Branding can bridge the unknown to the familiar. It does so by embodying an idea that people embrace. It is an integral part of culture because messages are adopted and become the social norm. As part of cultural foundation, interpreted messages drive perceptions and help connect us with the unfamiliar.
I experienced how branding connects while living as an expat in Asia. My pre-teen self didn’t know it, but I was observing how branding impacted a culture I’d never seen before. As an outsider looking into this new culture, I quickly picked up on what was familiar. Identifying and comprehending brands was a means of survival. Communicating through spoken language had barriers but identifying visual markers became the norm. Seeing the Nike swoosh, McDonalds’ golden arches or the Haagen Daz logotype gave a sense of familiarity.
The infrastructure in Bangkok is like a puzzle. The old neighbors the new. Transportation ranges from sky trains, tuk tuks and beeping motorcycle taxis that weave through traffic. Information is in a state of chaos. Advertisements are slathered on all surfaces.
A key piece of the puzzle is the abundance of remarkable malls. Don’t even bother picturing your average American mall. These complex multi-level structures each have their own personality. You’ll find posh movie theaters on the top floor, world-class food courts, fitness centers and even an aquarium. Did I mention one of the malls has a water park on the roof?
These experiential wonders offer entertainment and escape from the packed city. The abundance of people seeking sanctuary resembles the activity of a beehive. As a default destination for city dwellers, these structures are a platform for brand presence. Promotional events of various industries capture all passersby.
Like nothing I had seen before, these events were more like a full on show. Models would hand out brand materials and a host would speak to the crowds. These events happened often. Although the message was lost in translation, it was fun to see how a spokesperson could sell a brand to a crowd through humor, intrigue or interaction.
Seeing a brand come alive opened my mind up to the idea that brands were not just something worn or advertised. Successful branding breaks boundaries by speaking a universal language that provides us with a level of comfort. A familiarity is established in what would otherwise be unknown with cultural connection as the end result.