The renaissance brands are desperate for
The desire to be different is strong among the world’s changemakers and innovators. Always has been. But right now, we’re at a point in history where innovation has lost its heart. Brands have no soul. And we are drowning in a sea of sameness.
How can a product, place or experience stand out when it seems like it’s all been done, and redone? In our age of accelerated invention, ‘better’ has become synonymous with ‘faster’ and ‘cheaper.’ What was once cutting edge feels cookie cutter and boring.
As we have in prior ages of revival, the time for revolution is upon us. And it starts with transforming how we approach transformation. It’s no longer enough to desire differentiation. Brands that truly want to be extraordinary must reawaken to what desire itself is. What makes the human heart want?
Hint: It is not a science. It’s an art.
Businesses are in a mass identity crisis
According to a McKinsey poll, 84% of global executives said innovation was extremely important for business growth, yet 94% were dissatisfied with their own performance. Today, in the sea of sameness, many brands, service and products approach innovation the same way. Take packaging. An alarming majority of “trend-setting” brands just copied the packaging style Apple created back in the nineties. They communicate and advertise the same way. Only their logos are different.
At the same time, the global market is oversaturated by brands. We have created so many brands that sell the same product under a different name. What’s missing is a truly unique identity. The difference that makes them desirable.
And here, I think, is why: Over the last half a century, we mastered technological progress, discovered cheaper materials, faster manufacturing processes. But we forgot about the beauty, the touch and feel. It’s not only about the glory of materials but the originality and uniqueness of the product, service and brand behind it. It’s so apparent in fashion, automotive and the hospitality industry, this lack of character and individuality. Imagine if someone removed all the logos and branding from a mid-luxury hotel – would you be able to perceive a difference? Could you tell where you are staying?
Same question for high-end restaurants. They’re expected to have fantastic food and beverages, service and decor, but what else are they doing to elevate the experience? Where is the storytelling? Personality? Tableaux and mise en scene? How about the modern cities – the so-called new destinations? We no longer build landmarks! Where is today’s Eiffel Tower? Trevi Fountain? Duomo? And don’t get me started about the great fashion houses. They used to have a history, their own identity and character. Yves St. Laurent was always Yves St. Laurent. Chanel was always Chanel. Yet now they are all so uniform, pedestrian. Yves and Christian Dior would cry if they saw the current state of their offspring.
Clients who understand this identity crisis constantly ask me how they can truly stand out. “Lukas,” they beg, “Can you make our brand cool?” They know they need that intangible ‘it’ factor. Charisma. An essence. So the desire to change is there. But the way forward isn’t to just keep changing for the sake of newness. We have to restore soul and feeling to innovation design. Add back in the magic and beauty.
In a sea of same, beauty always wins.
The art of brand desire
Oscar Wilde said, “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.”
This truth is where I and my team of momenstcaping designers live and play. This is our passion. Creating art of the unexpected to dramatically differentiate brands, spaces and places. It’s all about elevating our everyday experiences. To make people feel. Desire. Obsess.
I’m fascinated by the Aesthetic movement of the 1870s, led by Wilde and other changemakers who were bored by the bad taste and poor quality of Victorian design. Aestheticism sought to beautify ordinary objects, elevating our experience of them through quality craftmanship and design. This movement inspired artists, designers, makers and manufacturers. Styles from around the world were adopted and combined in new and original ways, resulting in genre defying forms and unexpected creations.
It has always been art, talent and passion that usher in the extraordinary. The art of design. Culinary arts. The performing arts.
All throughout history, artists have changed the ordinary and mundane for the better, all fueled by passion. From the Renaissance to Art Nouveau and Art Deco. These movements pushed for beauty, innovation and art, bringing radical change! Their essence, philosophy and style influenced product design, decorative design, fine art and architecture.
Barcelona is all about Gaudi. Louis Vuitton designed beautiful trunks. Italian architect Ettore Sottsass dared to rethink the boring black typewriter, designing a red one he named “Valentine.” Later, this would influence Steve Jobs to bring style and passion to IT.
The next evolution of experience design
In the last 50 years, everything has gotten stiff and grey again. We are focused too much on technology and functionality. Buildings are towering monstrosities of glass, aluminum and concrete. Phones and computers all look and feel the same, fashion is fast, eating is quick. We can ship products in a few hours and can have 1,000 stores worldwide, but we forgot about the essence, the touch, the craft, talent and beauty!
But a new movement is finally underfoot. And my studio is thrilled to be leading the charge.
We are wildly passionate aesthetic innovators, spatial storytellers and impact creators. We are working with some of the world’s premiere hospitality, tourism and retail trendsetters, designing moments of extraordinary impact, making brands sought after and sexy, giving them the right charisma.
It’s the next revolution in brand experience, bringing the differentiation that is so desperately needed. Harkening back to the desire and emotion that have always been at the forefront of the human experience. And the creativity and art that evoke it.
We’re ushering in a renaissance of cool. And the world will be beautiful again.