There are many factors that go into creating a widely recognized brand. Without design consistency however, this can never be achieved. On a recent trip to visit family in Cincinnati, Ohio, my then two-and-a-half-year-old son, Teigan, crafted a perfect case study on the matter.
A few days into our trip, my father-in-law came home with a new car. Not just any car, a white, 2015 Porsche Boxster S. Being one of the most stylized car brands in the world, the new Porsche quickly became one of Teigan’s favorite rides. What I thought was simple excitement of something new showing up, and the fascination of seeing a car with, “no-roof” as he proclaimed, turned out to be much more than that. Little did we know, Teigan was building brand recognition and becoming a fan of the Porsche brand.
A week or so had gone by since the new car arrived, and my wife and I had taken the kids to visit the local Aquarium. Just as any major attraction, we arrived to a packed parking lot, filled with cars of all makes, sizes, and colors. While pushing the kids through the lot in their stroller, my son yells out, “daddy look, this car same like Tim’s.” Yes, he calls both of his Grandpa’s by their first names. As I started to look around for what caught his eye, I initially looked for a white car, maybe a two-door sports car, or a convertible. Something with what I would classify as obvious similarities to the white Porsche Boxster. After seeing no cars with any of these qualities, I asked Teigan to point out the car that sparked his interest. To my surprise he points directly at a dark blue Porsche Panamera. For anyone not familiar with the Porsche lineup, the Panamera is considered a full-size, four-door luxury sedan. A completely different class then Tim’s white convertible roadster. Being caught off guard to my son’s brand recognition, I had to clarify if there was something to this or if it was just a random coincidence. I asked him why the car looked like Grandpa Tim’s. His answer, “same logo daddy.” Wow, a two-year-old with a small but growing vocabulary was already speaking a visual language and experiencing brand recognition through of the Porsche logo.
Considering the car’s were complete opposite in size, color and class, I figured the my son’s recognition of Porsche rested solely with the logo. Sure, I can distinguish the design consistency across the Porsche lineup, but could a toddler? Back home in San Diego, I was out on an evening run with Teigan in-tow when he shouts yet again, “daddy look, this car same like Tim’s.” Seeing his little finger pointing towards the road and the car that was flying by us, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Not a Boxster, not a Panamera, but a Porsche Cayenne, their SUV! Keep in mind the Cayenne was zooming by at about 50mph, so clearly it was not the Porsche logo that caught his eye, but the Porsche styling. I was stunned, and immediately sent a text to Grandpa Tim sharing the news that Teigan was officially a Porsche enthusiast.
Without design consistency across the Porsche brand, the Boxster, Panamera, and Cayenne would have been just any old cars to Teigan. But because of the unique, highly stylized design qualities that Porsche carriers across their model line up, Teigan was able to build a strong brand recognition and a particular liking to Porsche. What started with an interest in a single model, the Boxster S, lead to his appreciation of the Porsche logo, and ultimately to his attraction and understanding of the visual qualities across the Porsche lineup. Thus creating brand recognition based solely on design consistency alone.
So, what does this mean to brands and designers looking to create a widely recognized brand? It’s rather simple. Create a style, a look-and-feel, and apply it with strict guidelines across all touch points. And if a toddler can distinguish your products as part of the same family, there’s no doubt your target audience will as well.