There is a saying that familiarity breeds contempt. I have always thought that was a bit extreme, I think familiarity breeds indifference. See something once or twice and you pay attention, see something 100 times and it becomes invisible.
Moreover, we are actually wired to tune things out once they become familiar. We live next to the train line and for the first couple of months I awoke every morning at 2am in sheer terror of impending doom as a train hurtled past wrenching me out of my deep sleep. Two years on, I can’t remember the last time I heard that train… and so it is with branding. Some would argue that familiarity is the bedrock of perception; we associate this perception with a positive or negative experience based on association with an image, and this ultimately drives repeat purchase and economic growth (or not). The question is, does breaking the circle of familiarity unsettle the brand and business ecosystem? I think not – if it’s done right. In fact there’s a fine line between moving with the times to pique people’s interest and becoming stale and overly familiar. It needs to be subtle much like boiling up the frog in a pot of luke warm water.
We think we like familiarity, and yet when change comes along, we find it refreshing, invigorating. It catches our attention and we can fall in love all over again, as long as the essence is maintained. Most people are not even aware of this seduction, however, on a subconscious level they’re taking it all in. I’m a graphic designer so I’m constantly aware and judging branding all around me every day, I long for dated logos to be updated! This is called brand evolution and all the big names do it, MacDonald’s, Pepsi, Shell, Coke and Toyota to name a few, in fact Toyota used to be called ‘Toyoda’!
These companies aren’t silly, can you even imagine the cost of rebranding a big business like Telstra or KFC? …and yet it’s being done on a very regular basis, all around you, big dollars are being spent on getting your attention whilst maintaining your loyalty and commitment. Uniforms, signage, stationery, websites and a whole lot more upheaval and for what? for fickle creatures who want both familiarity and novelty simultaneously. We are being seduced over and over with something new, like a lover wearing a new perfume or a dress – everything we already liked..and now with a hint of mystery… oooh we might say, (we being a male), “Have you done something different with your hair?? I likey! You just got interesting all over again!” Conversely, you may have the partner who has accidentally gone overboard with a tattoo of a giant lobster on their neck… oooooh no likey. Noooo. Too much change, ooh, it’s Windows 10 all over again. No one likes Windows 10. You went too far, you spoiled it and I HATE YOU.
The bottom line is no business wants to be invisible and neither do we want to startle our beloved clients with a whole new look. Observe how the experts do it, via stealth, only eliciting the mildest of “why hello you, have you done something with your…”
If you have inadvertently dropped off the cliff into branding obscurity, contact me at www.sketch-ink.com to get your clients taking a second admiring look.