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15MB of fame

The connectivity of the internet has opened up a palette of seemingly unlimited possibilities that are fundamentally changing the nature of brand design

Mary Lewis Lewis Moberly

This month Heineken has tapped into the web’s endless opportunities and democratic principles, by opening up their latest design brief, to the world, for the second year running.

Crowd sourcing a new limited edition bottle design to celebrate its 140th year, the competition gave entrants total freedom to delve into Heineken’s past, and play with the brand DNA to create a cool new design.

Heineken received over 2,000 responses from ‘emerging designers’ around the world. Shortlisted at a live judging event at Milan Design Week, the winning entry was created by a young designer from Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Meanwhile Beefeater Gin releases a new limited edition bottle compiled from 1,000 images sourced from Londoners during a competition, and designed to "pay homage to the creativity of Londoners"

Leveraging this power, right at the heart of the brand – its packaging, can be a digital double-edged sword: are you creating a brand connection or a brand chameleon?

Crowd sourcing creates a powerful engagement platform that provides ‘buzz’ around the brand, and the ultimate chance for consumers to contribute and craft the brand they love.

However, brands need to be careful in seeking their 15MB of fame. To ensure that they are not projecting a latent message that they do not have a vision, or sense of what they stand for.

Heineken and Beefeater are strong brands but it’s interesting to note that brands like Apple, perhaps the ultimate example of a brand with a clear vision, do not crowd source.

The world’s strongest, most consistently successful brands are built around a strong and enduring emotional connection.  Their underlying idea and ideals do not really change because they play to core elemental consumer needs and desires, codified in high value ideas and icons.

Johnnie Walker celebrates manly progression, Persil unlocks the freedom to play, Apple empowers creative exploration.

In desire to keep these high value ideas fresh and contemporary, there could be a delineation between the brand in the hand – the most pure expression of what the brand stands for, and how it creates the energy and vitality around the idea.

Successful brands are like enormous wheels moving forward.  At their centre they move slowly, almost imperceptibly evolving.  And in this strength, solidity and clear focus the brand provides emotional reassurance.

Establishing that laser-like focus, what I call ‘polishing the crown jewels’, requires a ruthless dumping of the baggage and detritus that gets in the way of the core idea.

At their edges, where the brand wheel moves fastest, in communications, experiential, events, digital activity, the brand feeds off the energy and creativity of breaking new ground.

And in a world of fragmenting media, freshness of expression is needed, to grab and hold consumer attention.

Limited Editions stand somewhere in the middle.  A marketing tool for generating interest but one that remains right at the heart of the ‘moment of truth’, when consumers are looking for brands to deliver on their promise.

Striking the right balance between freshness and focus is a tough challenge that requires navigating a fine line.

Sub-contracting this process to consumers demonstrates interactivity but does it really show the imagination brands strives for?

13 May 2013