On Brand Gestalt: Making a Brand More than Human

scifiI’m a nerd. I grew up with a Nintendo controller in my hands; I’ll stay up until the small hours to catch Vincent Price or Hammer Films horror marathons; and my personal geography is dotted with mountains of unread books—on topics ranging from 17th century Dutch painting to the history of punctuation. I’m especially a sucker for anything science fiction. This nerdery, in addition to being the source of so much of my entertainment, is also the foundation of so much of my brand development work.

I’ve recently been working my way through The Library of America’s two volume American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s. Out of this selection from the Golden Age of sci-fi, I became particularly engrossed in Theodore Sturgeon’s 1953 novel More Than Human, a story that follows six unique individuals who are able to act as one conscious organism: a human gestalt. This tale of the next step in human evolution, what Sturgeon classifies as homo gestalt, made me realize that a company’s brand works in much the same way as the central characters of this novel (bear with me).

gestaltGestalt—translating to “shape” or “form” in German—refers to the inherent, guiding principles that allow us to both recognize structure in elements and organize them into a perceived whole, much like how we tend to separate our fruits and vegetables into opposite drawers of the fridge, or neatly arrange said fruits into a pleasing shape on the counter instead of randomly scattering them. The central principle of gestalt is kind of a two way street, arguing that each “whole” can be deconstructed and perceived as its individual parts and vice versa.

Reading about this interplay, these individual elements working together to perform a higher function, I couldn’t stop thinking about the way we execute branding campaigns for our clients, so I did a little research and found a 2009 study at the University of Notre Dame, which describes the emotionally powerful brand of the American Girl doll as “the product of a complex system, or gestalt, whose component parts are in continuous interplay and together constitute a whole greater than their sum.”

As designers of brand campaigns, we at MarketPlace are always fascinated by the ways that little experiences can make a big impact on how a company, or brand, is perceived. It’s the whole of the cross-sensory experience that a brand offers—we’re talking everything from the emotion and the message to the way a brand personality literally feels, sounds, and smells—that leaves a lasting impression. Like The Force (nerd alert!), they’re the elements that “surround and bind” it.

Recently, we developed a brand for our client Parker Products, a study in gestalt branding. Individual pieces, from the color palette to the photography to the website, emails, and advertising campaign, work together to tell Parker’s story, thus eliciting brand recognition, a pleasing experience for the customer that’s more compelling than any of the individual marketing tactics could ever be.

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Just like the homo gestalt of More Than Human, a strong conscience, or driving force, is needed to steer a brand in the right direction. This driving force (what we refer to as brand strategy) comprises research, statements (value proposition, et al), brand narrative, messaging matrices, etc that we spend time developing alongside our partners during any brand development project. It’s what makes our work more than mere design, more than production. It’s the reason for our existence as a company, the reason we work with B2B and consumer companies alike as strategic partners rather than as a mere advertising agency. It keeps me so busy that rather than chipping away at my mountains of nerdery, I’m actually building more. And, frankly, I’m okay with that as long as I get to nerd out from time to time on the blog.

If you’re looking for more than just a logo, more than just a visual identity, please get in touch, as we’d love to talk, to help you figure out how to inject brand gestalt into your business, to make your brand more than human.

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