Great article over at iA, really hits the nail.

Usually strong usability, simplicity and a clear focus automatically lead to a strong identity. Here’s a shocker: Internationally acclaimed usability guru Jakob Nielsen’s totally anti-graphic website with all its geeky flaws and it’s absolute usability approach has a strong identity. Neglecting all notions of good taste, it looks extremely typical. And that is branding. Branding is not pretty, it’s strong. Craigslist and delicious with their standard link colors are not pretty, they’re strong, and as they’re interactive products, they’re strong through functionality. Facebook, maybe is an example of a very usable website that might go for a more audacious interface.

Puts a dampner to all the Google design = bad arguments.

You can establish yourself with a typically bad interface, if you’re early and lucky or if you have the market power to force people to use your product. See Myspace, Amazon, MSN, Windows, QuarkXPress. Once you get to be market leader with a typically complicated interface, you actually have a good shot at keeping your users, as they’re that traumatized that they wouldn’t want to go through another painful learning process. Nowadays you have a better chance to become successful though, if you go for simplicity and usability. And you have a good chance to develop a strong brand by just doing that.

Interesting concept about organisations aligning themselves alongside each other in advertisments in order for each to benefit. I assume the aligments at first will be small cool company / large less cool company. The large company gets some cult coolness, the small company gets a much higher profile.

Course this in by no means new, but then trend does seem to be increasing, and I can see as advertising becomes more fractured and the message diluted, it could be important for groups of large companies securing partnership with other large companies in a ‘lifestyle’ brand excercise. Such as Nike + Evian = Just do it naturally…..etc…..

1. Most consumers believe most reputable brands perform similarly.
2. Consequently they choose brands not on rational grounds but according to subconscious “markers”.
3. They pay little conscious attention to advertising.
4. Active learning, or high involvement processing, produces enduring attitude changes.
5. However, most of us tend to process most media passively.
6. Despite appearances TV is a relatively low attention medium.
7. Advertisers try to get around this with attention-getting devices.
8. However, consumers’ perceptual filtering blocks these except where they are integrated with the message of the ad.
9. Information can be acquired passively by implicit learning, a subsconscious process that uses automatic processing and feeds into implicit memory.
10. Such memory stores perceptions and simple concepts only.
11. Info can also be acquired semi-consciously via shallow processing. Together shallow and automatic processing make up low involvement processing.
12. Most ads are processed using low involvement processing.
13. Implicitly learned perceptual and conceptual elements are stored as associations with the brand.
14. Implicit learning is used every time you see or hear an ad irrespective of how much conscious attenion you give it or whether you love or loathe it.
15. Ads processed with high involvement are outnumbered by up to 50 times by low involvement ads.
16. Implicit memory, though building more slowly than explicit memory, it is more durable.
17. If a brand association triggers an emotional marker, consumers can be strongly influenced towards the brand without realising it.

Source: The Hidden Power of Advertising (Admap)