To explain its vision, it is not always useful for a brand to say something, if it knows how to show it instead. In an era of consumer distrust, an excess of justification can – contrary to the desired effect – actually weaken the brand image or cause it to stagnate. The goal is for the brand vision to not only be expressed in the denoted language, a language of words and phrases. Connotation, which appeals to the intuition of the consumer, is both complementary and indispensable.
Connotative language serves the visibility of the brand. For, whether it’s in a store face-to-face with the product, on a website or in front of an advertisement, the consumer who is looking is not necessarily analyzing. Faced with the multiplicity of messages that are continuously received, it is crucial to succeed in making the consumer understand the information, without his actually having to read it and consider it. In fact, the overdone aspect of disclosure reveals the lack of clarity of the message: since there is none, we “add on” to compensate. La Laitière could have developed a prolific lexicon around the values of naturalness, tradition and trust that form the basis of its approach … but they quite simply just put their yogurt in a glass jar! Thus, an economy of words allows for the deployment of a more universal language, one that is immediately appropriated.
Thanks to its multiple meanings, connotation gives depth to the concepts and the vision of the brand. While the superimposition of verbal information creates a repetitious effect, layering connotative signs is the epitome of a rich and varied meaning. To connote, or imply, is to ensure that each graphic element expresses a dimension of the concept, combining itself with other elements to form a single reality. So, let’s take the example of the lozenge package by Fisherman’s Friend. What has been verbally indicated on the package, besides the name and the flavor? Nothing else. Still, in seeing and touching this little pack, it is much more than a simple peppermint that the consumer is accessing. The packaging, from the white color, in stiff aluminum and paper, to the incised side details, gives a unique personality to the product, by embodying its naturalness, its raw authenticity.
This naturalness is both amplified and explained through association with a graphic design in lettercase, straight and bold: it implies a strong, powerful nature. Through the ship logo, the consumer is invited to experience an adventure in taste that is “dangerous” and intense. This notion is also emphasized in the varied version and its stripe pattern. The ensemble of packaging seems thus to silently scream: “HERE IS THE EXTREME LOZENGE!”. For each symbol, there is a corresponding feeling that increasingly enhances the brand concept. In this way, it is the consumer experience as a whole which is growing. The taste adventure of the lozenge, therefore, will have started long before opening the package. Thus, via connotation, a brand is not content to merely show its vision to the consumer; it creates the opportunity to experience the vision in all its richness.
Connotation is therefore the fundamental tool to create a special relationship with the consumer. Instead of capturing the consumer and imposing upon him a way of thinking in words, the brand shows and suggests; and builds a more free, authentic exchange. How was McDonald’s able to win its bold gamble of subscribing to the green trend? Quite simply, by first going through all the connotations: transforming its Fast Food red to green, introducing natural materials like wood and stone in its restaurants … connotation disperses the consumer’s mistrust because it imposes nothing on him. No generic moralizing on issues of ecology, no green contract, no verbs. Just an impression, a feeling of “Hey look, McDonald’s went green…” For this polysemous brand, each support serves to express one of its dimensions, without ever becoming exhaustive: corporate communications on complicit familiarity, mega-gourmet product posters, maxi-intensive products posters, commercials illustrating the CSR approach, a recyclable Happy Meal box etc…
Thus each incarnation of the brand must be accompanied by a reflection of its message. Prioritizing, selecting the information, determining what should be said, and what should be shown, makes room to not only be understood by the consumer, but above all to be loved, by offering a rich and universal experience. Because the intelligence of the content serves the intelligence of the relationship, it is through connotation that attachment is created.
Jérôme Lanoy, CEO.