The Faces of Faith

If religions would be brands, what could brands learn from religions?

This book, under construction is about design, marketing and branding.
What is design and what should it look like in order to market products successfully.
Brand’s promises of perpetual improvements and sustainable and happy life, are made to believe without actual proof of fullfilment. Religions have excelled in selling intangible commodities over thousands of years. More recently marketers have learned, and feel more and more inspired by religions while marketing brands and products. Although designers have not picked up on this, they have, consciously or unconsciously, been designing products and brands with various spiritual undertones. The apple of Apple is certainly the most convincing example.
Design, marketing and branding can be very convincing. It can make people believe almost anything. From the innocent promise that aging can be stopped with creamy liquids to the need for total war with devastating consequences. Design, marketing and branding of promises can be convincing enough to make products of devotion and the consumer a believer in the faith. Comparing religions with brands and consumers with believers, surprising discoveries make us wonder how and why the mind reacts to multi sensory experiences.

What makes a brand tick?
Interbrand was the most respected brand watcher of the 20th century. Selection was based on criteria like turnover, profit, shareholder value etc. In this first decade of the 21st century, the results of neuroschience has shifted selection criteria around in favour of spiritual and religious connotations. Research made it clear that religious experiences where not so much different from some brand experiences. Religion becomes a source of inspiration and according to Martin Lindstrom, the author of ‘Buy-ology, truth and lies why we buy’, can be influential in the way brands are build. Consequently, if religions are regarded as serious brands, then the brands arena may show a totally different field of competition of winners and losers.
Every strong brand, be it fashion or faith, have some things in common. Here are the more common qualities.

1. Belonging
Teams, clubs, organisations, secret societies, orders, religions, tribes, usergroups, gangs, political parties, armies.

People are motivated by two very general but nevertheless controversial drives. To belong to a group and at the same time be an individual with its own personal identity. These drives are responsible for our behaviour and more specifically for how, what and why we buy. This is the domain of the marketers and the designers of brands and products.

  1. Adornment
    Fashion, uniforms, cosmeticsjewellery, clothing or other personal accessories, embelishment, facial hair, fingernail modification, piercing, implants, lip plates, tattooing, braiding, fetish.

Adornments are generally accessories or ornaments worn to enhance the identity or status of the wearer. They are often worn to embellish, enhance, or distinguish the wearer, and to define cultural, social, or religious status within a specific community. When worn to show economic status, the items are often either rare or prohibitively expensive to others.
Items of adornment are also used by specific groups to show rank or achievement.

  1. Architecture
    Fortress, castle, palace, Church, Cloister, temple, factory, office, warehouse, brand store.

This is not about urban housing or personal living. Its about branded buildings and the way and why they are designed and build the way they are. Such buildings are designed to immerse the visitor in a multisensory environment where impressions from the outside world are blocked.
The doors are guarded, one has to show ID of some sort to pass through. Once inside “the others” will be refused to enter. Inside one is safe and feels among kindred spirits, to belong.

4. Codices.
Stories, corporate annecdotes, adventures and evangelism in the form of the written word are layed down in user manuals, corporate jubilee books, printed memorials etc. Some of these books are like bibles taken in consideration the time spent making them, the number of pages and the elaborate design and production. Not seldom user manuals are called bibles in respect of the exclusive content that many users value for detail and revelation of product details. Any company or brand can only pray to have an identity manual or a product book published that is refered to as a bible.

5. Enemies.
Strong competition makes strong brands. Design and brand renovations follow one after the other in efforts to fine tune market penetration. Slogans are like battle cries. Employees go to war instead of work.
Coca-Cola versus Pepsi, Nike versusAdidas, Apple agains Microsoft, MacDonald agains Burgerking, Avis against Hertz, islam against Chrisianity, democrats versus communists, believers against non-believers. Brands that face tough competition work harder and stand a better chance to become strong themselves. Brands make any effort to win the battle for consumer preference.

6. Sustainability
Some brands may not be the most popular and fashionable, but stand out in consistency and sustained sales over decades. Based on proven functionality, technology and esthetical merits, such brands are respected and trusted by consumers and businesses alike. Contrary to most brands these are wary of changes and carefully cultivate their traditions and heritage. They do not focus on ever increasing turnover and profit but on quality and sustainable customer satisfaction.

7. Relics
Brands that are capable of leaving relics to their company heritage are most often strong brands. Collectors begin to collect those items and pay phenomenal prices on a specialized market. To have a product relic auctioned at Christies is the real proof of admiration and devotion. Shirts of famous soccer players may never equal the devoted significance of the shroud of Turin, the lance of Longinus or the holy grale. A perfectly restored 1942 Harley Davidson is an item of admiration and jealousy and may be worshipped like a holy relic by its owner. Real relics are single items and have no exact doubles. Most branded relics are souvenirs or collectors items, the first Apple Macintosh is a relic by all means.

8. Hero’s
Real heroes are scarce and disputed. In war the lozers are criminals and the winners are heros. These roles change the other way around once the lozers start winning.
Companies that are managed by strong personalities like Steven Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Bazos, George Branson, Elon Musk etc. are all strong global players as long as their gurus are clearly present and managing with relentless authority. The downside is that eventually the moment comes that even hero’s die, leaving companies in dismay without their charismatic leaders. Only religions have been able to make their leaders rise from their graves into immortality. Companies have never succeeded in doing anything similar due to personal motives of the hero’s successors. If they would only preach the gospel of their predecessors, succes would be eminent. If the predecessor was a genious that is to say.

9. Logo’s
Logo’s and other traditional building blocks of corporate identity are out. Its not cool anymore to mention these in discussions about branding. That doesn’t mean that they have lost their relevance. A good logo together with type, colours and rules of editorial design are still as important as they were before but are limited to the visual cortex. Nevertheless, visual perception is a sense of major importance even in the awareness that branding must evolve into a multisensory experience.

10. Loyalty
Brand loyalty in its ultimate form makes consumer buy the same brand repeatedly without questioning the quality or the price. Brand loyalty has to do with trust and pride in a brand coupled to the owner’s conviction that the product enhances status and identity. Obviously, this has to do with the undisputed believe in the promises of improvement of every kind that many brands present.

11. Rituals
Rituals transform traditional consumers into a community of believers. Annual presentations and celebrations, awards and medals; they all contribute to form legends. Company trainings become rituals whereby an ordinary user is guided to become an initiate and belong to the happy few.

12. Secrets
People are obsessed with questions they have no answers for. The unknown factors in a brand are just as inspiring as those that are known. The secret of the Coca Cola formula is legendary. But there are many more companies with secrets although not as profound as the coca cola formula. Every product has secrets that are usually communicated by word of mouth. Software programs with short key solutions that are not included in the user manual.
Religions and secret societies have been cultivating mystique and secrecy since their inception. Only a few brands have learned and most often by accident or out of innocence.

13. Sensory immersion.
To make a brand a multi sensory experience is the latest marketing phenomena. Religions have been doing this for centuries with great success. To go to church is like being immersed in a multi sensory experience. The sound of organ playing with a choir, the taste of the sacramental bread, the smell of burning insense, the touch of holy water and the visual grandeur of elaborate interiors and clerical apparel in an overwhelming space. No other sensory stimulation from the outside world can reach the believer. Meanwhile a number of brands are creating similar experiences by building flagg ship brand stores in which similar multi sensory experiences are created to lure the visitor into the faith.

The making of the book
Handwritten bibles were made in medieval monasteries. The process of writing, illuminating and binding was laborious, time consuming and required skill and concentration. Those books were very valuable and still are.
This book is meant to be a digital adept. Every line of type is tuned for hyphenation and character spacing and the chapter capitals are photographic assemblies of many separate pictures and illustrated elements. The design and pre press production of this book was as laborious as it was in medieval times.