By Ed Rice, Director of Strategy
I’ve missed quite a few yoga classes lately. Being sequestered at home to recover from knee surgery has a way of putting a crimp in all of your chakras. But that hasn’t stopped me from thinking “Zen” and realizing my Yoga instructor, Grace, could have just as easily been a branding guru. At the beginning of every practice she references The Five Principles of Yoga. Now, having time to think about it, Grace’s five principles are essentially the same as our guidelines to create, build or revitalize a brand. Seriously. Humor me for a moment and consider the following:
The Five Principles of Yoga…or…A Zen approach to successful brand building.
as class begins, my Yogi asks the class to set an “intention” for that day’s practice. She means this as a special way of having a favorable relationship with yourself and with those whom you wish to connect—a means of sending positive energy outward. Similarly, at the beginning of a brand makeover, we ask a client about their intention for their brand—how should it evolve to better connect with key audiences? What new energy is required to increase market appeal? And ultimately, what does a positive outcome look like? What is the desired end-state?
My instructor also encourages the students to remain open, inviting and flexible. Not just giving limbs and joints freedom to move, but also, and perhaps more importantly, being open to the transformative power of emotional flexibility—being receptive and welcoming to “what shows up.” This concept is aligned with our guidance for clients seeking to build brands with a meaningful consumer connection. We suggest they tap into their customer’s feelings and ideas of what they want in a brand—avoiding preconceived notions and instead, exploring possibilities. The key is to establish a more empathic grasp of consumers’ emotions and point of view. When judgment is suspended and true understanding is acquired, it enables the agency to create a meaningful brand experience, one that will resonate with customers, because its genesis is from a place of emotional understanding.
next, with the class in a seated position, my Yogi reminds us to be firmly rooted—she remarks how important it is to be grounded and intact with the earth. This is not unlike our starting point in brand development—a solid brand must have a well-designed foundation to establish “standing” and project “presence”—it needs to stand strong and make “impact,” particularly if it is a brand design that must project credibility either on a store shelf or off the screen of a smartphone.
the teacher then makes a very specific point about the importance of consciously breathing—referencing the life-giving force of inhaling/exhaling—which provides a range of benefits—being present, opening new cerebral pathways and channeling energy. During the creative development process, when critiquing work, our designers often assess if a particular creative concept “breathes.” It’s a way of asking if a design direction has sufficient balance, space and “breathing room.” The most successful creative brand solutions always embrace this principle and it really shows.
during the course of a practice, my Yogi reminds us that all body parts, (and mind), are interconnected. She references the “fascia” that attaches, stabilizes and encloses all of our bones, muscles and internal organs. This is not unlike the brand architecture we establish when creating a distinctive label for an artisan wine, small-batch whiskey or craft beer. It’s the realization that all elements—the brand-mark, brand icon, design textures, flavor descriptors, patterns, colors, etc., are all interconnected. We often speak of “connected brand tissue” and its appropriate degree when advising clients on line extensions, portfolio tiering and new product development. When properly executed, the end result of a well-connected brand design is almost magical—a powerful, unified, communicative force that becomes a memorable experience for every consumer.
Well, you might see my analogy as a stretch, (sorry, I couldn’t help it), but for me, it all hangs together. Great brands, like the practice of yoga, are based on timeless principles that are hard to ignore, wise to follow and will pay great dividends in the end.
About the Author
Ed Rice is Director of Brand Strategy at Affinity Creative Group, Mare Island, California. His journey, like his yoga practice, has taken many twists and turns. From Wharton undergrad, to U.S. Naval Officer, to Lucas’ THX technology marketer to Landor Associates managing director, and more. He’s enjoyed a great ride and it’s not over. At Affinity, a specialty marketing agency near California’s wine country, Ed collaborates with talented creative colleagues helping clients of all sizes in wine, spirits and other categories, develop visually stunning, memorable and meaningful brand experiences.