We are looking for more magic, mystery and fantasy in our lives and branding is finding its new mission to provide it. Consumers are bored and disillusioned with reality and the rational sell. Function has gone as far as it can. As designer Jaime Hayon says, ‘It’s no longer enough for a product to be of good quality, it must also have a narrative. The narrative takes you to another world.’ In the emerging Fantasy age, storytelling is the new currency and the role of brands and culture will be to make our fantasy worlds a reality.
In his forthcoming book, Next Generation, Rolf Jensen suggests that we are living in an age when dreams themselves become the products consumers most covet. ‘We live in a fantasy world and we need to make products to fill it,’ says Jensen. ‘Fantasy products may never materialise in the real world. It could be robot milk, a computer game or a concept car. The product is a by-product of a fantasy.’
The idea is not to create a fantasy brand, but to invent a fantasy world through which a brand can tell its story. The architects of our imaginations, the Zaha Hadids, Steven Spielbergs and JK Rowlings, will have an integral role to play in this new era of fantasy branding.
Rendering of the Macau Pavilion, Shanghai, by Carlos Marreiros Architects. Whilst rational adult thinking may consider this nonsense, a child-like imagination would find the sense and wonder in a gigantic bunny-shaped building.
Dan Hon, CEO of Six to Start, a cross-platform entertainment and augmented reality game (ARG) company agrees with this theory. ‘Harry Potter is a great example. It’s JK’s [Rowling] story. But in her world there are some amazing sweets and a company out there [Mars] has thought – let’s actually make these sweets. It’s making fantasy a reality.’
Product designer and inventor Freddie Yauner uses play, narrative and nonsense to take everyday objects to another level. His products include the world’s highest-popping toaster, fastest clock and longest lipstick.
‘Product design is becoming more narrative based, more about beautiful nonsense,’ he says. ‘My tutor [at the Royal College of Art] said the toaster was stupid and funny. I said, Isn’t that nice? We have everything we need today. Therefore, you need a reason to make stuff. The narrative is the reason. Fantasy gives added value.’
Freddie Yauner is the creator and breaker of the world’s highest-popping toaster.
Yauner says he would hate for his products to be mass-produced because they are a critique on consumer excess. ‘The point of Fantasy branding is breaking the monotony,’ he says. ‘It is a criticism and appreciation of what we have. These products break you from the consumer cycle and take you to an idle space, a fantasy world.’
‘The ability to dream, to spot what might otherwise be hidden, and to innovate to create what previously could only be imagined, will increasingly separate the winners and the losers,’ says Scott Anthony, author of The Silver Lining: An Innovation Playbook for Uncertain Times.
Museum in a Shoebox is a web-based project by a Swedish artist and architect, Kristina Dalberg. It presents real and imaginary works by real and imaginary artists, “blurring the line between fact and fiction.”
Fantasy branding promises to change the way we think about innovation and unleash it throughout a business. ‘Businesses have a very rational, top-down way of thinking that may not understand how wild and unpredictable R&D is,’ says Richard Bronk, author of The Romantic Economist: Imagination in Economics. ‘We need more imaginative leaps from our leaders. Blue-sky thinking shouldn’t be compartmentalised to product development but applied to businesses as a whole.’ Brands should therefore start employing people with the skills for creating new market universes and fantasy worlds.
‘I see it coming from the storytelling industries: books, movies, TV,’ says Jensen. ‘Many reality TV shows already work in this way – they are creating new universes.’
Artist Scott Musgrove has just published a book about extinct animals that only exist in his imagination.
Weird and wonderful cross-cultural collaboration should therefore be considered, he says. ‘Imagine Kraft employing Steven Spielberg to invent a new universe for macaroni and cheese!’
The commercial age has gone as far as it can. In the Fantasy era, where we trade in stories and dreams, consumers and brands will be defined by their imagination. Consumers are ready for extraordinary, unique, impossible things.
Sarah’s Blog; Dreamtelligence, The Future Laboratory