How brands can communicate effectively in the era of consumer overstimulation
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In this article, a special focus will be on a brand asset called fluent device. After reading this article, you will be able to answer the following questions: What are fluent devices? How effective are they compared to other brand assets, and what are possible use cases?
A few decades ago, without the influence of online marketing, the main channels for advertising were TV, radio, newspapers, and billboards generating a few hundred brand impressions every day. Today consumers are exposed to thousands of brand impressions each and every single day, but most are not actively perceived at all. In a nutshell, consumers are being exposed to more brands on more channels. It's a real battle for the consumer's attention. Therefore, it is essential to know the effectiveness of the different brand assets that can be used in the long term.
What are fluent devices, and how effective are they?
Definition by System 1:
"A fictitious character or characters (humans or creatures) created by the brand and used as the primary vehicle for the drama in more than one ad across a campaign."
Fluent devices are more than just a brand mascot and more flexible than distinctive assets like the logo or the font. They are repeating, long-term assets in the communication of a brand and, as such, are not limited only to advertising but also used for websites, social media, etc. A fluent device creates familiarity and memory structures in the brain that can be more easily recalled. This, in turn, leads to better recognition and more positive emotions. However, it's more than just an "appearance" - it drives brand creativity, as fluent devices offer the potential to evolve with a brand's style and story.
A market study conducted in 2020 (1) analyzed over 2000 campaign videos to understand the relationship between effectiveness and the presence of brand elements. The videos were played to the target audience (potential customers) before the official campaign launch. Competing content, including audio, was played in parallel to simulate realistic conditions. Based on neutral images, subjects were later asked to confirm whether they recognized the advertising and, if so, which brand it was.
The results of the research clearly show that a fluent device (brand figure) or an acoustic logo (sonic branding) drastically increases the probability of brand recognition compared to other brand assets.
Another study analyzed the outcome of all IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) campaigns since 1998 and compared the campaign performances if they used fluent devices or not. Overall, less than 10% of ads in the UK and US feature fluent devices. This figure is similar to the results from the above-mentioned study, where 14% of the ads used fluent devices. The study results show that by using fluent devices, a brand can grow in a sustainable way over the long term (2) (3):
- Increases the likelihood of market share growth by 32 % and profit growth by 31 % compared to other campaigns
- The likelihood of new customer acquisition is 28% higher, and price sensitivity is 15% lower
- Boosts emotion and share of voice by 12% and spontaneous brand recall by 9%
How to use fluent devices?
As an element that repeats across visuals and drives creativity each time, fluent devices have endless application possibilities. But before we start to think about how to use it, we need to change the question from how to where. Initially, we need to define places in the visual communication where we can work with fluent devices. This is the starting point where we can think about how we can use it and what we want to achieve with that.
A good example of how to utilize fluent devices is one of our latest projects for Websupport. The goal of this “tech” company is to incorporate easiness into their communication. Therefore we created a simple and friendly mascot called Cary Webson.
Three important aspects to consider on how to use fluent devices in your communication.
- As a first impression
Places of the first impression of a brand are the places where you can use fluent devices very effectively. Not just TV commercials, but also the website, important headers, strategic banners, online/offline multichannel campaigns.
- As a guide
Fluent devices can be used in every level of your communication. It doesn't mean that your website should be plastered with fluent devices. Use them strategically as a guide for places like FAQ subpage, product details, hiring information, etc. Your mascot can be there as a lighthouse and, thanks to his visuality, can help remember useful information of the brand itself.
- As a fragment
Fluent devices are not just about using the whole composition all along. Usually, fluent devices have many valuable details that can be applied fragmentally. For Cary Webson we can, for example, use a close-up of the ears as an allegory to "hearing" something important. Or details of the hand as a thumb's up in a circular composition can bring a lot of meaning. Using fragments of the fluent device is an effective and refreshing approach to enrich your communication.
Case Study Video Websupport:
Don't forget that your fluent device is not just a nice image or something that will make you smile. It's a visual tool to be used, for instance, as a supporter of your business arguments. That means the fluent device or its iteration must support the meaning of your copy text and so on. Watch the case study of the commercial TV campaign.
Other fluent devices made by GoBigname
GoBigname created a distinctive and digital-ready brand with an available .com domain for one of the e-commerce leaders in army wear, ArmyMarket. ArmyMarket outgrew its category and not only wanted to reach just army wear enthusiasts but also launch their own fashion collections. Another reason for the new brand name is that there are too many army shops on the market, and customers had problems differentiating the brands. Performance and direct mailing campaigns became more and more expensive. Together with the new brand name, we also introduced distinctive assets for consistent communication - a new mascot and a unique, stylish camouflage pattern.
We focused on creating a brand name with the character already in mind. Looking at funky, shiny, playful, and colorful competitors, we chose the opposite way with evocating the "good old days". We made a wordplay of Sigmund Freud with Zigmundo, a sympathetic philosopher who contemplates the taste of the most gourmet popcorn with original statements and quotes. The Zigmundo name is unique, registrable, has an available .com domain, and still sounds familiar. Thanks to this name, the brand has a custom mascot for long-term effectiveness.
Prezuvky.sk (slippers.sk) is a name that limits the variety of products available. Furthermore, it is weakly differentiated, difficult to remember, and does not particularly work well in foreign markets. The new name is an internationally known neoplasm that became the name of the new boy mascot. The mascot differentiates the brand and brings consistency to the communication. And what's best? You are not only able to sell just shoes but anything you want and grow to new markets!
The effectiveness of brand assets in communication differs greatly. This article aspired to provide you with information that will help you decide on which brand assets to invest in next. Fluent devices are effective brand assets that can evolve in the long term and drive the brand's creativity. However, an important prerequisite is that the brand has a solid visual foundation. Without a creative expression, even the best positioning is ineffective.
- Ipsos - Creative Excellence Video Ad meta-analysis, 2'015 USA cases
- System1 Analysis - All IPA long-term campaigns since 1998
- Les Binet and Peter Field - Media in Focus IPA presentation