how to | stop looking for your voice

When talking about personal branding and career planning, a lot of articles centre around the idea of ‘finding your voice’. As if, like the little mermaid, we had a clear and beautiful voice and then lost it in our pursuit of something else. I see definite value in looking back at your past, but it seems like a fairy tale to expect to find a  perfectly worded mission statement by looking only at your past. So, I decided instead to look at the drivers of successful design and successful business plans.


Designs and businesses concepts I enjoy most have an important factor in common: they solve a problem. Not necessarily world peace, but effective design or businesses often make something easier or enable us to carry out something new. So, when thinking branding or about career planning, why not ask yourself the same question: what problem are you solving?

So it starts with finding the problem. If you don’t know the problem, you surely don’t know the solution. At the What Design Can Do conference (Amsterdam, 2014), city brander Willy Wong’s number one advice was: always reframe the assignment. In other words, start with identifying and understanding the real problem.

So, what problem am I trying to solve here at Think Create Innovate?


Right now I am finishing my master degree in marketing and economics. I love researching and thinking about branding on both an academic and a practical level. However, I have found that a lot of articles treat branding as an island: a special form of marketing that has its own special rules. I don’t think that’s the case. For me, branding is about connecting the dots that already exist: culture, business, the environment. Branding connects the dots in new ways to tell a story  made up of components that were there all along. Hence, inspiration for branding, marketing and new business ventures should be sought in all kinds of places. That’s what TCI is about. Look, I even put it in a little mission statement!


What problem are you solving in your career?

perfectly branded | Shiseido Eye Color Bar


Sometimes I bump into products that are so cleverly designed to support a brand concept, it seems marketing textbook-worthy. Hence, I can’t help but analyse it from a classical marketing perspective: using the 4 P’s.

Shiseido has already won prizes for the luxury feel of their packaging but for his holiday season they are also showing their playful side with the Shiseido Eye Color Bar.

Product |Eye Colour Bar

Shiseido’s first 9-color eye shadow pallet, this product signifies something new. The product is launched as a playful pallet with the names of the eye shadows referencing alcoholic drinks – perfect for making cocktails. The bottom right shadow is the only one with a  non-alcoholic name: soda. Then again, club soda is the perfect filler for any good cocktail. The playful names and on-trend colours fit with the innovative and lively nature of Shiseido’s head make-up artist Dick Page.

Place / timing |Holiday season

The holiday season is an excellent moment to launch a luxury make-up item that matches fall trends in fashion. The general increase in social events will be a reason for many consumers to ‘allow’ themselves to buy a luxury item. The names of the eye shadows playfully remind the consumer of this social calendar as well.

Price |€37,90

This price fits with the general pricing strategy of Shiseido and underlines that it is a luxury brand.

Promotion |Limited edition

Publicising the color bar as a limited edition may help it attain a cult-status.

perfectly branded | hema

hema tompouce luchtbed

Sometimes I bump into products that are so cleverly designed to support a brand concept, it seems marketing textbook-worthy. Hence, I can’t help but analyse it from a classical marketing perspective: using the 4 P’s.

Product | inflatable tompouce

An inflatable matrass designed to look like a classic Hema ‘tompouce’ (a pastry). It fits with the brand because it is a cute reference to an icon and the humour behind it also reflects the Hema’s design personality.

Place | summer

Ok, so technically not a place but timing, this product is launched for the summer. Excellent timing, because it’s typically a summer product.

Price | 5 euros

The price is high enough to hint at some form of quality, but low enough to buy as a joke or gimmick.  Furthermore, the price is typically ‘Hema’ because it is a rounded price – not 4,99 but 5 euros. Simple, easy & honest.

Promotion | store window display

The inflatable matrass is a prominent feature of the store windows. Clever, because the product design and price remind people of the most important Hema brand qualities: good design for a good price. The window display marketing also works because the price and humour of the product lend itself to make an impulse purchase!

how to brand | royalty

how to brand royalty

Today the Netherlands is in orange-mania with the inauguration of the new king Willem-Alexander I and his queen Maxima. Monarchy may seem like an antiquated institution, but the press surrounding various royal events (William and Kate’s wedding in 2011, Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee in 2012) show that there is still a place for it in modern society. Perhaps one of the reasons for the relative success of these old institutions is the modern way in which they represent themselves: the royals have become more than a family, they have become a brand.

A strong brand identity

A strong royal brand has a clear visual identity and clear principles for which it stands. Where the Windsor brand is strengthened by the strong graphics of the British flag, the Dutch royal family has a strong colour that is associated to them: orange! The ex-queen of the Netherlands, Princess Beatrix, has also strengthened the Orange brand by appearing as an icon herself. Her hairstyle, designed by Alexandre de Paris in the 1960s, is consistent and iconic and helps create a powerful appearance. The consistency in her hairstyle, her gestures and her clothing style also help emphasize the consistency that a monarchy brings.

Event-based marketing

Royal families are not like reality TV-stars or other celebrities. Although various members of royal families make regular public appearances, interviews and information about their private lives remains limited. The marketing of the royal brand primarily occurs during events that align with or complement their brand image. These events include weddings, jubilees and, in the Netherlands, Queensday. In the course of the years Queensday has complemented Beatrix’s image (who is sometimes perceived as detached and formal) by injecting friendliness and informality to the royal brand. This year the sport event for all elementary school children fits with the athletic interests of Willem-Alexander.

A brand that belongs to everyone

However, the most important aspect of the royal brand is that it is a brand that belongs to entire country – it is part of a cultural heritage. For this year’s inauguration of Willem-Alexander different stores and brands have all created ‘orange’ campaigns. The royal family has to represent a nation, and in doing so it must allow that the royalty brand is a co-creation. The Dutch royal family embraces this co-creation on Queensday. The concept behind this day is that everyone can celebrate it how they want to and the local traditions of this celebration are always emphasized in the towns where the queen comes to visit.

scents and sensibility | developing scents at IFF

“A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting” – Christian Dior

kate spade live colorfully perfume visual

There is a certain romance surrounding scents – driven by the luxury of perfumes and the mystery and suspense of Perfume by Suskind. Scents also have the uncanny ability to immediately conjure up memories. That’s because (unlike sight, touch and hearing) scents are directly processed by the hippocampus, the brains centre of long-term memory.

Last week I attended a lecture presented by the scent and flavour development company International Flavours and Fragrances (IFF). They not only specialize in the creation of luxury perfumes, but are also the noses and brains behind many of the scents you encounter in daily life – laundry detergents, air fresheners, fabric softeners…etc. The thought and research that is placed behind those ‘daily life’ scents are what surprised/interested me the most.

Smells like clean spirit

An example was how they designed laundry detergent smells for different markets. I had heard of the idea that scents have different ‘notes’: a top note that is smelled directly but evaporates quickly, a heart that is the essence of the scent and stays longer and the base note that underlines the scent and remains when all the other notes have gone. For the design of laundry detergent, the various notes of the scent are also relevant. The top note is the scent you smell when you open the bottle, the heart is the scent that is released whilst washing and the base note is the smell that remains on your sheets after they have dried. When designing a new laundry detergent smell for a particular market, IFF analyses how the target group does their laundry and what their expectations are. For example, in South Africa they found that doing the laundry was a long task that was mainly performed by hand. This meant that it was extra important that the heart note (that was released during the washing process) was pleasant. Furthermore, the women that did the wash there exhibited pride in clean clothes that were freshly washed – so a strong base note that lingered was also positive because it signalled to the neighbours that the women of the household were diligent washers.

Smells like victory!

The lecture ended with a brief to design a scent for a ‘pink fabric softener’. Scents can also be associated with colours, and it was important that this scent smelled ‘pink’. Although it may seem silly, apparently most people associate smells with different colours – so it was important that the associated colour of the scent matched the colour of the actual product.  The team that created a scent that was voted most appropriate received a scent as prize. And our team won!! But even though I was mesmerized by the thought and care behind designing the smell of a pink fabric softener or laundry detergent, I decided to pick a perfume for my prize rather than a laundry detergent…

image by Kate Spade, found here.

all quiet on the branding front |Selfridges ‘no noise’ campaign

heinz ketchup - brandless

From the 7th of January until the end of February, Selfridges is introducing something interesting – the ‘No Noise’ concept. This campaign includes a re-introduction of a quiet room for visitors to rest (apparently already once launched by  Harry Selfridge himself in 1909), a collaboration with meditation experts and – my favorite – a selection of de-branded products. A selection of name brand products are stripped of superfluous text and images so that they feature just enough to be able to recognize the product and brand. The philosophy behind this transformation? The idea that we (consumers) are overloaded with sensory information when we view a packet. However, can this also be a way to increase the luxury- and cult-factor of the featured products? Classic example – the simple channel no 5 bottle design was so different than other perfume bottles that raised quite a few eyebrows back in 1921. The ‘less is more’ approach can be a way to suggest that quality is preferred above quantity. But how much is too little? Although the Heinz products remain fairly recognizable, the Creme de la Mer looks like it is victem to censorship (with only it’s pink smudge).  Will the ‘de-branded’ products become collector’s items for the philosophical hipster or become unrecognizable when taken off the store’s shelf?

creme de la mer - brandless

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