Branding for a life in paradox: Instant gratification vs deeper experiences

When we crave both instant gratification and deeper experiences, how can brands respond? James Ramsden, ECD and John Clark, Planning Director at design agency Coley Porter Bell look at how brands are addressing increasingly conflicting opportunities, in a series titled Branding for a life in paradox 

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function”.

Scott Fitzgerald’s quote from 1936 rings as true now as it did then. We have always had the ability to experience a whole range of ideas and emotions in a single moment, but in the current climate, where the rules we thought we knew are being rewritten on a daily basis,  the polarising views we hold are more extreme and clashing than ever before.

We’re time poor, yet make endless plans. We want the simple life, yet have impossibly high expectations. We’re exhausted by an overloaded of information, yet still want to be the first to know what’s going on – it’s no wonder we’re feeling conflicted.

But how are brands dealing with this? What should they do when consumers don’t even know what they’re feeling themselves?

Sainsbury’s Chop Chop test app

Instant versus experience…

It’s no secret that consumers what things quickly, efficiently and seamlessly. From Uber to Asda, having a frictionless and speedy process has dominated every sector for the past decade, and has been instrumental in revolutionising not just the customer experience, but the products and core business models.

From Sainsbury’s test service ‘Chop Chop’, which aims to deliver groceries to your door, not next week or next day but within one hour, to Snapchat’s Snap Specs, which captures video and images straight from your glasses without ever touching your phone, brands are streamlining processes that used to suck up our time.

This is even affecting photographic styles brands use too.  ‘Virtuality’ photos – those that capture life as it happens, unfiltered and in the moment – have seen a 300% increase in search. No longer, it seems, are we seeking perfection, we’re looking for images that capture simplicity, spontaneity and a real-life view.

Mastercard logo history leading up to Pentagram’s recent redesign

Even in logos, gone are the days of light and shade and complicated patterns, as traditional brands such as Mastercard and Premier League simplify their branding to follow this trend. This enables fast screen read times, and allows stark designs to stand out in a busy and confused world.

Premier League identity by Design Studio

All and nothing…

And yet in all of the speeding up, we want deeper richer experiences in every aspect of our lives.

This can be seen even in ‘fast’ segments such as fast food.  In Canada, KFC has set up a cooking school which offers immersive courses to teach the nine steps to making the ‘perfect’ KFC Chicken. It not only offers something exclusive and experiential, but allows customers to experience the core values of the brand and learn about misconceptions about fast food.

Another great example of putting experience first, is Samsung’s 837, which, instead of a traditional store that has ‘experience’ thrown in, is a showroom that combines art, technology, fashion and sport, where you can’t actually buy any of the products. It might sound counterintuitive, but by removing the purchasing process – the stress of feeling like you have buy something or impending interactions with sales people – consumers are left with nothing but the joy of playing with the products.

From a VR tunnel, DJ booth, stage, living room and café, this pure exploration of what Samsung is and does, leaves consumers with a tangible lasting impression of the brand, meaning they’re likely to see Samsung as a viable and worthwhile choice for their next big tech purchase – whether that’s a week, or year down the line.

Instant and Experience?

So can you address both our need for instant with our yearning for experience?  One way is to design out redundancy. To combine instant gratification with experience, you need to look at the customer journey, see where the hassle is and streamline it. By paring back the process, you’re left with time for more immersive experiences along the way.

Everlane, an online retailer with a passion for pushing the boundaries, recently opened stores in San Francisco and New York. You’re able to leave your bags at the door with a concierge along with your bank details, to speed up the purchasing process. Every size of every item is on display with specially notched rails to make finding what you want quicker and easier too. Conversely, the experience, is shopping in a beautifully constructed store, with stylists on hand to consult and advise. Even the dressing rooms can be manipulated so that friends can move easily between them, but still be closed off from other shoppers. This results in a speedy process, combined in a luxurious experience.

Another way is to use know how or technology to stimulate additional senses. The concept packaging for Naked (by Stas Neretin), is a great example of this. With streamlined graphics, it is instantly recognisable as a clean skincare brand, but the sensory experience mimics actual skin and moulds like the contours of the body. Moreover, the product is coated in thermocromatic paint, which blushes when you touch it for too long, giving the impression of a living product.

A third approach is to design in layers. This is mainly driven by our digital interactions – particularly on mobile. Using simpler, pared down graphics offers instant recognition, and leaves room to explore richer and more immersive experiences in other areas. The redesigned Deliveroo logo for example is monochromatic, easily findable and perfect for mobile. Yet as you move through the brand, additional elements, colours and layers come into play – and of course, the imagery around the food itself, is rich, vivid and brought to life with glorious colour and texture.

So whilst some brands are really turning up the dial to meet one side or other of a paradoxical consumer, there are others that are cleverly finding ways to appeal to both sides.  The key is to know your consumer, know what your brand can do well and commit – avoiding the beige space in the middle.

James Ramsden is ECD and John Clark, Planning Director at branding and design agency Coley Porter Bell

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