be the starting point for the next greatest idea I’m searching for…

Thanks for taking time out to read this, much appreciated – Chris@passion4