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Brand design: Show what you know

The digital era is re-shaping the world, the economy, the way we live and the way we interact

Mary Lewis Lewis Moberly

Michel Serres in his best-seller book “ Petite Poucette” compares the disruption of the digital era to the impact of Gutenberg’s invention of printing. One of the consequences of this digital explosion is the rise of the Knowledge Society. The Knowledge Society refers to people being more interested in what they know than what they own, more into experiences than possessions. The internet affords the opportunity to better connect and therefore to better share.

What does this mean for brands? Product is still key (and will always be) but what is now equally important is what you tell about the product: the knowledge. This knowledge can take many forms: where does the product come from; who created it or who inherited it; what is it made of; what is the know-how behind it; is there a legend; what are the consumption rituals; is there a protocol for the way to serve it?

Champagne, for example, is all about ritual. Try the best (grande cuvée) in the worst (plastic glass) and the experience will be…a disaster! Based on the insight that champagne lovers are perfectionists, Mumm created the 100 Champagne Protocols, an on-line engagement platform to provide any drinker with best practice: from how to sabre champagne without beheading your stepmother to pairing champagne appropriately. So armed, you can become the real master of ceremony.

There is so much to learn: when serving, how to hold the bottle? By the neck or by the body? The sound of a champagne cork popping is a festive signal but how loud should it be? How to avoid showering the room in spray? What is the perfect temperature to serve it? How to achieve that evenly in the ice bucket? How to fill the glass ? How much to fill the glass? Too little looks mean but too much says vulgar (this is not beer).

Now, what is interesting about this initiative is who took it. Not the leading brand (Moët) but the challenger (Mumm). The challenger behaves like the leader showing the way. This is the power of the digital era – welcome to the Knowledge Society.

Louis Vuitton created the “Art of Packing” to let all travellers know how to pack trousers, a blazer or any key item of your wardrobe for different kinds of luggage according to best practice. These are short animations to discover on-line and share through social media. How smart and useful!

Brands still need to lead the physical world within their respective categories but they also need to harness the emerging knowledge sphere and collateral influence. What do I learn from you, Brand X or Y? How do you help me to become more savvy, discerning, intelligent? What stories can you give me to share with my friends and followers? As knowledge becomes aspirational, leading brands can be challenged by new artisanal, crafted brands that compensate for their small size with large, engaging, deep content that wins the mind.

So it’s time to do the home work properly. By re-opening the precious yet often dusty books in the brand archives which tell these great stories, practices, and customs of our culture. And by inventing new stories and rituals in tune with modern life. How about champagne and gravity by the way? How do you drink it in a spaceship heading to the moon?


20 December 2013