Cannes 2011: Long and short of 'The Long Idea'

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Cannes | In Advertising | June 20, 2011
On the first day of the 58th International Festival of Creativity, brand expert Martin Lindstrom and goviral's Jimmy Maymann discussed how brands can make their 'brand story' last long.

On the first day of the 58th International Festival of Creativity, brand expert and author Martin Lindstrom and executive chairman of goviral Jimmy Maymann, addressed a packed Debussy auditorium, during the Palais de Festival. The topic of discussion was 'The Long Idea', that is, tools that brands can adopt in order to increase the longevity of their brand story.

Are brand symbols and religious symbols perceived similarly?

Lindstrom drew an intriguing parallel between brands and religion. Come to think of it, both rely on elaborate story-telling and both lean on detailed symbols and imagery that carry the brand's (or religion's) story forward for years on end.

In a neuro study that Lindstrom conducted recently, he revealed that the findings suggest that back in 2011, around 15 per cent of all conversations comprised brands, and the same figure had jumped to 37 per cent today. The study tried to detect the regions of the brain that bore maximum activity when the subjects (individuals in the experiment) were exposed to 12 holistic and 12 non-holistic brands. It was found via MRI scans conducted in six countries, that the regions that were activated by the exposure to relevant religious symbols were the same as those activated by exposure to brands!

"Brands with great story-telling", Lindstrom shared, "are typically associated with grandeur, vision, a clear enemy and a certain degree of mystery." When consumers make these associations, the brand's story tends to outlast that of its competitors. Little wonder then, that brands like Apple have such strong brand stories that aid long-term branding. Users, at an unconscious level, associate the brand and all its products with grandeur and mystery. "Such brands are called 'Smashables'. They have 'smashing' brand stories," Lindstrom said.

Offline to Online

Lindstrom then shared the results of his recent US$3 million 'Word-of-Mouth' study that tested the '1:9:90' theory. This was basically an experiment which showed that when people were, in casual face-to-face conversations, exposed to certain brands, they were 49 per cent more attentive to those brands later, while interacting with other people online. Lindstrom explained, "One stands for seeding; one person is sufficient to plant the idea in others' minds." The other two figures stand for the process of incubation of the brand's name and the ultimate spread of the same." He thus insisted that true, powerful social media is offline, not online, as it starts at the face-to-face level.

Taking forward this discussion on the online medium, Maymann used football as a metaphor to explain how brands can up the longevity of their story on the multiple media platforms that are accessible in today's times. "Sports brands Adidas and Nike have capitalised on the online space and have cashed in on their association with football to extend their respective stories," he said. He added that today it is not sufficient to just have a "brand destination" and that a brand needs to also have, what he calls, a "brand distribution" plan that can help etch its story-telling in users' minds. This is because since 2006, until last year, consumer involvement with brands online, has shot up. "It has become a 'world of demand'," exclaimed Maymann. "Consumer empowerment has increased of late," he said.

He concluded by sharing the story of how Nike successfully built engagement online and added years to its brand story during a time when Adidas had more market share.

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