The Importance of Media Literacy and the Psychology of Advertising and Branding
Our business, like many others, has evolved to provide a variety of services across many different industries. This can often result in a brand image becoming fragmented and lacking any kind of consistency. Synergy is key to a business looking unified and it will ultimately strengthen your industrial presence. This is one of many reasons we decided to condense our product range and introduce conformity when we rebranded into Direct Digital. There are so many factors to consider during a rebrand. One way to fully prepare your business for a rebrand is to read some relevant literature so that you understand the complexities that are involved and so that you can learn from other businesses mistakes.
‘No Logo’ by Naomi Klein is a brilliant start to understanding the psychology of advertising. It also takes into account the ethics surrounding it. The book is a thought provoking insight into the different realms of branding and can shed some insight on an alternate perspective; perhaps then you will consider some aspects you previously wouldn’t have. It covers a variety of interconnected societal issues through which we, as a consumer, feel the effects of through branding.
Klein begins by reciting the history of brands and the journey they have taken to the trends we see today. How advertising is used as a way to distinguish mass produced products from one another. They have slowly taken to the idea of selling lifestyles as opposed to a product. This is particularly effective when targeting a younger demographic. A lifestyle brand is an attempt to make a corporate brand converge with the identity of an individual. They attempt to form cultural connections, similar to ones formed with jobs, socio-economic status, religion or ethnicity. It’s attempting to become another way people relate to one another. The business is selling an identity rather than a product. They would rather draw attention to who would use their product as opposed to how well the product actually performs. The branding is suggesting an embodiment of values and things you should aspire to be. Alcohol advertising is a good example of this; as the product is typically seen being enjoyed by a group of glamorous, attractive people thoroughly enjoying themselves. They present themselves as a culture rather than a consumer good. These companies often rely on repetition of their advertising campaigns to embed the perception into the consumers mind.
(Above: An example of how consumers sell a lifestyle rather than a product.)
Another point mentioned in the book is the way in which companies market these goods as ‘must-have’ trendy items and at a considerable retail price when the reality is that the product is often cheaply manufactured and often under-performs. Beautifully designed branding can often disguise inferior goods. The ability to manipulate consumers and fabricate the perception of value is at the core of lifestyle branding. Whilst this tactic has proven extremely successful for businesses in the past, the book also discusses the ethics and morality surrounding the issue. After considering both sides, you should then be able to make a well informed and balanced branding and advertising campaign that is beneficial to both you and your customers. The concept of selling a lifestyle should always be paired with a high performing and reasonably priced product. Lifestyle brands are one of the most important concepts explored in No Logo. They have drastic implications for the structure of advertising on the market. No Logo will certainly enhance your media literacy and, in turn, give you a better understanding of the psychology of advertising and branding.
‘A Smile in the Mind’ is Forty years of "witty thinking" from over 500 designers, including hundreds of visual examples and interviews with the world's top practitioners. The book is comprised mostly of illustrations showcasing extremely well thought out Graphic Design from all walks of life, ranging from products, art, digital media and stationary. It is a fantastic sourcebook and is brilliant to have a flip through if you’re suffering creative impotence. The pieces are broken down to get to the root of the idea. It’s an excellent tool to get your creative juices flowing. The book teaches us how to view design from an alternative angle and encourages the reader to turn their project into an opportunity to bring a smile to someone’s face. Whilst design must be functional, it can also be playful. Wit, and even a bit of humor, is also another brilliant brand strategy that can attract customers to your product.
(Above: An example of how functionality and clever thinking can merge to make fantastic advertising and branding opportunities.)
Renowned designer and art director Alan Fletcher (of Pentagram fame) has gathered a concoction of anecdotes, quotes, images, and bizarre facts in a ‘guide to visual awareness’ aptly named ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’. The book is a guide to visual culture and contains many historical observations and insights. It gives a great insight into the psychology of design and typography. It looks specifically at the perception, process and the imagination that fills in the gaps. Like the other books on the list, The Art of Looking Sideways really gets you thinking creatively. It is a primer in visual intelligence and provides an insight to creative culture worldwide. Where this book varies from other reference books is why it really stands out. The pages devoted to perception, colour, pattern, proportion, paradox, illusion, language, alphabets, words, letters, aesthetics and value as seen from an international standpoint is what is truly inspiring. The book expands beyond western culture. This is an important detail in our current world of digital media where cultures are now merging. It will truly inspire those who enjoy the interplay between word and image.
‘Western civilization? I think it would be a good idea’ – Ghandi
This little trio of books is a brilliant way to expand your mind and improve your media literacy. This, in turn, will result in you becoming more knowledgeable and gives you an advantage above your competitors in the industry.