What is a Smashable Brand?
Maybe you’ve heard of it? If you haven’t, the idea behind the concept of “smashable” is relatively simple: if your product was to be smashed, shredded, broken apart into one-hundred, one-thousand, ten-thousand pieces, would a consumer still know that the product was your brand? The origin of this concept comes from none other than Coca-Cola in 1915.
Martin Lindstrom, the creator of the smashable brand theory, says that nowadays brands have to be more than just logos:
But when it comes to brand identity these days, it’s about a lot more than the logo. What’s far more important than any one particular image is the entire sensory experience that your brand conveys…Whether you’re selling soda, toys, electronics or cars, your brand needs to be smashable – that is, instantly identifiable by its very essence — with or without its logo.
Build a Smashable Digital Brand? Yeah Right.
In terms of more traditional marketing, especially in today’s global market place, creating a smashable brand is a pretty tall task. In terms of the digital marketing? It’s impossible to create a smashable brand digitally, right? Like successfully discovering Sasquatch in your backyard,
Logos? They’re just as easily passed over on websites and digital media; strip them out, and chances are you’d never be able to ascertain what site you’re on. Content is re-purposed, stretched, torn, obliterated, and re-combined pixel-by-pixel, character-by-character; images enter Photoshop as one brand’s idea and leave as a another brand’s take on it. Video is just as malleable too. There isn’t anything digitally that can’t be rewired and distributed as one’s own on the web.
Even with all that, even with odds stacked immeasurably against you, there is a way to create a smashable digital brand.
The Three Cornerstones to Create a Smashable Digital Brand
When I think of what constitutes a “smashable” digital brand, there are a few that come instantly to mind: Google, Twitter, Facebook, and The Onion. These brands utilize at least two of the three cornerstones to create a smashable digital brand.
Creating A Powerful Design
It’s no secret the web is renown for mimicry. Just go through the list: infinite scroll, parallax, clean-over-abundant-white-space designs, etc. If it works once, and has sexy-factor, then you can bet within a couple of weeks it will be ubiquitous. All anyone really remembers is the “first-mover” and the “done-better”; everything in between blurs.
What really matters, in my opinion, is creating an appealing color scheme (whatever it my be) and exploiting it, expanding it, and weaving it throughout the design. Make those color combinations yours. Make the color scheme work toward imprinting on users/consumers and triggering recall of the brand.
Google is a perfect example with it’s Crayola-primary-color scheme. If you’re honest, anytime you see those four primary colors in combination with one another (red, yellow, green, blue), you think GOOGLE.
Sleek and Efficient UX
Finding a way to help users find the information they’re looking for and achieve their tasks painlessly, efficiently, and with as little effort as possible is at a premium. User Experience (UX) certainly is the new darling of the web world and for good reason: when your site is smooth, accessible, and easy, users are happy and apt to spread that happiness to their social circles.
A great UX usually lends itself to a great CX (customer experience). And, brands with good UX see more conversions and throughput of goals (whatever those may be).
Twitter, Facebook, and Google have brought UX to the forefront, understanding how users navigate their sites and how they interact through data and goal completions. You could strip nearly all the design from these three sites and still know exactly what site you’re using and how to use it.
If your site has that level of impact, then you know you’ve got something smashable; you’ve got something that has laid a new foundation for how the web should work.
Build A Tone, Voice, and Opinion No One Can Copy
As a brand it’s the easier (and legally safer) play to be monochromatic and monotone. Your brand’s voice sounds just like everyone else’s: deal-driven-saturated, faux-joyful, and bland as a piece of white paper. Is it any wonder almost every brand’s content is like watching the peripheral as you whip by at 65 MPH: you can’t see it, you barely remember it was there at all, and there is a faint aroma of bullshit in the air.
Building a strong brand voice, tone, and opinion is as lasting a marker as anything else. It’s not about shock; it’s about strength and confidence.
The Onion is a perfect example of smashable digital content. No one could scrape The Onion’s content, mangle and rearrange it, and pass it off as their own voice. You’d know the tone and voice anywhere. Now not every brand is The Onion, I realize that. It’s the essence of the idea: create content with an opinion, voice, and tone that is distinctly yours.
A Smashable Digital Brand Isn’t Out of Reach
If your digital brand can do at least two of these three things, then it’s moving toward smashable. It won’t happen overnight, and might not even happen in the next year. But everything you can do to move toward creating a color scheme that outlasts a logo, building great UX and CX, and finding a brand voice all your own, is a step in the right direction. Go be smashable.