The Trichrome Project

welcome to the trichrome project blog, which documents the progress of the trichrome animation series, including research, artwork and news.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

brand identity: the key to success

Top secret sources reveal four crucial points for creating a strong, successful brand without the use of the usual mass-media channels. I, however, am a mere animator, destined never to play a deciding role in managing any brand whatsoever. So I will approach these points from the perspective of, indeed, a mere animator. What can animation do for brands?

1. "Let brand strategy drive business strategy."

This basically means that the philosophy of the brand should penetrate the entire structure of the business, all the way up to the CEO. Exciting as this may sound, animation has nothing to do with this, so on to the next point -

2. "Clarify the brand's identity."

This means: figure out what your brand stands for and stick to it. Don't change your strategy! Benetton's controversial campaign is still famous today and raised a lot of awareness about the existence of the clothing brand, but apparently it also destroyed sales. Why? Because it conflicted with Benetton's previous campaign which was all about colors, tolerance, multiculturalism and positivity. Apparently customers were all psyched and excited for more positivity when they were suddenly bombarded with depressing imagery about problems of the world - a real turn-off.

How can animation help to form brand identiy? First of all, it is a medium well-seasoned in transferring a large amount of information in a short period of time. Seeing as the process is tedious and very un-spontaneous, every frame requiring manipulation to the last detail, animators have no choice but to be economical about transferring meaning to an audience, and tend to do so in very poetic and inventive ways. Second of all, the style of an animation can be manipulated into practically anything you want, especially nowadays. Therefore, very easy for reaching out to your target audience by using recognizable imagery and styles.

3. "Brand exposure creates visibility."

Being seen is important for a brand. Beyond the obvious fact that people will know the brand exists, apparently studies have shown that people tend to like 'visible' and well-exposed brands more, even if they haven't even used the products. How to do this without mass-media venues? Sponsor events and get involved in anything that can make your brand seen by the right people.

Animation is a medium that has a huge amount of venues. Besides television, there's also cinemas, festivals, and of course the internet. Don't underestimate what the internet has done for animation. Community sites like youtube and newgrounds are saturated with amateur animation, a phenomenon made possible with the accessibility of animation tools nowadays. Consider the new genre of brickfilms or (less compelling) flash animation. On the other hand there are festivals and enthusiasts who seek out quality animation that can be considered "art." And then there's of course the cartoon genre, with a target audience ranging from little kids to teenagers and adults.

These are audiences that Coca-Cola and Prada tapped into with Happiness Factory and Trembled Blossoms. Happiness Factory was for more of a mainstream audience, but it did all it could to reach out to every last little corner of that mainstream audience with flash games, msn games, contests, merchandise, etc etc. Trembled Blossoms leaned a bit more in the direction of 'high art' enthusiasts (who don't know anything about animation and therefore take no notice of the crappy motion capturing in the film). Both films seeked out potential clients in venues outside of television.

4. "Involve the customer in brand building experiences."

A must-do for today's web 2.0 age. Even Prada took note of this and organized a music score contest for Trembled Blossoms on the internet. Coca-cola took this concept to extremes and arranged so many participatory events accross the globe that I don't even want to start naming them because it's slightly nauseating. But before Happiness Factory, Coca-Cola made the wise move of being the Oympics' first official sponsor in 1928.

Speaking of Coca-Cola, it's difficult to speak of 'brand building experiences' in reference to a company that's been around forever and practically defines the concept of brand identity. The name coca-cola is enough brand identity for this famous drink that by the way is what I need to get through a normal school day. Even so, coca-cola finds ways to get people excited about the brand: they have a 'heritage' section on their website which includes a list of all of their slogans throughout history. The only one I really remember is 'always coca-cola' with the polar bears. Which by the way included animation! YAY ANIMATION!!

One last fact: As it turns out, the first animation made for advertising purposes was a short. Logical since TV didn't really exist in 1899.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

new workspace!

My workspace at school is a classroom that I share with three other students. However, none of us have used the space much lately and when I worked at school yesterday it was just lonely and DEPRESSING here. So today I took a bunch of decorative junk I had lying around in my room and brought some life back into my workspace! Check it out:

Note the awesome James Jean and Happiness Factory inspiration wall. Woohoo! Let's hope this means more productivity in the coming months.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

animation and advertising

It's been a while, and after a few meetings and rounds of feedback the time has come to seriously get started on the research paper. If things go according to plan I'll be finished with the bulk of my paper by the end of this month, so I have my work cut out for me.

Since the paper will be addressing the question: "What is the added value of using animated shorts as a medium for advertising," the best way to begin would be to look into the relationship between animation and advertising. Why is animation utilized to begin with? And what would make a company take the step of investing into an entire animated short, something I can assume is a relatively expensive decision, to promote their product? Why would an animated short achieve a positive effect?

The good old days

It's not a hard question to answer seeing as there's such an abundance of animation in advertising, since 1899 in fact. Since the good old days it has been an ideal tool for bringing mascots to life and presenting products with a bit of humor and style. Not all of these commercials were necessarily intended for kids, but more often than not they had a goofy and playful tone. A quick look at the highly entertaining vintage TV commercials YouTube channel brings some interesting examples to light:

The snickers and tic tac commercials actually from some pretty interesting parallels with the 'animated shorts as promotion' phenomenon, since they sort of mimic complete stories in a highly shortened and compressed form. They are both short little stories with settings and characters, plus a beginning, middle and end with a small dramatic build-up. They obviously exploit an already-existing fondness for animation and try to build an association between this and the product. The huge difference with the animated shorts I'm looking at is, of course, that mine are actually animated shorts and not TV spots.

So it's obvious that animation and advertising make a pretty good pair. The flexibility of animation makes it perfect for promotion purposes. You can bring anything to life, and tell any story you want. Back in the good old days, this was limited to 2D animation so they were all based on cartoony illustration styles, perhaps for budget reasons but perhaps also because this was very accessible to audiences. Nowadays, animation techniques are so broad that the average person probably can't even tell if it's being used. 9 out of 10 car commercials feature a meticulously modelled 3D version of the car rather than a filmed one.

This could account for the equally broad application of animation styles in advertising today. Although the cartoony, sketchy animated commercials are far from dead - I feel like I've been watching the same Red Bull commercial my entire life - I can also enjoy tons of other approaches as well. Or not enjoy - never underestimate the abundance of animated eye-sores during commercial breaks.

Animation vs. Animated Shorts

So it's obvious: animation is well suited to advertising needs. To go one small step further: how are animated shorts well suited to advertising needs? One might say "the exact same way that animation in general is suited to advertising needs," but there's a huge difference between animated shorts and animated TV spots: the venues for viewing them are completely different. Airing a commercial on TV is a common and widely embraced form of promotion, but a full animated short must be displayed elsewhere, requiring a lot of promotion in order for it to get the same amount of exposure as a TV spot.

Other differences? An animated short goes much more in-depth. The story and style are generally much more developed and the production process is much more complicated and lengthy. Happiness Factory is an especially fitting example of this - the gigantic range of characters, the large and epic settings, the huge variety of narrative potential. Trembled Blossoms also takes much more time to tell a story than a TV spot could, which is a crucial aspect of the short.

I guess that's the reason I find the whole thing interesting enough to write a paper about. Apparently there are opportunities for commercial animators to find work that lies somewhere between working on large projects, like features, and small projects like TV spots, that are also challenging and require some critical thinking. That is, if you're so lucky (or talented) to land one of these projects in your career! Fortunately I get to invent my own project, haha. By the way, I've been talking to teachers of mine about the possibility of getting a big company to work with me on this project and help direct the creative process of the animated short I will create, which would be an interesting challenge. Updates soon to follow about how that will work out...