BUILDING A TRADE IDENTITY: 1 – Trade Identity and Trade Dress Outlined

This is an area in which all us small guys can take an object lesson from the Corporations.  The Corporations take TRADE IDENTITY to levels of a fine art form. Any one of them taken at random – go to a website now – and you will not see one hair out of place. Down to the last comma and final question-mark; all will be hunkydory.  And if not, should you spot a blip or a smutch, let them know and heads will roll in their Web  Marketing Teams.

For the likes of us and for the Big Boys the game is the same; pay minute attention to the fine detail so that in the aggregate the monolithic whole is a homogenous but organic presentation of the Company image, (involving and including its logos, stated mission and corporate vision).

Danny Devito as Maras Wilson’s father in the movie of Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’ (a movie by the way which surpasses the novel it is based on) sells secondhand cars and is an out and out crook.  But he makes good money at it – and he explains why he does:

I say appearance is 9/10 of the law. People don’t buy a car, they buy me – which is why personally I take such pride in my appearance. Well-oiled hair, clean shave, snappy suit.’

It is a commonplace in advertising circles to affirm that consumers often are not buying a product or a service so much as buying the ‘dream’ or the ‘lifestyle’ which the advertising of the product trades in and conjures in a typical buyer’s imagination.

Corporations carry this ‘dream factory’ image-making to the nth degree. They call it creating and nurturing a CORPORATE IDENTITY.  A CORPORATE IDENTITY done properly works inside the organisation every bit as effectively as it does outside it; on TVs and billboard hoardings and in showrooms.  The Company ‘line’ is sold to its employees as hard as it is promoted in the marketplace; although it may well be nuanced differently so as to incentivise and energise its workforce.

However, in this initial article on TRADE IDENTITY I want to trace quickly and on the surface the concepts of BRANDING and TRADE DRESS. These concepts are related to TRADE IDENTITY – they are two of its key components.

BRANDING is the Company logo usually incorporating a TRADE MARK or MARKS, which are able to be registered at government offices in most nations and trading blocs, so as to allow it monopoly protection in law against theft and unfair duplications of it.  BRANDING is considered by many BigWigs in industry and commerce to comprise the Chief Capital Asset of a Company or a Corporation.

Here below are the TOP TWELVE Brands for 2014 with their estimated $US billions valuations:

Each of the twelve logos is instantly recognisable to us; as if we were indoctrinated in their habit. And this is where the money is made from – by them being kept repeatedly in our minds like an imprint.

The grey apple with the bite out of it does not stand alone – behind it is a whole composite universe. Likewise for the Google mark and the Coke mark, and the others.  A major part of this composite universe is that the apple and the golden arches and the four-coloured square each signify very precisely what is being marketed by their companies. They are each, in the terms Trademark people use to describe Brand logos, Badges of Origin. They stand for a consistency of quality, and of technical specification, of functionality and appearance; and as a guarantee of aftersales and other as standard service packages.

The monolithic Trade Identities of the Companies (Corporations) behind these logos, and supporting the products and services they head-up, act as context and background in the same way as, say, a novel’s main narrative and plot subsists upon a fully built-up-with-detail world-picture sufficient to present to us, when read, as if a ‘real life’ experience.

The essence of Branding, of Trade Identity, and of Trade Dress, is consistency, self-consistency, so that everything which is capable of being duplicated exactly when placing the advertising, the marketing, the website and the paper goods, leaflets, hoardings, in whichever and every place they appear on public display – does never deviate nor contradict itself and is utterly word-perfect and conforms with itself.

The overarching aim in all this is to give an impression of perfection to their publics; leading on to an implicit assumption in our minds being suggested that these organisations do not make mistakes.

One might scoff and knowingly say – ah! of course they mess up, who are they kidding – but the power that resides in this meticulous, gigantic and even tyrannical effort to maintain a squeaky clean Trade Identity is not lost on the guys who demand this image of pristine purity from their huge marketing teams. They know well how we humans work – that we are suggestible and able to be awed and wowed and dazzled by so much conscious and deliberate intricate care and attention to detail

Our unconscious minds respond almost against our conscious wills in the ways the Boardrooms of the Corporations want them to.  We are very often prostrate before such an outright and demonstrative expression of power.  It is akin to standing at the foot of the Flatiron Building or in London The Shard, and being unable to help ourselves feeling their statements of ‘We are the Champions!’

Just a word about Trade Dress before this first article comes to a close.  When one buys a well-known popular Branded product there comes with it packaging. Often the packaging is elaborate and it is obvious that much time and some considerable effort and money has gone into presenting the product for sale in this way. There will be a colour scheme, an arrangement of designs and fonts and logos, shapes and angles, and endorsements and quality markers and star ratings and so on; all consistently identical on the whole Brand product run – it is the monolith in little.   Much of the Trade Dress – for this is what this rigmarole is – will tap into the general Trade Identity of the Company and its Brand(s) and reverberate against these, sending reminders and prompts to our passive receptive neurons, for synapses of association to occur to us.

Thus the power of the whole organisational entity is fed into and able to be released by each individual item of product.  Thus the importance of self-consistency in Trade Dress.

Like The Shard and the Flatiron Building, Corporate Identity and its monolithic homogeneity right down to the very finest last detail; are emblems of tyranny. They state openly and brashly where the money is; who the powerful are; what the strong are capable of.  We are like straw before them and we acquiesce as if to a Dagon or a Baal when the thunders and lightnings shake the firmament and we run to our caves for shelter.

That is how it is. Well, it is half the story, and the lesser half.  There is hope elsewhere.

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