Published on October 30, 2008
Aesthetics and the Brand : Aesthetics and the Brand Jonathan E. Schroeder Professor of Marketing University of Exeter General Research Program : General Research Program How do images strategically communicate? How do images circulate in consumer culture? How do people understand advertising images? How do images relate to brand meaning? What does the World Wide Web mean for visual consumption? What are some ethical and social implications for the reliance on images in marketing communication? Aesthetic Flows between Culture and Commerce : Aesthetic Flows between Culture and Commerce Overview of Presentation : Overview of Presentation I Introduction to a visual approach to marketing and consumer research II Research example I: “Aesthetics in the financial sector” III Research example II: “Artist, Brands, and Consumption” IV Counterarguments to the visual approach V Conclusions Multi-level Research Approach : Multi-level Research Approach Form: the role of images in the market Function: what images do – communication, signification, branding, strategy, Web visuals, identity Meaning: aesthetics, semiotics, cultural analysis, myths, tools for research and understanding Image Economics : Image Economics Use Value Exchange Value Image Value (for giving an appearance, aestheticization, in both exchange and use) Tools for Visual Analysis : Tools for Visual Analysis Humanities provide theoretical tools to understand image genres, content, and narrative Social science affords methods for discussing context, effects, and strategic implications. Visual representations in marketing communication can be considered socio-political artifacts – creating meaning within the circuit of culture beyond strategic intention, invoking a range of issues formerly reserved for the political sphere and widely circulating information about the social world. Brands : Brands Managing brands successfully mandates managing the brand’s meaning in the marketplace – the brand image. Yet, the brand meaning is not wholly derived from the market. Culture, aesthetics, and history interact to inject brands into the global flow of images. Architectural Expression in the Electronic Age : Architectural Expression in the Electronic Age A Typical Bank : A Typical Bank Buildings and Brands : Buildings and Brands Although space and time are transfigured within the information based electronic world of contemporary commerce, classical architecture remains a viable method for communicating consumer values. In a visual genealogy of contemporary marketing communication and branding efforts, this project analyzed banking Websites, corporate reports, and marketing communication to reveal the staying power of classicism for transmitting certain key values about banks and building brand images for global financial institutions. Research Assumptions : Research Assumptions Architecture is a rhetoric. That is, built form constitutes a system of representation and signifying practices. Buildings mean something. Form persuades. Architectural form refers to the general style of a building—a castle, a church, or a strip mall, for example. Architecture is a complex signifying system encompassing art, technology, industry, and investment that represents ideals, goals, and values. Classicism: a strategic style : Classicism: a strategic style 2) Classicism is a particularly persuasive architectural style. Classical architecture has its roots in antiquity, in the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome, in the temple architecture of the Greeks and in the military and civil architecture of the Romans. Appropriating Architectural Expression : Appropriating Architectural Expression 3) Financial institutions, particularly in the West appropriated architectural expression for strategic reasons: “banks adopted the canons of classical architecture as appropriate forms to house their functions, the less tangible (psychological) attributes of strength, security, and stability characterize them as a distinguishable building type” (Chambers, 1985, p. 20). Architecture’s Expressive Power : Architecture’s Expressive Power A typical bank expressed “by means of its bulk, its bronze doors, and its barred windows, that your money was safe; it also said, since it had a façade of a Greek temple, that money was holy” (Barnet, 1997, p. 54). A bank’s appearance should convey an impression that reflects the institution’s character by its air of stability, dignity, and security. Architectural Communication : Architectural Communication Thus, the less tangible attributes of a bank—its image—can be communicated through architectural form. Stability (we’ve been around for awhile) Security (we’re safe and will protect you) Strength (we’re financially sound) Contemporary Issues : Contemporary Issues 4) The strategic fit between architecture and banking is under strain in the virtual world of electronic, online, and web-based banking. A key element of understanding images is to see how physical forms change into abstracted, visual forms, how materiality transforms into electronic imagery, how the past signifies, and how information technology harnesses the global flow of images for strategic communication. Financial needs today : Financial needs today Speed and innovation- how to communicate these emergent consumer attributes - while maintaining values of stability, strength, and security? Contemporary Architectural Communication : Contemporary Architectural Communication Websites Marketing Communications Corporate Reports ATM graphics and design Currency Today’s Bank : Today’s Bank Marketing Images : Marketing Images Corporate Communications : Corporate Communications Architectural Referents: Euro : Architectural Referents: Euro Building Brands : Building Brands I found evidence of the continuing significance of classical architecture—it remains to symbolize banking’s connection with the past by tapping into classicism as a powerful referent system. Although the premises of banking have changed, the promises of the banking industry have not. Contributes to understanding the cultural codes of branding. Arts, Brands and Consumption : Arts, Brands and Consumption Illustrative Case: Andy Warhol : The intellectual, disciplinary, and semiotic separation of art and business has obscured the potential of studying the art market as the exemplar of image-based branding. For it is art that is based on images, value, and identity above all other sectors of the market. : Greater awareness of the connections between the traditions and conventions of visual art and the production and consumption of images leads to enhanced ability to understand branding as a representational system and signifying practice. : Successful artists can be thought of as brand managers, actively engaged in developing, nurturing, and promoting themselves as recognizable "products" in the competitive cultural sphere. Andy Warhol : Andy Warhol Warhol provides a stunning example of artist as brand – he was extremely articulate about his ambition to become famous, “like a brand” – and his work reflectively comments on brands and consumer culture. Warhol’s contributions to branding are many, and he remains a hot brand fifteen years after his untimely death. Andy Warhol : Andy Warhol b. Andrew Warhola, Pittsburgh Achieved great success as Commercial Illustrator, New York City 1950s Worldwide fame as artist, filmmaker, celebrity 1960s - Died in 1987, left fortune of around $400 million Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh 1994 - Warhol on his work : Warhol on his work “I love America and these are some comments on it. The image is a statement of the symbols of the harsh impersonal products and brash materialistic objects on which America is built today. It is a projection of everything that can be bought and sold, the practical but important symbols that sustain us.” (1985) Warhol on brands : Warhol on brands ”A coke is a coke. You can’t buy a better coke.” Warhol’s contributions : Warhol’s contributions Brands and Brand Equity Clothing, Fashion, and Beauty Imagery Packaging Consumer Self-concept Advertising Age obituary : Advertising Age obituary “His work pointed out the similarities between mass produced goods–soup, cleaners, celebrities, news ‘events’–in a way that made clearer how images are manufactured. In this pop culture, Andy Warhol saw America. Through him, America saw itself” (Skenazy 1987) Barbara Kruger : Barbara Kruger Perhaps best known for her photomontage I shop therefore I am, Kruger's combinations of text and found images address a host of representational issues relevant to branding, consumption, and identity. Her images resonate with marketing scholarship on the critical interaction between consumption and identity. Thomas Kinkade : Thomas Kinkade America’s most successful artist: $300 million per year NYSE listing Galleries, products, real estate, and oh yes, art. Branding the Artist : Branding the Artist Many contemporary artists utilize brands in their work, commenting, criticizing, and creatively interrogating the branding concept and its role in consumer culture. Successful artists may be seen as twin engines of branding knowledge – both as consummate image managers, and as managers of their own brand – the artist. Art & Insight : Art & Insight Typical turns toward art, artists, aesthetics –Innovation Creativity Inspiration But why not – Branding, Brand Management, Networking, Visualization, Value, Image Management How do artists manage images? What can brand researchers learn from theories of visual representation? Wisdom from the Workshop : Wisdom from the Workshop 1) Interconnections between art, brands and culture 2) Self-reflexivity of brands 3) Brand criticism Art, Brands and Culture : Art, Brands and Culture Artists appropriate brands and commercial symbols in their art – brands provide visual raw material. Art, Brands and Culture : Art, Brands and Culture Second, the art market itself is greatly concerned with brands – well known global brands like Picasso, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio. Perhaps in no other market is the relationship between name recognition, value, and branding so clear. Art, Brands and Culture : Art, Brands and Culture Third, artists create visual brands via their work – their style or look. At times, this style directly derives from the branded world, in Andy Warhol’s case, for example. Moreover, the logic of advertising informs artistic production -- Barbara Kruger’s work formally resembles advertising. Cindy Sherman uses the film and film stills. Art, Brands and Culture : Art, Brands and Culture Finally, artist’s use of branding helps articulate cultural meanings and associations that constitute brands. Reflexive Brands : Reflexive Brands Brands interact with, ‘talk to’, and exist among, other brands Artists often actively animate brand reflexivity by yanking brands out of the marketing context and into the gallery, often identifying and highlighting the essence of the brand. Reflexive Brands : Reflexive Brands Just as often artists appropriate existing links between brand images, brand names, and marketing campaigns. However, artistic use of brand names almost always runs counter to that expected or intended by brand managers, and therein lies its capacity for innovative insight. Brand Critique : Brand Critique Artists like Warhol, Kruger, and Sherman do provide cogent critiques of consumer culture. They point out the dehumanizing process of commodification, the sameness of the branded environment, and the debilitating effects of celebrity and its quest. However, their works sit comfortably within a celebratory, liberatory mode of consumption, too. Counter-arguments to visual consumption : Counter-arguments to visual consumption Currently, there seem to be four distinct and often contradictory propositions that concern visual consumption. The Savvy Consumer Advertising is dead The Clueless Consumer Zapping Transparency : Transparency Do consumers enjoy high levels of visual literacy—are they successful semioticians of the image economy who understand how images work? This is the savvy consumer, for whom marketing is transparent. In other words, everyone knows ads are designed to sell things. The Savvy Consumer : The Savvy Consumer One might think that the ascendancy of visual images would lead to unprecedented levels of visual literacy; that consumers living in an image-based world might become picture savvy, accomplished semioticians able to decode and decipher images at will. We’re not fooled : We’re not fooled One colleague argues that postmodern consumers are not ‘fooled’ by images—they know how ads work and resist, embrace, or ignore them at will. Moreover, goes this line of thought, consumers see most ads from an ironic, detached, or playful perspective that dampens their effectiveness as persuasive messages. The Clueless Consumer : The Clueless Consumer Third, some commentators contend that most consumers are unaware—and thus unaffected by deep meaning in imagery. Whereas close scrutiny of images often reveals semiotic signification, advertising is only skin deep—an ephemeral, playful part of visual culture. Clueless Consumers : Clueless Consumers This proposition—which runs counter to the savvy consumer claim—is fairly easily refuted by the literature. When asked, consumers are able to make detailed inferences about imagery and meaning in ads (e.g. Ritson and Elliot 1999; Hirschman and Thompson 1997; McQuarrie and Mick 1999; Mick and Buhl 1992; Zaltman and Coulter 1995). Salem and Significance : Salem and Significance Naive Semioticians : Naive Semioticians However, this could be a demand artifact—when prompted, for the benefit of the interested interviewer people may be creating meanings on the spot. In my experience, however, most people readily make associations and symbolic connections from ads, using metaphors, images, and semiotics, often without awareness of what they are doing. Zapping : Zapping Perhaps consumers pay little attention to images, including ads. Cognitive capacity, heuristic processing, interest, and motivation limit human attention. Consumers ‘zap’ through ads with their handy remote control units, rarely resting their eyes on commercial images.g Zapping : Zapping In many ways, doubts about how much consumers pay attention to ads—and how effective advertising images are—constitute an empirical question. However, several strands of evidence can be gathered to refute the claim that consumers pay little attention to advertising. Saturating the Market : Saturating the Market Advertising appears in more forms than ever—on the internet, within television programs, on bus shelters, in sponsored events. The logic of advertising underlies much of visual culture. Corporate Reluctance : Corporate Reluctance This type of advertising is difficult to ignore or zap—it is designed to subtly occupy consumer attention within the visual environment. Certainly, the entire corporate world would be reluctant to continue such practices if they did not find them fairly effective. Breaking through the Clutter : Breaking through the Clutter Second, consumers clearly pay attention to some marketing campaigns—certain print ads in particular have become collector’s items, and hundreds of Websites post popular images from CK One, Absolut, Nike, and other celebrated campaigns. (Nike spends $500 million per year) Lifestyle images : Lifestyle images Furthermore, companies like Bare Walls sell poster-sized advertising for home decor. There is little distinction between many celebrity images and advertising—pictures have long been part of the publicity machine. Generating Meaning : Generating Meaning Third, most ads work through repeated exposure—one need not pay much attention to advertising imagery to recognize the dominant figures and images of the ad world. This exposure happens over months, years, and generations. Advertising is dead. Long live advertising! : Advertising is dead. Long live advertising! Emerging economic phenomena—pricing information on the Web, alternative marketing strategies, and changing media use are combining to alter advertising’s role in corporate strategy. The visual landscape will be irrevocably transformed via revolutionary developments in marketing communication technology and market information. (?) Polysemy : Polysemy Can images mean anything? Some approaches suggest that images float in the postmodern world—signs disconnected from signifiers—allowing consumers free to generate novel, resistant, and idiosyncratic meaning. Lens Culture : Lens Culture Whereas I agree that consumers generate their own meaning, and that they bring their own cognitive, social, and cultural lenses to whatever they see, this does not mean that the historical and political processes that also generate meaning are eliminated. I am theoretically and critically opposed to the poststructural notion that signs float free of historical situatedness. Production and Consumption of Images : Production and Consumption of Images This is not to imply that meanings are fixed historically, and that once an image is decoded, interpretive work ceases. Rather, within a theoretical understanding of visual consumption, images exist within cultural and historical frameworks that inform their production, consumption, circulation, and interpretation. Conclusions : Conclusions The visual arts are an impressive cultural referent system that brand managers, art directors, and advertising agencies draw upon for their strategic representational power. Themes, subjects, and techniques from art history illuminate contemporary imagery: “Art in all cultures ultimately creates its meaning and vitality by connecting the individual with persons of forces greater than himself or herself” (Pelfrey and Hall-Pelfrey 1993, p. 309-310). Conclusions : Conclusions Associating visual consumption with the art historical world helps to position and understand branding as a global representational system. The approach to branding affords new perspectives to investigate specific art historical connections to branding and image management. Implications : Implications Finally, art-centered analyses often generate novel concepts and theories for research on fashion cycles, information technology, and retro-marketing, for example. Broader Research Goals : Broader Research Goals Theoretical development about visual communication, especially photography as an engine of marketing communications, corporate identity, and Web design. Understanding brands and consumption within the semiotic realm: myth, codes, signification, and meaning, and placing contemporary brands, marketing campaigns, and consumption processes in a visual (art, aesthetics, and graphic design) historic perspective. Theorizing the relationships between economic development and the creation of aesthetic processes. In addition, my research addresses broader concerns of how the image economy intersects with consumer choice, image literacy, informed citizenship and the ideals of an educated open society.