I was intrigued to read about Pixar’s ‘Luxo ball’ at the weekend. Originally a prop in a short film (Luxo Jr) it has made subtle guest appearances in many of the studio’s subsequent hit films. From the obvious such as Toy Story, to the hidden where it appears as a merit badge in Up.
So far, so nerdy, and what has this got to do with commercial design and branding? Well, once upon a time there was packaging and advertising, some of which was ‘long running’. Now we have the rather more grandiose concepts of ‘brand worlds’, ‘brand narratives’ and suchlike. I think a litmus test for how resolved such worlds are is if symbols can be seeded throughout them in the way Pixar plays with its own universe (the Planet Pizza van is another recurring motif).
But the real measure of a brand world’s success will be when such activity is actually appreciated and enjoyed by the audience, in the way that it is for brands such as Pixar. Against this benchmark I think brand worlds have some distance yet to travel. And I’m not so sure audiences will ever want to engage with brand communication to the same degree they do with pure entertainment. Still, in the digital age, where all the edges are blurring and it’s easier to offer richer ‘brand experiences’, I guess the potential for having more fun is there.
Sorry for all the speech marks in this post, but personally I can’t write ‘brand narratives’ without mentally adding ironic air quotes. Anyway, again from Disney, here is another example of symbols being hidden, seemingly for the hell of it: the ‘hidden Mickeys’ at Disney World….