The big deal about ‘Trust at first sight’ - PART I

When I started my research about this topic, most people gave me a matter of fact reasoning – “trust is earned”, “bharosa to barson mein banta hai” and similar blah... But if trust was only so much about long term relations, why do we end up trusting (almost) random people with life’s important decisions - the friend’s mother you were able to pour heart out to, that broker who was able to convince you to buy a bigger house or the fund manager who managed to increase your confidence in a risky investment option, or for everyone who had an arranged marriage - the guy/girl you met once and decided to get married to…Huh! Now how does that happen??

So dear readers, in the next few lines/paragraphs/pages(!) I would try to scrape off the tip of the iceberg called ‘trust’ and our mysterious abilities to indulge into it almost instantly when encountered with suitable triggers. However, let me note here that there’s hardly any formula that you might find here, infact it might raise more questions instead…but that’s where the meat lies!

So coming back, it’s obviously much easier to build trust with the luxury of time, when you get multiple opportunities in various situations, like the colleague I met on my first day of job, the guys/girls some of you would have dated before getting married. But there are many more situations, where one has to make up one’s mind almost instantly or create an instant impression – like an arranged marriage meeting, a job interview, a new client meeting, a new bank/financial company experience or the simplest – the 3 seconds window that a new brand gets sitting on the super market shelf!

Our mind stores information in clusters. Like an automated sorter, we unconsciously make patterns from everything that we experience through life. Every new experience/thing/instance gets decoded by our contextual selves and gets associated with one of the numerous existing patterns in our head.

Trust works the same way too, through our lives we learn to trust many people, places, things, products, brands, symbols etc. Based on these we create patterns of trust which act like a filter to asses each new experience we get into. While the filter aims at finding intrinsic values which can be tested in the long term, it also looks for physical attributes which usually give us the confidence to trust almost instantly.

Now imagine getting hold on the general patterns of this ‘trustable physicality’ which if incorporated in new stuff gives a chance of creating instant trust! Now, that’ll be cool!
In order to find this eluding answer, I started a semiotic decoding of people/places/things that we already trust, which did take me to some interesting spaces.

Starting with people, the one person who everyone trusts?

Simple answer: Mother

Before I say further, imagine an image of a mother, NOT necessarily your mother, someone imaginary but one who could completely epitomize trust & reliability.

…….(Yeah. I really want you to imagine)

Do you see a middle aged woman, healthy-ly curvy/ slightly plump, dressed in a sari/salwar kameez, accessorized with gold bangles, earrings or a neck chain, a round red bindi and comfortable footwear.
Having tried this on 20 people, I got this characterization 90% of the time!

Besides uncovering our stereotypical selves (thanks to Nirupa Roys & Tulsis of the world), this points towards 3 key physical aspects:
  1. The healthy plumpness
  2. The age
  3. The Traditional but simple attire
Let’s see what is it about them that helps exuberate trust:

The Healthy Plumpness: A loving, trustable mother can never be thin or even tending towards it. The plumpness is like the mark, a reminder of her having gone through the maternal bliss of pregnancy, the union of the child & the bearer, something so pure and complete that it just cannot be shed away as extra pounds. It also symbolizes the inherent softness and completeness of her very role. Skinny or angular features give a certain edginess/cunning-ness to the character which is completely out of place for a mother in our culture.

Further, circles/spheres are also the most used symbols of denoting complete-ness and stability. There’s must be a reason why there’s a ‘Circle of trust’ & not ‘square of trust’!

Now put this learning into the hard corporate world. Remember the most trusted company of India. Now remember its identity:

A rounded identity outline with smoothed lines and chunky plump font. Spot on!

Check identities of other institutes where trust is a key requirement - like banks as they deal with money - they would follow similar style:
The age: The trustable mother needs to have some years of experience behind her. A sense of oldness cues knowledge, experience and hence credibility. Just the pretense of age-old-ness can lend a hell lot of trust.

A 16 yr old Mumbai real estate builder has a logo which makes it look like 100 yrs old brand… see it to believe it!

Other similar examples of brands which exhibit ‘age old experience’ as a key design thought:

The Traditional simple attire: The traditional-ness of the attire takes us to an older, authentic, tried and tested space where one could just trust without any skepticism, where one can be a child again and get rid of the responsibilities & stress of current life. Add to it the simple-ness of the attire, it cues
uncomplicating life by moving back to the roots where the world is pure and unadulterated.

Many brands use this value of simple authenticity that can instantly connect with the consumer:

So that’s about mommy dear, but does this define the world of trust?, Hell no! Remember the scraping of the iceberg….well we’ve just started….more on this in Part II.

By Runjhun Pacholi
AGM – Strategy
DY Works


Creating Indian Brands is the need of the hour

Alpana Parida, an IIM–Ahmedabad alumna, is the face of a variety of branding solutions. Currently she works as President at DY Works, an established brand consulting and brand design firm. Some of the achievements that DY Works has to its credit are brand creation for Bingo and Yippie Noodles (ITC Foods), brand architecture for Nerolac and Kurkure and brand rejuvenation for Dabur. Parida has also worked as the Head of Marketing for an organic food company in the US. Prior to joining DY Works, she worked as Marketing and Merchandising Head at Tanishq.

Adgully caught up with Alpana Parida as she talks about the nuances of branding.

Alpana has been a part of the advertising industry for a really long time. Talking about her journey she says, The callibre of people who joined advertising was very different earlier. Higher advertising resulted in higher market share. Today however with the market, advertising has also become very cluttered. Categories have multiplied, brands in the categories have grown exponentially and the variants under the brands have grown tremendously. The shelf price however has remained the same. The importance of the retail outlet and the shelf has grown dramatically. This has led to consumers becoming increasingly aware of what they want.”

Alpana says that although there is a lot of market research available today, very little of it is actually usable. Research which gives deep insights into the market structure is rare. She points out that semiotic analysis is the answer to this problem. Semiotic analysis helps in understanding brands and thus helps in creating brands which are unique to India.

Speaking about how the branding scene has evolved in India, she said, In the Indian context, we are adopting foreign constructs. This gives us marketing cues which are irrelevant. Thus, the creation of brands in the Indian cultural context seems to be missing altogether.” She states that there is an immediate need of studying our culture properly and building brands on the basis of these studies.

Providing insights into what can be done to improve the situation at hand Alpana said, There are very few truly successful Indian brands which have used the understanding of the Indian basics, even for product design and development. Brands can create huge differentiation through product design and packaging design as well as packaging structure design. The market needs to concentrate on these critical aspects.”

Talking about some of the immediate goals of DY Works, she said, “There are several objectives in mind. We do a lot of work internationally in places like United States, Singapore, and Middle East. So, we are trying to gain a foothold there as we look forward to establishing our offices outside India. This would be the definitely be the immediate growth plan. The larger and long term objective is to evangelize the need for branding and creating strong brands that can actually build market shares rather than advertising.

Some of the core competencies of DY Works are brand strategy and brand design. Shedding light on the brand design process, Alpana said, There are different kinds of branding solutions. One of them is import wherein; expats set up shop and offer brand solutions in India. The other kind is freelancers and young designers. Brand Design has to be a strategic answer to a brand problem .This is the most crucial part. When people choose a branding solution they should ensure that there is a strategic problem that is being answered through the design otherwise it would just remain a pretty picture.”

Commenting on the importance of the digital media in the brand-building process, she said, The digital platform has become increasingly important in the recent times. Anybody can access your brand from anywhere in the world and the experience they get is of utmost importance. People have enormous power today. The best thing about the medium is that you can have direct access to your consumers and thus interact with them on a greater level. It is equally an opportunity as much as it is something that you need to watch out for.

Alpana believes that the visibility in advertising need not be so much as the visibility on the shelf as she states that the moment of truth changes from the time consumers watch the advertisement to the time they actually buy the product.

Alpana Parida is currently reading a book by Roland Barthes; a French author who is also a semiotician. The book is about mythology and provides an understanding of how cultural material can be used to understand societies. “At DY Works, we use a lot of semiotics and the author was an early proponent of semiotics, she concludes.

By Aditi Popat [aditi(at)adgully.com] - AdGully


ClickSangeet - Soft Launch

It is with great pride that we announce that ClickSangeet has now been launched in public domain. DY Works had the privilege of working with this Music Learning Start-up on their Corporate Naming, Visual Identity, Brand Language and Brand Manuals.

The company has recently uploaded its pre-launch website. They begin operations in July 2012.

Our best wishes are with them.

Team DY Works

P.S. A special mention of praise to Mamta, Prajakta and Vibhor who have made this possible by their tireless and dedicated efforts.