Increasingly, as the world around us is getting de-starched, I see a profusion of what I would like to call “wink brands” in the services domain.
The services domain is essentially a way-too-serious playground where brands are stiff, formal and starched. These are “stone-faced brands”.
Almost every bank. Many hotel chains. Nearly every airline. All of these have carefully architected images. Not a hair out of place. Windsor knot ties. You get the drift, don’t you?
“Wink brands” are quasi-casual, fun brands. They smile and wink at you rather than have their nose a tad raised in the air. Make no mistake. Wink brands aren’t relaxed, tardy, inefficient brands. It’s just that they don’t take themselves way too seriously.
Globally, the world is full of “wink brands”. The first, in my serving memory, was Virgin. It turned the frumpiness of travel on its head. Where brands would offer limo drops, Virgin offered motorcycles. Atrociously cool.
Standard Chartered in India was the first, and to this date, the only bank that launched a wink brand: it was a cool credit card called Manhattan. It sank without a trace. But I loved it. It demonstrated great courage on the bank’s part and was evidently ahead of the curve at that time.
Barista was another wink brand. The posters in the outlets, the attitude of the staff was all informal yet engaging. As are IndiGo and Vivanta by Taj.
I would also include Vodafone in this category. It has remarkably constructed a cool image for itself. Steeped in a certain casual panache.
Online, the coolest wink brand is unarguably Brown Paper Bag. It has a personality that is pesky while being richly resourceful: www.bpbweekend.com
Social media has relaxed us a lot. It has allowed us to have unfettered conversations. The ‘share’ button, in my estimation, has allowed us all to share many very private details of our lives with a lot more people.
As the world puts up its feet, my guess is that the breed of “wink brands” — ;) — will only proliferate.
And can change categories.
(Swapan Seth is CEO, Equus Red Cell)