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.