flux branding

Brand Naming

Brand Naming Header

Whether it’s your entire company or a new product, you don’t have a brand until you have a name. It’s a huge part of your first impression. A strong name can pique interest and cement your brand in the hearts and minds of consumers. Great names become so commonplace that we refer to everyday objects as brands– think asking for a Kleenex, looking for a Band-Aid, or Googling it. A bad name can push you to the back of the crowd, or worse, make you stand out for the wrong reasons. What makes a good name? And why should you put the energy into finding the right one?

Why Names Matter

Names and feelings are closely linked. The feelings associated with your name are part of the gut emotional response that defines your brand for your consumers, employees, and competitors. At Flux, we talk a lot about how branding is a process of emotional association. Great brands do more than offer us a product or service– they make us feel a certain way. Your name is an integral part of building the emotional atmosphere that draws people in and keeps them coming back for more.

That’s why functional names, though they may seem like an easy solution, are rarely a good idea. Functional names (think “Sneaker Solutions” for a shoe company) have no sticking power in a crowded market. The real goal in naming is to determine what story you wish to tell about your product (it’s faster, it’s more powerful, it’s easier to use) and then find a word that evokes it, without being predictable.

Straightforward labels don’t work their way into our subconscious, touching off the emotional resonances that provoke the desire to buy. Naming is a lyrical process, akin to writing an incredibly condensed poem. You want your name to bring up images, sounds, thoughts, and emotions that express your brand position– all with just one word.

Naming Guidelines

Because naming is poetic and emotional, it can be hard to pin down to an exact science. Still, there are some important basics that you should know before embarking on any naming project.

Keep it short

> Your name should be easy to remember. Short names have better sticking power.


> Your name should be easy to pronounce upon seeing it written, and should be easy to spell if heard. This is commonly known as the “Bar Test” – if someone overheard your name in a loud, crowded bar, could they easily understand it and spell it later?

> Letter sounds hold power. Combinations of vowels and consonants leave us with particular ideas, whether that’s ease, difficulty, sharpness, softness, or a whole other host of sensory impressions. “Swiffer” feels fast and easy, so much happier than the traditional mop. It plays on “sweep” and “swift.” It’s totally invented, and yet you know exactly what it means. Carefully combining sounds is key to creating a name with meaning.

Visual Look

> How do the letters look together? Are there elongated lines of b’s and p’s mirroring each other, are there repeating letters that could create a signature motif? Your name should lend itself easily to logos and other branded marks. A river in South America has nothing to do with eCommerce, but the linked “a” and “z” of the Amazon logo visually represents the everything store.

Trademarks and Encumbrances

> Trademarks are a deep well best handled by a specialized trademark attorney. But even before you look into licensed trademarks, it’s important to have a sense of general encumbrances. Is your name too close to a competitor, does it sound like another company in a different space, or is it too trendy and likely to sound dated in a short period of time? You want your name to be distinct and avoid any confusion when customers search for you.

Domains and Social

> Make sure you can get a solid domain for your name. If you can’t get an easy to spell and remember domain with your name in it, it’s out. Because your web presence is where the vast majority of your audience will discover and interact with your brand, a strong URL with your name is a key factor in building brand identity. It’s also important to ensure social handles across platforms are available as well.


> Importantly, does your name reflect your company’s reason for being? A name needs to feel true to who you are, rooted in your brand story. Your name is the tip of the iceberg, with strategy supporting it below the water.

Our Naming Process

Everything we do begins with getting to know who you are, what you do, and why. Our approach to naming starts with a deep dive workshop into what makes your company special. In the Ignite workshop, we get to the core of your philosophy, values, competitors, associations, audiences and more. We then distill that intelligence into a strategic position, core messages, visual identity, and a name that expresses it all at once. Check out some brands we’ve named:

The Sun Rose (music venue at the Pendry Hotel, Hollywood)
Respara (luxury apartment building in Los Angeles)
Poppy (vacation rentals company in Palm Springs)
Vana (cannabis product company)
The Mail Order District (26-acre development in Downtown LA)

Naming is a critical part of the branding process. From sound associations and pronunciation to trademarks and domains, finding a name that checks all the boxes while still being authentic to your offering is far from easy. In today’s crowded market, your name matters. If you’re ready to find yours, let’s talk >

What is Branding?

Brand_Basics Header_1

We’re getting down to basics. What is a brand? What is branding?

We’re in the business of communications. We know how powerful words can be– and how slippery. Even if we share the same language, we don’t always agree on the same meanings. That’s why we don’t take words at face value. We pick them up, look underneath, and check all their pockets.

“Branding” is a word that’s firmly placed in our everyday lexicon. But there’s a surprising lack of clarity about what it means. What is a brand and what is branding? Let’s break it down to basics.


What is a brand?

A Brand is not your logo.

> Brand is identity.

A brand is bigger than your logo, brand mark, or product. It includes those things, but it’s bigger than any one facet. Your brand is your identity. Your brand communicates who you are, what you believe, and why you do what you do through a combination of words, visuals, and actions.

It’s not just one campaign– it informs all campaigns and external communications. And it’s not solely for your customers. Your brand is also for your competitors, your employees, your suppliers, and anyone else who comes into contact with your business.

> A brand is more than the sum of its parts.

Think of your brand like a rose.

• Your logo, name, and campaign creative are the flowers– the most immediately visible part.

• The stems and leaves supporting the blooms are the entire identity system: core messages, tone of voice, colors, fonts, graphic styles, and visual feel.

• At the roots, anchoring it all together, is brand strategy. Strategy is the big idea– your core values, conceptual position, audiences, and personality.

It all works together. Take one of the parts away, and the brand can’t thrive.

> Brands are living, breathing organisms.

As a person, your identity isn’t static. It evolves as you get older, respond to challenges, or change environments. The same is true for your brand. As your company grows and your offerings expand, your brand needs to scale. It’s not that brands aren’t built to last– in fact, a strong brand is a long-term investment that should provide the very foundation on which to grow. But major changes, like a merger, new product launch, new strategic direction or reputation crisis can cause a healthy reassessment of your brand. Depending on the situation, that can range from minor changes to a full scale, back-to-the-drawing-board rebrand. Keeping a finger on the pulse of your brand and checking in for authenticity is crucial. If it isn’t resonating, it’s time to transform.


What is branding?

It’s not just about what you do for people. It’s really about how you make them feel.

> Branding is a process of emotional association.

Effective branding takes your big idea and distills it down, then ensures all communications are aligned with that core concept. It closes the gap between how you see yourself and how others see you. Branding communicates who you are on an intuitive, gut level, making your identity simple, clear, and unmissable. To resonate on this deep and immediate level, branding elevates products and services from things to feelings.

Branding is not only about what you do for people. It’s really about how you make them feel. As Vance Packard put it succinctly in 1957, “cosmetic manufacturers are not selling lanolin– they are selling hope. We no longer buy oranges, we buy vitality. We do not buy just an auto, we buy prestige.” That’s why strong brands find loyal audiences and command premium price points.

Branding creates a distinct atmosphere through visuals, messaging, and experience design. Engaging with the brand means entering into that atmosphere, resulting in a specific feeling that we crave to repeat. Building the atmosphere and engineering an emotional response is what branding is all about.

> Branding isn’t magic. It’s method.

Because strong brands resonate on an emotional, intuitive level rather than an intellectual one, the process of crafting them can seem almost mystical. How do you bring out a company’s true identity, then speak it in a way that’s simple, bold, and resonant with the most receptive people? It’s not a secret. Any brand agency worth their salt should have a proven process for revealing and refining your brand.

We use the word revealing intentionally– your brand isn’t invented. It’s a distillation and framing of all the components that are already there, which ensures it’s authentic to who you really are. At Flux, we use the IDEA Method to transform your brand in four core steps. Starting from the inside, we understand your company DNA, then create a set of strategic deliverables to turn big ideas into impactful realities.

> Branding drives marketing.

Your brand is the what and the why. Marketing is the how. Marketing gets your brand out into the world, attracting eyes and engineering engagement. But if your brand isn’t solid, exposure can’t be maximally effective. With a brand that’s unclear, a messaging strategy and visual language that’s inconsistent, it’s hard to convert those eyes into actual leads. Brand strategy and marketing strategy should work in tandem to ensure that you’re showing up in the world authentically and cohesively.


It takes just .05 seconds to make an impression. Are you making an impact?
If you’re ready to take your brand from now to next, >> get in touch.

Brand Methodology


Brand methodology
From the outside, branding can seem like mysterious magic.

An alchemical combination of strategy, visuals, and voice, the elements of a brand coalesce to form more than the sum of their parts. When it works, you know it. It resonates on an emotional level that elevates a transaction to an experience. Strong brands make it look effortless. Strong branding studios know it’s not easy.

Great brands aren’t crafted using sorcery or chance. They’re made using a trusted brand methodology.


What Is Brand Methodology?

Branding is a creative process structured within a proven methodology. Directionless creativity leads to chaos. Overly rigid processes lead to cookie-cutter results. It’s a delicate balance, and why choosing a branding partner with a tested brand methodology is critical to the success of your branding initiative.

Transforming your brand means taking a step into the unknown. The need for branding has shown you can’t stay where you are, but moving in any direction is inherently risky. An effective agency isn’t counting on luck. Your branding partner should have a proven set of practices and processes to chart the course from now to next. Methodology is the map that guides the journey.


The Flux Brand Methodology

After 20 years of building brands that last, we’ve developed a proven brand methodology for bringing brands to their full potential: the IDEA Method. It ensures we’re following best practices while also giving us room to customize and adapt for your particular needs. IDEA has 4 steps: Ignite + Distill + Energize + Activate.

1. Ignite -Brand discovery

IGNITE: Brand Discovery – The initial spark between you and Flux, we begin with a comprehensive look inside and outside of your company to establish a deep understanding of your business. Nobody knows your company and industry like you do, and we’re ready to be students. We stop, look, and listen to everything happening within your brand, employees, industry, customers, and competitors. This knowledge ensures our strategic direction is authentic and resonant with your company and your audiences.


2. Distill Brand Positioning

DISTILL: Brand Positioning – Where great brands set themselves apart and celebrate what makes them different. After our in-depth investigation of who you are and where you fit in the brand landscape, we refine our information into a unique brand position. The result is an internal strategic document that informs the visual tone and written personality of all external communications. It’s the first iteration of your brand and serves as a foundation upon which to build, acting as a guiding light that ensures consistency across branded materials.

3.Ignite - Brand identity

ENERGIZE: Brand Identity -The brain processes visual information first, so it’s essential that strategy informs design. Our creative team turns the strategic vision solidified in the previous step into visual brand characteristics including logo, colors, and corporate identity. We craft a look that clearly communicates your positioning and personality, creating a cohesive and memorable brand presence.

3.Activate Brand- Expression

ACTIVATE: Brand Expression -We leverage your new identity in communications and campaigns that build loyalty, prompt engagement and inspire action. In the previous steps we’ve perfected the story– but a story needs listeners. We create effective, bold communications and experiences that bring your brand to the world. Through ongoing collaboration, we are your partner across a broad range of printed, experiential and digital campaigns.

One Part Science. One Part Art.

Great branding isn’t the product of chance, it’s the result of thoughtful and strategic action. A solid brand methodology ensures that a branding initiative has all the right components to build long-lasting value.

Brand methodology is crucial. But a great system still needs a great creative team to run it. Methodology shows the way. It’s the explorers who forge the path. Flux is an international team of movers and shakers, ready to bring great brands through times of transformation. If you’re ready to bring your brand to the next level, we’re ready to guide you.



Curiosity in Branding:

Curiosity in Branding
Are you feeling curious? Read on to learn more.

What’s your brand identity? 
An explorer? A guide? A ruler? Are you a jester, a magician?

Brand engagement is the most effective way to forge customer loyalty and build mindshare in today’s crowded marketplace. The foundation is a strategic and authentic brand identity. Your brand identity informs your appearance, tastes, sensibility and perspective. When you express your identity with personality, it’s a natural and intuitive way to communicate it.

>We draw people into our personalities using feelings.

Do you make the people around you feel joyful? Adventurous? Comforted? Emotions are the fundamental tools we use to show who we are and why people should pay attention to us. They’re the expression of our identity.

Because brands communicate with people, they follow the same simple pattern of human interaction:

1. Develop a recognizable identity and personality
2. Leverage emotional influencers to engage the audience

Brand Identity: Who Are You

• Your brand identity is what ties together all branded materials, the cohesive through line that expresses who you are across platforms, the big idea and position. 

• Your personality is the outward expression of your brand identity: the tone of written copy and the feel of visual language. 

Emotional Influencers: How You Engage

• Just as humans use emotions to communicate their identities, brands use different emotional tactics to relate and connect to us. 

• But because brands want us to buy, return, and engage, they’re not just showing us who they are. They’re using emotions to influence our decisions. 

• Brands can use multiple emotional influencers, but identity remains constant. It’s like how your dominant personality traits might shift depending on context, but you’re always you. 

Successful brands have a deep understanding of their foundational identities and create emotional resonant campaigns that are in line with who they really are. By expressing identities through emotional strategies, brands communicate with us on a much deeper level, fueling engagement and inspiring action. They elevate a simple transaction to a memorable experience, forging a bond and enticing us to come back for more. 

This is the second installment in our series on the 12 Emotional Influencers of the Brand Feel Wheel. These influencers are the tactical tools that brands use to communicate brand identity, create emotional resonance, and convey how their offering aligns with achieving our deepest desires. Last month, we talked about how brands use joy to fuel engagement. This month, we’re talking about another universally powerful motivator: curiosity.

Curious to learn more? Keep reading to find out how brands hook our interest and reel us in. 

What is Curiosity

Curiosity is the desire to know or learn something. Humans by nature are curious– it’s part of what sets us apart from other animals. That means curiosity is a universal motivator, making it highly resonant with a huge audience. It’s also a powerful incentive for action– when we want to know, do or see something, we’ll go out of our way to satisfy our interest. If brands can pique our curiosity, we’ll keep coming back for as long as they can hold our attention.  

Though Adventure, Spirit or Safety brands can use curiosity effectively, it’s most closely associated with brands that base their identity in imagination. Imagination Brands create an atmosphere of possibility, novelty and change. Existing at the Discovery-Progressive intersection of the Perception Axes, they invite us to rethink our opinions, discover new experiences and create different realities. Because they disrupt the status quo, Imagination Brands are innovators, here to show us anything is possible. 

Curiosity is an effective tool to get people interested in something they’ve never seen before. Innovation, if not presented correctly, can breed suspicion and fear. Curiosity is a positive motivator that taps into our human need to understand. It brings a loyal audience that is receptive to finding better ways and new methods.  


How Brands make Us Curious

We’re overwhelmed by information and content. Because curiosity tickles our base drive to understand, it can effectively cut through the noise. Brands that use this motivator authentically and strategically have much to gain in a crowded marketplace. 

Brands that play on curiosity usually seek to satisfy our constant search for answers. They’ll take us to new places or expose us to new information. They pose themselves as bearers of knowledge who help us on our journey for whatever we’re looking for. There are several strategies that brands use to communicate curiosity, catching our attention and driving us to action. 


1. Bring Knowledge 

Google year in search

Strengths: Being seen as a brand for knowledge seekers inspires a loyal following. It’s a tactic that never goes out of style– people always want to know more. Being a bearer of knowledge makes a brand central to a consumer’s life, creating strong affinity. 

Challenges: Knowledge can be highly political. Not everyone agrees on what kind of knowledge should be available, presenting risk of alienation and fracture.

Example brands: TED, Google, PBS   


2. Inspire Wonder

National geographic magazine

Strengths: Wonder is often linked to surprise, beauty, and rarity. Brands that bring us into places we could never reach or reveal to us secrets we wouldn’t know without them are working with wonder. It’s a positive emotion, something that makes us feel special and widens our understanding, pushing us to come back again.

Challenges: Wonder can be a resource intensive tactic– not all brands can bring their audience into remote places or come out with something new every few years. It requires constant reinvention, as wonder fades quickly. 

Example Brands: National Geographic, SpaceX, Apple


3. Make it Mysterious


the most interesting man in the world

Strengths: Mystery is about obscuring part of the story and incorporating elements of surprise. Intriguing characters, teasers, surprise announcements, limited edition runs, and random prizes are highly effective at drumming up interest. Mystery engages us by giving us a purpose to figure it out. Our curiosity is hooked and we need to find out more. When the mystery is “solved”, we feel like a select group who “got it”. 

Challenges: Mystery is hard to do right. Brands can’t obscure too much– your audience still needs to understand who you are and what you do. Mystery also doesn’t work for all products: people typically don’t want mystery in their food or medicine, for example. 

Example Brands: Dos Equis, Supreme


SHould Your Brand Use Curiousity

Are you offering something new in the market? Are you opening doors or shifting the status quo? Do you create new experiences, forge new paths? If the answer is yes, curiosity should be in your communications toolkit. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to see from the inside if an emotional motivator is aligned with your identity. You know your brand better than anyone else, which means perspective can be a challenge. That’s why the right branding partner can be the key to uncovering your authentic identity. At Flux, we don’t invent– we discover. By digging deep into your business, competitors, vision and goals, we transform brands into who they were always meant to be.  

Curious about your true identity? Get in touch.

Joy Brands

How do brands use joy to resonate,  inspire and influence?
How do brands use joy to resonate,  inspire and influence?

Flux is a brand transformation studio. We take brands from now to next by crafting identities that catch eyes and touch hearts. Your brand identity is more than your logo. It’s more than descriptions of your offerings. Your identity is what connects your brand to your audience on a much deeper level.

When a brand has an authentic identity, we feel it.  

Strong brands make us laugh, make us cry. They tug at our heartstrings, light a spark in our minds. By playing on our emotions, they push us to engage and entice us to return. They draw us in the brand

After decades of branding for hundreds of clients, we’ve created a graphic representation of how brands use emotions to communicate their identities: it’s called the Brand Feel Wheel. Last year, we wrote a series of essays on the Feel Wheel and took a deep dive into the 4 different brand feels–  Safety, Spirit, Imagination and Adventure brands. This year, we’re focusing on the 12 Essential Influencers.  

• What: Each Feeling Quadrant has three emotional motivators that brands use to fuel engagement and inspire loyalty.

• How: The motivators are universally understood and immediately impactful. They are the tactical tools that communicate the overall brand feeling, whether Spirit, Adventure, Safety, Imagination.

• Why: Products and  services are elevated by associating them with achieving a desired emotional response, forging a powerful and memorable connection.

For January, we’re talking about joy. How do brands use joy to resonate,  inspire and influence? Read on to find out. 

Jump for Joy: Whats it all about title 

Joy: A feeling of great pleasure and happiness. 

Delight. Elation. Glee. We all need more joy in our lives. It’s what brings a smile to our face. It inspires contentment, optimism and confidence. It’s immediate, addictive and infectious. It makes us giggle, jump, dance. It’s the sunny side of things. When something brings us joy, we want to return to it again and again. 

Joy is a motivator used by Spirit brands. Spirit brands create an atmosphere of belonging, happiness, compassion and possibility.  They exist at the Traditional-Discovery intersection of the Perception Axes, meaning they take a traditional position while offering an exciting or somehow transformative experience. Often grounded in craft or history, these brands seek to help their followers discover new emotions and ideas to expand their lives. 

Joy communicates this sense of spirit. Think of lifting your spirits, but also that joy connects us to something bigger than ourselves. When we feel joy, we’re happy to be part of humanity. We are more likely to feel connected to ourselves and each other. The grass looks greener, the sky bluer. Nothing can rain on our parade. It changes our whole perspective, making us feel like we’re right where we’re supposed to be. 


Joy is an incredibly powerful motivator. It’s instantly gratifying, uncontroversial and universally desired. It doesn’t promise anything long term, but it’s a quick burst of positivity that we crave to get ourselves through the day. People want to feel good. They will gravitate towards brands that make them smile and willingly return for more.

How do brands communicate joy? Brand identity is a combination of visuals and voice. There are several strategies that brands use to bring joy. 

1. Make it Funny

Old Spice Campaign

> Strength: Humor is a shared experience between audience and brand, communicating personality, forging a connection and humanizing the company. 

> Weakness: Humor can backfire if it’s seen as snarky, exclusive or cringey. 

> Brands: Snickers, Dollar Shave Club, Old Spice

2. Pop of Color

Targe campaign Pop of color

> Strength: The brain processes visual information before words. Bold colors are a surefire way to brighten the moment.

> Weakness: Colors are one of the first things people recognize about your brand. Too many colors weakens brand presence. Bold colors are a powerful tool, but they must be used consistently and intentionally across communications. 

> Brands: Target, Coca Cola, Dunkin Donuts


3. Be Bubbly

old Navy Ad

> Strength: Joy is infectious. Brands with bubbly personalities that show their customers and employees as joyful will draw people in. They want to feel that happiness too.

> Weakness: Authenticity is key. Discerning consumers will be turned off by brands that over promise or that feel like they’re trying too hard. Make sure the joy you’re showing actually resonates with your offering.  

> Brands: Old Navy, Red Bull, Gap

Joy is an extremely effective motivator. It’s universally appealing, and brands that tap into it stand to forge lasting connections with an unlimited audience. But to be used to its full potential, joy must resonate with your brand personality. A clear sense of your identity– who you are, what you stand for and why you do what you do– is the foundation for determining the emotions that your brand should evoke. 

Are you serious and authoritative or playful and silly? Does your brand crack jokes or is your voice more subdued? Are you bright and loud or soft and neutral? No matter where your brand falls on the spectrum, there are powerful emotional motivators you can use to communicate with customers on a deeper level. We’ll talk about all of them in this series, so stay tuned. 

Deeply understanding who you are is the first step to creating a brand with emotional resonance. But it can be hard to look from within, which is why finding the right branding partner is critical. Flux specializes in seeing from new perspectives– we view both internal culture and external dynamics to reveal the authentic identity that will bring you maximum returns. 

Ready to take your brand to the next level? Let’s talk. 

Are Brands The Last Trusted Institutions?

Brand Belief
[Trust]—a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.


Who do you trust: Government? Science? Tesla?

Some institutions that were once commonly considered the bastions of trust and authority are currently being called into question. But trust in brands remains strong and steady.

 • According to Pew Research Center, public trust in the government has been steadily declining since 1958, and it’s currently at an all-time low.

 The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust in media is historically low across all information sources including search engines, traditional media and social platforms.  

Four automakers — Ford, Toyota, Tesla and BMW —  were rated higher in trust level among consumers 18 or older at the same time faith in institutions plummeted.

Pew graphic

Mistrust around the outcome of the 2020 election, mistrust in the police, mistrust of the vaccine– trust is on the forefront of our collective mind. Trust in traditional institutions is declining. But trust isn’t disappearing: brands are still trusted by the same consumers who question institutions.

As humans, we’re predisposed to trust. It’s the basis of our relationships. Without trust, we’re on our own. It’s what allows us to collaborate and exchange, to rely on our fellow citizens, specialists and organizations to get even the most basic things done. Trust is fundamental to our survival.

We trust that the organic produce is safe, instead of growing it ourselves. We trust our cars are made correctly by engineers instead of building them on our own. It begs the question– are brands the last place where we can all agree to put our trust? 


Trust and Belief


Asking the question, who do you trust brings up wildly different answers.  The variety stems from the fact that trust isn’t a rational decision. It’s rooted in what we believe. Belief is emotional and subjective, formed from your personal background, experiences, community and more. Objective facts aren’t enough to make you believe. But things that touch your feelings can earn trust fast.

Digital media is manipulating what people believe. While we are interpreting the things we see, hear and read according to our own personal experience, but we’re also now working from different information. There’s no longer a few trusted sources– social media has exploded the landscape. When you can find fact, opinion and fiction across your feed, it takes effort to thoroughly research what’s real and what’s not. 

What you decide to believe from the cacophony of voices depends, for most of us, on our own biases. Researchers have studied our decision making processes, and we all have cognitive biases that influence how we choose who and what to trust. Here are just a few:

1. Default to Truth The idea that our natural reaction to new information is to believe it. We innately want to trust– if we were sceptical of everything and everyone, we wouldn’t be able to live our lives. 

2. Confirmation Bias – Confirmation bias, also known as myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. You’re more likely to believe something you already agree with.

3. False Consensus Effect – People tend to think that their own beliefs and actions are common, while other people’s behaviors are more deviant or uncommon, regardless of what “side” they’re on.  

These biases long predate the digital era. But online communications and technology are magnifying them to an unprecedented degree. 


Seeing is no longer believing


We already have an innate tendency to favor information that supports our preconceptions and overestimate the commonality of our beliefs, but algorithms are changing the game. The algorithm shows you information that you’re more likely to be interested in based on your viewing history and the habits of your network. 

While it’s an effective tool for engagement, algorithms exploit our confirmation bias and the false consensus effect. 

We’re not only cherry picking  information that supports our beliefs– information we’re more likely to agree with is privileged in our search. 

We’re not just imagining consensus, but actually seeing more posts that agree with our views. No matter which side we take, we’re always right.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to change our beliefs, meaning trust is harder to earn.

On top of this, our pattern of defaulting to truth is becoming more and more complex. A recent 60 Minutes segment profiling the advancement of synthetic media makes this clear. So called “deep fakes” use machine learning technology to map the face of one person onto another. Combined with technology that recreates the speech patterns and tone of any human voice, the resulting videos are incredibly realistic. They show politicians and actors in places they’ve never been, speaking words they’ve never said. Ready to be spooked? Check out these viral videos of a deep fake Tom Cruise




Feel the Faith


The level of trust we place in traditional institutions like the state, experts and the media varies widely across the population. On the whole, it’s waning. Is there anything we still have faith in?

Think about buying a Porsche. If you buy a Porsche, you trust that it’s worth the money. You know that Porsche makes a great car. You would not  take your Porsche engine to a mechanic to get it verified, or interview the engineers and designers of the car to make sure it’s the real deal. You believe that Porsche will deliver on its promise. You trust the Porsche brand.

If we don’t believe a brand, we feel scammed. But when we do, something magic happens: we trust. Trust is the basis of the brand relationship and an incredibly powerful tool for building brand loyalty. Today, there are countless options for any sort of commodity or service we could desire. We’re always making choices of which brands we support. While price is certainly a factor, you might pay a little more for something from a brand you consider well-made, or ethical, or whatever else aligns with your beliefs. You choose the brand you trust. 

Brands build trust through a combination of 3 major strategies. 

1. Unity: Unlike the differing voices of news media and political factions, strong brands represent a united front. With a clear messaging strategy, brands state and reinforce who they are and what they stand for. But cohesive communications must be authentic in order to be believable. 

2. Responsibility: In order to sustain belief and keep trust, brands must deliver on their promises. The brand voice is two sided– it’s made up of both what the brand says and what consumers say about it. The audience must be in agreement that the brand really lives up to their claims. Brands must continually prove their value by keeping their word. 

3. Emotion: Trust isn’t wholly rational, it’s emotional. Brands play on our emotions to get us to believe. As we discussed in our previous six-part series on the Brand Feel Wheel, brands use emotional motivators to elevate our experience from a simple transaction to something much more memorable. By making us feel safe, free, excited, or any number of other emotions, they give us something that we’re seeking. It makes us believe in the power of the brand, building our trust by reliably provoking a desired response. 

But trust is delicate, even for the most globally recognized brands. Let’s consider a brand that’s had some trust issues in the past. In 2015, Volkswagen was found to have been fudging numbers on the emissions tests and putting “clean” cars on the market that were not up to federal standards. It was a huge scandal for a car maker who had centered their brand on safety, presenting themselves as the most rigorously tested vehicle– the one you could trust. Many wondered if the brand could ever recover. 


In 2021, the company revealed a major pivot: Volkswagen aims to be carbon neutral by 2050, with 50% of its offerings to be battery powered by 2030. They call this the “Way to Zero.”


the way to zero


The strategy takes sustainability, the very concept that broke trust in the brand in the past, and makes it the centerpiece of what Volkswagen is all about. It plays on all three major points of building brand trust: it’s a unified message, it contains a sense of responsibility and a clear promise, and it plays on our emotions, including our sense of ethics and fear of the future. 

Will this strategy work? If Volkswagen can deliver on what they say, it just might. Only time will tell. But that’s the wonder of trust. It can be broken, but it can also be rebuilt. 


Building Bonds


We’re divided on almost everything these days. We can’t agree on if we should trust the institutions that used to make up the foundation of our society. We’ve all got our own information and sources. It’s getting harder to be sure what’s real. 

But we still connect across brands. 

We trust that Coca-Cola will taste the same every time. That  Spotify will  have all the music we want and  that Amazon is the everything store. If we’re losing faith across sectors, it seems we’re not losing faith in brands. Trust is a strong bond, and one that should not be abused. Brands have power, which means they also have immense responsibilities. 


But that’s just our opinion. 

Do you trust us? 

Imagination Brands

Imagination Brands
Think your a free thinker? Think again. Learn the secrets of how Brands are influencing you  in Part 4 of the Brand Feel Wheel essay.

Brands are selling more than just products and services. They’re selling us states of being.

Brands create atmospheres through written and visual communication, playing on our hopes, dreams, and fears to make us care. When brands make us feel, brand interaction is elevated from a simple transaction to a memorable experience.

There’s a whole range of feelings that brands play on. Whether they thrill us, delight us, or inspire us, brands are carefully engineering a particular response. This month, we’re looking at brands that spark our imagination. What are Imagination Brands and how do they use emotions to draw us in?

Dare to Dream

Imagination: the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.

Imagination brands give a sense of possibility, novelty and change. They invite us to rethink our opinions, discover new experiences and create different realities. With imagination brands, anything is possible.

On the Brand Feel Wheel, the Imagination Quadrant exists on the Discovery-Progressive side of the Perception Axes. Brands in this quadrant provide a new experience with a progressive position.

>Imagination Brands offer novel products and services that forge new markets and new industries.
>They’re doing something never seen before or so different from the existing market landscape that it becomes a distinct category.
>Imagination Brands are progressive companies, seeking to disrupt the status quo. They don’t follow the pack. They ask us to imagine a different way, world or future– then show us how to make it real.

Because they combine the new with the progressive, Imagination Brands are often innovators.

>Innovators are companies that create new offerings, or rethink the very premises that their industries stand on to create an irrevocable shift.
>They are aligned with the disruptors in the Adventure Quadrant, but with a key difference. Disruptors take an existing, known experience and do it better. Innovators are first movers, mavericks. They’re giving us experiences we’ve never had before.
>Some famous Imagination Brands that have innovated the way we live, work and play: Apple, Google, Nike, Impossible Foods, Instagram, SpaceX, Peloton, DJI.

Bold Vision

Imagination Brands play on our dreams and desires. They ask us to rethink the possible, leading us into uncharted territory and new dimensions. They do this by tapping into three main emotional motivators: curiosity, lust, and enlightenment. When we engage with Imagination Brands, we’re engaging with a world of opportunity and novelty. It’s exciting, sexy, transformative.

Successful Imagination Brands correlate their product or service with achieving a desired feeling, providing an emotional incentive that proves much more powerful and memorable than the offering alone. Let’s look at three examples of campaigns created by Imagination Brands that play on these powerful emotions.

1. Curiosity: The Constant Search

What it is: The desire to know or learn something.

Why brands use it: Humans by nature are curious. It’s part of what sets us apart from other animals. It’s a universal motivator, making it highly effective. Curiosity is also a powerful incentive for action– when we want to know, do or see something, we’ll go out of our way to satisfy our interest. If brands can pique our curiosity, we’ll keep coming back for as long as they can hold our attention.

How to tap into it: Brands that play on curiosity usually seek to satisfy our constant search for answers. They’ll take us to new places or expose us to new information. They pose themselves as bearers of knowledge who help us on our journey for whatever we’re looking for.

Parisian Love search for Google


Brand: Google
Campaign: Parisian Love

Google has built their brand around the concept that information is powerful. When we have the tools to ask questions and access information, we can create a different, better world. Google’s tagline, “Search On,” is a brilliant idea that poses Google as our collaborator, our guide, and our champion in the pursuit of possibilities.

Their 2009 Superbowl ad “Parisian Love” showcased their use of curiosity as a motivator for brand engagement and loyalty. The ad tells the story of an American and Parisian falling in love told entirely through search questions, from “how to impress a French girl” to “how to assemble a crib.” The story tugs at our heartstrings, telling us that our curiosity is the driving force of experience. It poses Google as much more than a search tool– it’s how we make our dreams into reality.

2. Lust: Tap Into Your Deepest Desires

What it is: Having a strong desire for something or someone.

Why brands use it: Everyone knows the cliche “sex sells”. Because it taps into some of our most basic human desires, lust is an incredibly powerful motivator. Often playing with taboo and rebellion, brands that use lust are usually very memorable. It’s a way to make a big impression.

How to tap into it:  Brands using lust typically promise us a kind of transformation. Engaging with their product or service will render us more desirable, helping us fulfill our true potential. But lust can be controversial. Brands must recognize the risks and use this motivator in a way that resonates with their audience.

Axe campaign


Brand: Axe
Campaign: The New Axe Effect

The men’s fragrance company Axe has undergone a major rebrand in the last few years. Axe became known initially as a brand that was all about lust. Their early ads showed “The Axe Effect,” in which beautiful women were unstoppably attracted to average looking guys once they sprayed themselves with Axe. It sold a dream of transformation to their audience– use this perfume and women will find you irresistible.

But times have changed. Axe has repositioned themselves as a much progressive company, one that’s about desire in all its forms.  “We’re a brand that’s all about attraction,” they write on the website. “We know that we didn’t always get it right in the past, but we are trying to move on from that. It’s pretty simple really: We believe in inclusivity, mutuality and progress.” The newest campaign, “The New Axe Effect,” shows this updated direction. After using Axe body spray, a guy enters into a dream world in which men, women, and animals fall in love with him. The psychedelic trip communicates that using Axe opens up a new world of possibilities where life is full of attraction.

3. Enlightenment: Change Your Mind

What it is: The action or state of having achieved knowledge or insight.
Why brands use it:   Brands using enlightenment are often trying to change preconceptions or dispel culturally ingrained notions. Because they are bringing audiences over to their side, they offer a sense that people who are aligned with them are special and in the know. Enlightenment can thus inspire deep brand loyalty.
How to tap into it: Brands using enlightenment typically position themselves as answers to complicated questions by looking at a problem in a totally new way. They use elements of surprise to make us rethink our judgements and biases.

Impossible Burger Campaign


Brand: Impossible Foods
Campaign: We Are Meat

Impossible Foods is on a mission to rethink the meat industry as we know it. Committed to being just as good as real meat, they want to change the way we eat to save the planet. From their name– Impossible Foods– to their tagline “meat made from plants,” you know right away this is something you’ve never seen before.

Impossible has built a brand that’s totally distinct in the plant-based protein market. Their whole idea is that they’re as good as meat. Not just for vegetarians, they’re trying to change the minds of die-hard meat lovers. Their recent campaign “We Are Meat” features close up shots of Impossible burger patties, with a narrator talking about how delicious meat is. The concept is that once meat lovers taste it, they’ll change their preconceived notions about where meat comes from. With Impossible, meat comes from plants. It’s sold as such an enlightening experience that it piques your interest, drawing in a much wider audience.

The Power of Feeling

The Brand Feel Wheel by Flux BrandingImagination brands are one of the 4 primary feel quadrants. Other brands use different emotional triggers to inspire a sense of spirit, adventure or safety.

After decades of branding for hundreds of clients, we’ve created a graphic representation of how brands use emotions to make their way into our hearts and minds.

We call it the Brand Feel Wheel. Locating brands on the wheel allows us to take a deep look at how today’s most influential companies are shaping our consciousness.

The most influential brands are able to communicate more than the goods they’re selling. They’re offering us something far less tangible and yet much more powerful: a feeling. They play into our base human desires, influencing our every move.

All brands have the potential to resonate on this deeper level. But it requires a clear understanding of who you are, what you believe and what you represent. Locating your brand on the Feel Wheel helps you draw out these big ideas, providing a rich set of emotions that can be used to inspire loyalty, action and memorability. Next month we’ll explore another Feeling Quadrant and dive deeper in the brand.

Are you an Imagination Brand? We’d love to find out.

In The Brand


In the Brand
Objects themselves rarely transform us. Instead, it’s brands themselves working a kind of special alchemy.

Brands are influencing you. They’re consistently making appeals to your emotions using subconscious suggestions. It could be considered coercion, but in reality it’s a win-win for both the brand and the believer who buys, shares and loves it.

Does wearing a new pair of Addidas make you feel confident?
Does buying the latest iPhone make you feel empowered? 

Objects themselves rarely transform us. Instead, it’s brands themselves working a kind of special alchemy. Branding turns objects into feelings. But brands don’t just tell us how we should feel about their products or services— they help us confirm how we feel about ourselves.

How do brands delicately tickle your fancy?
Where does your deep belief in brands come from?

Companies who are successful at branding are achieving levels of business success that were unimaginable to the prior generation. Let’s explore the secret behind today’s most powerful global businesses. They’re communicating brands on a level deeper than words– they’re speaking directly to your heart.

Brands make their way inside you. Let’s make our way inside the brand.

The Brand Feel-Wheel

The Feel-Wheel is a visual representation of how brands function. It begins with your sense of perception. Brands position themselves using the basic human need to understand. They force you to react with a feeling, which helps make it memorable. When there’s an associated feeling with your brand experience, it aids in forming habitual, repeated emotional reactions. This is how long-term brand loyalty is forged.

The Brand Feel Wheel Graphic

The Brand Feel-Wheel is a graphic illustration of the kinds of feelings that brands tap into, and what that means for who they are and the experience they promise.

Customers make two subconscious, initial judgements. These are represented by the horizontal and vertical axis. They define how brands are perceived using a four-quadrant analysis.

• The horizontal axis represents where a brand falls on a range of traditional to progressive. Is the brand conservative or pushing boundaries?

• The vertical axis refers to the brand offering. Is the offering something known and familiar, or something new to discover?

The four quadrants represent the core brand positions. All brands exist in a realm, one that we’re brought into with strategic written and visual communications.

– Progressive-discovery brands inspire a sense of imagination.

– Progressive-known brands inspire a sense of adventure.

– Traditional-known brands inspire a sense of safety.

– Traditional-discovery brands inspire a sense of spirituality.

Each quadrant has three emotional triggers that brands tap to ensure they are understood. These pluck the heartstrings of their audience and make their position clear. Complimentary triggers across the wheel are used to sharpen the distinction and increase persuasion.

Brands strategically embed emotional triggers to ensure that a targeted audience perceives them the same way. This “emotional engineering” improves a brand’s ability to consistently generate a predetermined reaction. It’s how brands lead a community of like-minded, devoted fans who instantly consider anything they suggest.

Knowing where you are on the Brand Feel-Wheel can help you individuate the emotion that your brand speaks to. Brands are complex and evolving organisms, and yours may have more than one feeling associated with it. Clarification of your brand’s emotional driver is what guides and shapes your story. It’s what separates companies from brands.

Manipulation vs. Mind Control

Vance Packard image

Branding as emotional manipulation is not a new idea. Way back in 1957, Vance Packard published his landmark book The Hidden Persuaders about the use of psychology in the advertising industry. Packard showed how successful companies use themes, symbols and stories to create meaning for consumers. These stories appeal to our driving motivations, promising to fulfill a deep emotional desire.

Packard realized that the result of the post-WWII economic boom was that people were no longer buying out of necessity or rationality. They began to consume based on feeling.

• In a crowded market of similar offerings, it’s not about what product works the best.

• Instead, market dominance is the result of what product tells the most impactful story.

Packard sums it up succinctly:

Cosmetic manufacturers are not selling lanolin– they are selling hope. We no longer buy oranges, we buy vitality. We do not buy just an auto, we buy prestige.”

We buy based on feeling. It’s the brand that keeps us coming back for more.

Whats the Narrative?

Branding is just another evolution of the oldest art form on earth: storytelling. Branding is about finding the story that’s authentic, honest and relevant to who you are and who you speak to.

But words are fickle. While we may speak a common language, we don’t all share the same understanding. Powerful branding transcends the world of words and enters into the realm of meaning and feeling– the universal language that rests on the tip of our tongues and in the recesses of our brains. Brands that tap into feeling can tell their whole story in a few bold words and intentional visual cues. They resonate with us. It’s a sudden and impactful connection. It feels like magic.

Narratives relay information, but the right narrative makes you feel something. It can inspire action. Ghost stories make you turn on the light to find safety. A sad story might inspire you to take an adventure and lend a helping hand to someone in need.

Great brands rely on storytelling. They draw you in and make you believe by:

1. Playing into instinct: resonate with emotions so deep that their driving force in our lives is subconscious.

2. Provoking a reaction: add drama to narratives that speak directly to passionate desires and motivations.

3. Inspiring urgency: elevate the story with lessons that make it imperative for the listener to take action.

Brands Brighter Side

Packard wrote The Hidden Persuaders to warn the public: brands are watching and controlling us. He was highly suspicious of human psychology in advertising. But emotional branding isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it could be the beginning.

When brands appeal to emotions, they make meaningful statements about who they are and what they believe. They enter into communication with their audiences– the brand tells a tale, but it needs believing listeners to exist. If the story doesn’t feel real, the spell is broken. Brands must be authentic in order to tap into our inner desires.

Uncovering that authenticity and speaking it clearly is a challenge. It requires creativity, innovation and imagination. It gives companies a purpose and holds them accountable to deliver on their promises. The result is meaningful, memorable communication. Brands that make you think, make you feel, make you move. They change our minds, tickle our senses and leave us wanting more.

Staying in the Brand

Brands aren’t going away– the power of digital communications are allowing brands to become more ubiquitous. We’re surrounded by messaging on every platform. It’s unavoidable. If we have to be bombarded by it all the time, I’d rather be bombarded by messaging that sparks my curiosity and tugs at my heartstrings. I’d rather live in a world of colors, inspiration and feeling. I’d rather live in the brand.

Are you in the brand?
>We’d love to find out

The Powerful Nature of Brand Archetypes

The biggest companies in the world make their brands more attractive and understandable by using brand archetypes to inform their brand identity.

Have you ever been instinctively drawn to a brand, without really knowing why? Turns out there’s science behind it. You might remember a campaign after 10 or 20 years: not because you rushed out to “buy”, but because the whole experience made you laugh, relate, cry, think. We remember a brand because of how it makes us feel.

What are brand archetypes?

Archetypes help us to understand the intrinsic meaning of product categories and consequently help marketers create enduring brand identity that can establish market dominance, evoke and deliver meaning to customers, and inspire customer loyalty. – Carol Pearson & Margaret Mark, The Hero and the Outlaw

The concept of the archetype has its roots in psychology and storytelling.

Appealing to the subconscious, archetypes bypass the intellectual mind and produce a feeling that lingers, organically leading the consumer to feel a sense of loyalty.

In doing this, they’re a kind of bridge that can connect the conscious and subconscious.

Here are the famous people who developed this concept originally:

    • Sigmond Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis introduced the concept of the subconscious mind. His work suggests that behaviors are influenced by our innermost thoughts.
    • Carl Jung advanced Freud’s concept into the collective subconscious, where shared experiences reside. His work suggests the idea of universal archetypes.
    • Joseph Campbell integrated human experience through mythology. His work points to a universal journey we use as a metaphor for storytelling.

Brands based in archetypes are “felt” because they somehow manage to get into our minds and hearts and stay there.

Why are brand archetypes such powerful tools?

Like psychologists and storytellers, in branding we study human nature, asking core questions like:

    • What messages will reach them?
    • How do people think?
    • What resonates?
    • What moves them to take action?

Although great branding is expressed through things like ad copy, logos, and jingles— the magic really lies in a carefully crafted strategy that paves the path to simple, bold, and consistent messaging. Brand archetypes provide a reliable framework for instilling meaningful concepts that are universally understood.

1. Archetypes Prevent Brand Inconsistencies

When it comes to branding, attitude and personality are more powerful than product information. Building a strong brand relies on strong opinions that resonate with your targeted audiences. Your brand identity must be confident and non-apologetic, because brands take stands.

Aligning with a brand archetype helps ensure that you have a:

    • Consistent tone in your marketing activities
    • Personality which appeals to your target market
    • Clear purpose
    • Consistent framework for communications and campaigns
    • Unified set of objectives for creatives and marketers

Brand archetypes also prevent constant reinvention which can distract your audience and throw them off-course, where they’re likely to drift over to a competitor.

2. Archetypes Enhance Brand Trust

Strong brand recognition isn’t just about logos. The most powerful brands are known without words: Almost everyone would recognize brands like Nike and Mac because they maintain their personality. It is this level of recognition that forms the basis for a brand story and values the whole journey people will take from initial awareness to loyal customers.

Brands that align clearly with an archetype reflect the aspirations and sentiments of certain types of people. This supports market segmentation and targeting a specific niche. Familiarity with iconic legends evokes memorable, emotional reactions. This bypasses the intellect and appeals to the subconscious.

Traditionally, marketing sought to understand audiences by demographics. But with increasingly complex communications systems and extensive profiling data, it’s evolved into psychographics and ethnographics— the realm of cognitive orientation.

Brand archetypes help us engineer a predictable reaction with our target audiences.

12 Universal Archetypes

Learning about the 12 universal brand archetypes will give you a framework for establishing a brand’s position.

Freedom Motivated Archetypes Yearn for Paradise

1. The Innocent archetype is rooted in safety, security, optimism, goodness, youth. Their motto is “Free to be you and me.”
Examples: Dove

2. The Sage believes in knowledge, insight, thoughts, and the mind. Their motto is “The truth will set you free.”
Example: Google

3. The Explorer yearns for travel risk discovery freedom. Their motto: “Don’t fence me in.”
Example: Jeep

Ego-Motivated Archetypes Want to Leave Their Mark on the World

4. The Rebel craves freedom and liberation. Their motto: “Rules are made to be broken.”
Example: Harley Davidson

5. The Magician believes in the power to create almost anything, with the motto “I make things happen.”
Example: Disney

6. A Hero will triumph, no matter what kind of adversity they face. Their motto: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Example: Nike

Socially Motivated Archetypes Yearn to Connect With Others

7. The Lover craves romance, sex, intimacy, and only has eyes for that. Their motto is “You’re the only one.”
Example: Chanel

8. The Jester wants fun, pleasure, and lives for the day. They’re funny, too, with the motto: “You only live once.”
Example: Ben & Jerry’s

9. The Citizen is down to earth, appreciates the simple thing, craves belonging. They believe in humility and equality.
Example: Home Depot

Order Motivated Archetypes Provide Structure to the World

10. The Ruler believes in the best-of-the-best. They want control, and seek to make order out of chaos, and believes “Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
Example: Mercedes-Benz

11. The Caregiver leads a life of service, with the motto “love thy neighbor.”
Example: UNICEF

12. The Creator is a dreamer, builder, innovator, artist. They believe that “if you can imagine it, it can be done.”
Example: LEGO

Which archetype reflects your brand?

Even if you’ve never thought about it before, there is certainly a brand archetype for your business, or you might have a combination of the two. If you think about the brand archetypes, and likely you’ll find the ones that reflect your company’s spirit.

For us, we identify with the Explorer and Creator archetypes at Flux Branding. We lead clients through times of change by helping reveal their true brilliance. It’s a passionate dream that we’re constantly innovating and building. Our brand archetype reminds us of who we are, and helps keep us consistent in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

But how does this translate to actual business? Well, it’s only the first step.

The most important rule is that your brand archetype must be authentic to your core business principles: your mission, values, purpose. Those should never change, and neight should the archetypical foundation of your brand.

It isn’t always easy, but when it’s done properly it’s the basis for establishing deep and long-lasting customer loyalty.

Great Branding Takes Thought and Strategy

Learning about brand archetypes can help you gain traction against your competitors.

Take the time to understand how your agency works before jumping in with both feet.

Once you leap, trust the experts you’ve selected.

We’ll help you learn about your own brand archetype. Contact us to discover the possibilities.

Suggested Reading

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams
Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion
Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces
Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
Caroline Myss, Sacred Contracts
Carol Pearson & Margaret Mark, The Hero and the Outlaw
Clotaire Rapille, The Culture Code
Tom Kelly, The Ten Faces of Innovation
Edith Hamilton, Mythology
Clarissa Pinkola Este, Women Who Run with the Wolves
Bruce Tallman, Archetypes for Spiritual Direction
Margaret Pott Hartwell & Joshua Chen, Archetypes in Branding
Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you:

Home is a Feeling (So is Your Real Estate Brand)
Habits & Rituals: The Holy Grail of Branding (Part 2)
Clarity Between Cycles

This article was originally published in 2019 but has been updated in 2020.