How brands are built in the digital age: The quest for perfect sense

It seems that everything becomes digital and “techno-gadgety”. Inevitably, things become magically quicker and quicker, (seemingly) ever more intuitive and increasingly more effective. But, on the other hand, one might feel that this “cold” electronic world increasingly overshadows the more emotional, sensory world that appeals to the soul. Or, if you like, the emotional world that craves for “warmth”, “passion”, “sensuality”, “heat”.

I dare say that when it comes to brands and brand-building, whether we live in a digital age and enjoy the myriad benefits that progressive technology brings or any other age, is of less importance than whether the brand, be it product and/or service, is capable of making sense to the customer. In other words, whether it can strongly appeal to the “inner buyer”. Of course technological advancements cannot be overlooked and ignored, they in fact do us a lot of favours in terms of customer interaction and engagement, but this should in no way eclipse what I prefer to call “perfect sense”. That is to say it must have true meaning for the customer himself.

In the following lines I would like to share my inner thoughts about such the fascinating theme that is “perfect sense”. I wish this to serve as a reminder of this very substantial “resource” in brand-building, which is still not commonplace in marketing, at least in Slovakia.

I like emotions. And I like the English word sense. It is a polysemantic word which, to an etymologist, those connoisseurs of words, is defined as a word having many connotations. It covers a whole spectrum of meanings(!): meaning, reason, sensation and, in some dictionaries, also mind or direction (way). Thus one word points to the very fundamentals of human perception and response to stimuli. In other words, people and emotions are inseparable. Or, if you want, emotions rule our lives. This is just a very vague way of rephrasing the results of worldwide neuropsychological research.

I like multi-sensory emotional experiences and engagement. They touch my inner self in a multiplicity of ways and to depths which are difficult to express in mere words. But I will try to explain these feelings by sharing with you my own experience from Buenos Aires, when I was dancing “tango argentine” for two intense weeks last November. Just imagine: The room is filled with maté, the traditional tea. Its scent pervades clothes and even the skin. The tunes of the maestro Piazzolla first move dancers´ minds, then breathing, then their bodies. The dance violently attacks the senses, the sight of other dancing couples widens the irises. The head is not thinking, it does not need to. You understand. You are becoming one with your true self, with your partner´s self, with the universe. And you long to experience it all over, again and again.

People naturally perceive the world using five senses (some of us with moreJ). When we think about marketing tools, is it not a pity that sight and hearing tend to dominate (definitely in Slovakia)? That we are less willing to embrace(!) alternative means which integrate more of our senses?

I like music and visual arts. They are a fantastic source of strong emotions and poetry. Another reason why I like art is that it enables me to discover stories which are yet strangely familiar somewhere deep down, or which are aspirational without being too pushy. When talking about art in advertising, I immediately think of Ariston Aqualtis and its “undersea” world ( ). Briefly, for those of you who are busy reviewing this essay, in this commercial, you see a little boy watch what is going on inside the washing machine. To his eye, the clothes turn into sea creatures, playing around in deep water and moving in rhythm with the music, which reinforces the freedom to explore.

Apart from the fact that it has poetry which I really, really like, the authors of the story demonstrated incredibly well the values of the archetypal Explorer, who dwells within each one of us. It is a symbolic and emotionally strong story. It is a story which is very personal, but also universal. It is a story of freedom to discover, of authenticity, of adventure, of no limitations. Such a story is very close to me because I understand it emotionally (irrationally or intuitively, if you prefer), not rationally. The story makes perfect sense to me, to my inner world. The archetypes and emotional values it represents are a very useful way for marketers to communicate to the customer the desired message in a way which makes perfect sense – in other words, so that it addresses not only the rational self, but also the emotional, passionate, sensitive one. Undoubtedly, archetypes in marketing (communication) really work. Just have a look around (elsewhere other than Slovakia) – there are a great number of strong and successful brands built on archetypes. I would like to believe that marketing (communication) is true art and that it can touch what all of us perfectly understand - intuitively. In the context of Slovakia, I do miss strong emotions and deep, touching stories which hit the real essence of our inner worlds.

To sum up the very first dimension of perfect sense, remember that it all boils down to multi-sensory (or I prefer to call it multi-dimensional) emotions. For they are the fundamental ´software´ of each human being as well as of every smart brand.

Of course, it is impossible to make perfect sense without evident ´tangible genuineness´. By this I mean indisputable quality product features and / or sincere services always provided with good intentions. Just like grandma´s best-ever apple pie: prepared from home-grown apples and hand-made dough, with the unfeigned intention of making it as nourishing, tasty and good-looking as possible to please her nearest and dearest. That is to say, to show her care and love in a material way. Similarly, we should think of our products and services like an experience which satisfies our reason, our rational self by functional excellence. This functional excellence, thus, becomes a ´tangible bearer´of our genuineness or, metaphorically (and idealistically, as some of my more pragmatic colleagues would point out) speaking, of our love for the customer. Clichéd as it might seem, I must admit, there is something to the famous lyrics “There are no victories in our histories without love”.

Last but not least, making perfect sense goes hand in hand with ´reminiscences of good old times´, of home (cultural) heritage and tradition. Whether we like it or not, our perception stems from the culture and environment that we come from, that we live in, that we are brought up in, that we remember from our childhood. In Slovakia you can meet many people, and this is both explicitly and implicitly evident from various research projects I have carried out for various industries, who want to see a more homely, honest approach, who are thirsty for the renaissance of traditional values and goodness. Come to think of it, the more I ponder on this, the more I am inclined to see an importance, marketing-wise, of relating to the ´good-old-times self´ in our customers. Obviously, what I mean is not going back in time, but trying to re-connect with the mental footprint of goodness and generosity we all have deep within ourselves.

According to the forecasts in The Economist (The world in 2014) in 2014 we can expect a year of a variety of shocks, shifts, showtime, anxiety, excitement and technological advances. I would very much wish, both professionally and personally, in marketing as well as in other industries, fewer words (just as I have used fewer than 2000 words in this competition entry) and more perfect sense. Perfectly reasonable sense. Sensuality if you like. And what about you?


Viera Zvadová, 2muse