All visual messages have three resources for communicating insights. These means are: to inform, to pedagogically explain that information, and to design such information for being enough seductive for the reader.
However, visual messages are currently affected by three cultural changes and therefore they have to meet new challenges and demands, especially those messages connected to identities, like brands.
The first of these changes is related with the saturation of images that new media are producing, receiving spectators an overloading of visual information. The second one is akin to the lack of personal contact with the object, cases in where clients have no tactile or material relationship with the product, because it is seen on a screen first.
The last one is the competition between brand and movement: brands are now competing with messages in motion: videos and animation that are invading all life spaces, and we all know that attention is catches by movement.
One consequence of that is the alteration of the traditional duties of brands and advertising, as a corollary of the transformation that is undergoing on traditional advertising.
About that, and even though there were many exceptions, we can remember that most entities were represented by neutral and inexpressive signs. Those brands had the main mission of naming the sender, instead of telling something proper about the essence of the entity. In this scheme, advertising was then the responsible of defining its identities, dropping attributes, emotions and feelings to this empty container that those brands were. Let think about what would have been of the Marlboro’s brand without cowboys nor car-racers.
But advertising changed: publicity is fighting now in an alternative scenario. It is working on broadcasting messages into segmented media, producing ephemeral, viral and dynamic images, rather of dominating the mass audience agenda. Advertising is now playing in confined spaces, obsessed by the pursuit of the short term profitability. In these circumstances, just perfumes and luxury car’s campaigns seem to be safe.
One results of this phenomenon is that today’s brands have to occupy part of the former spaces of advertising. That is because brands have nowadays to be the guardians of the differential values of companies and organizations, and they have to do it explicitly. For that reason, visual brands have to narrate stories, dramatises features and portraying the DNA of such entities. Therefore, and despite its limitations, visual brands have to inform, to explain and to seduce. Thus, this new responsibility affects the structure of visual identities because they have also to persuade and talk as the leading figure to the big audience. Not only being a seal of guarantee of the company, but also a protagonist of its meaning. In addition, and in many situations, the visual identity has to be able to talk and to be decoded by people from different cultures, by people who speak different languages, and doing so by telling silent stories and ideas. That is, by explaining their arguments beyond spoken languages, just by using images. In other words, brands must now revolve around iconic forms and colours to express characters, circumstances, atmospheres, locations and situations onto the story of the entity. As a balance, brands now have to be clever ideograms that trigger in its audience the accurate representation of the company or organization strategy.
On the other hand, and about the dispute for the beholder’s attention, animations and videos are forcing visual identities to be converted in something new than a static mark, something flexible in order to distinguished and survive in this world in motion.
Hence, a visual brand has to do what it can: it has to achieve the power of mutating, of transforming itself without loosing what it is: it has to be always different but always the same. That is the second challenges of brands: to be alive.
©Sebastian Guerrini, 2011