‘Branding is about visualising emotion’: Hulsbosch on cultivating cultural legacy

How can brands effectively and sustainably influence the collective consciousness through visual identity? To find out, Seja Al Zaidi spoke with Jaid Hulsbosch - director of Hulsbosch - whose passion for embodying cultural meaning is enmeshed with a deep belief that simplicity, consistency and delivering on promise is key to creating an 'iconic brand'.

There are some brands that seem to withstand the test of time.

They embody a sense of timelessness, and intrinsic knowledge of their values is inherited through generations. They inspire rampant tribalism and unwavering loyalty – the mention of the brand’s name alone stirs a latent assemblage of unambiguous associations, values, experiences, emotions and perceptions in the consumer’s mind.

The prevailing question is: in a time where the attention economy has colonised consumer attention like a fiefdom, mitigating marketer’s opportunities of elevating a brand to that coveted transcendental, intergenerational status, how can brands effectively and sustainably influence the collective consciousness through visual identity?

To find out, I spoke to Jaid Hulsbosch, director of Hulsbosch, whose passion for embodying cultural meaning is enmeshed with a deep belief that simplicity, consistency and delivering on promise is key to creating an ‘iconic brand’.

Hulsbosch is an agency that for 40 years has been responsible for shaping and cultivating the identities of some of Australia’s most iconic, widely loved brands: Qantas, Woolworths, Virgin Australia, Taronga Zoo, Rebel, Seven Network, eftpos, Foxtel and many more. Hulsbosch puts consistency of visual identity and sustained longevity at the forefront of its mission when defining the strategies behind Australia’s most iconic brands.

Hulsbosch finds great meaning in the pursuit of branding corporate Australia – having shaped the perceptions of influential names that reside in the broader Australian lexicon, like our national carriers’, he firmly believes that “the role of a brand is to embody the cultural meaning that is the identity of the company, and to communicate that meaning in a clear and simple manner.”

In navigating that embodiment, Hulsbosch amongst others has found himself turning abstractions into concrete, lasting consumer-company relationships that influence the public’s collective consciousness for generations – he explains that this precise formula of branding is expressed through a passionate series of processes that involve “envisioning a desired future”, as opposed to acting on “knee-jerk responses to changes that might occur in the company”.

“When we brand, we develop an emotional connection between a business and the consumer in order to build awareness and create customer loyalty,” Hulsbosch says of his intuited view of the art of branding.

“A brand is the product of millions of experiences a company creates with people, and the emotional feelings these groups develop as a result of those experiences. However, a brand is not only visualised through your product, service, signs or symbols like a logo. A brand is also communicated via other means.

“For example, the manner in which the person at the checkout lane in the supermarket greets you and takes care of your purchases exemplifies the brand. The email you receive reminding you of an unpaid bill typifies the brand. The person at a call centre answering your questions, the food you eat on a plane, the music you hear in the shopping centre, the dress code of staff that deal directly with customers or that distinct smell of freshly brewed coffee in a café should all be ‘on brand’. Customers can act swiftly and will hold the company responsible if any of these brand expectations are breached.”

Building an enduring legacy and curating desire in consumers comes down to two essentialized philosophies: both “succinctly encapsulating the clients’ brand promise” and “the actual company itself delivering on that promise,” Hulsbosch explains.

“Building a brand does not happen overnight. Making consumers choose your product over that of your competitor is about getting to the heart of the business and making sure we communicate at all levels, in the most direct and simplest way what the company stands for.

“Woolworths delivers fresh food, Qantas delivers the spirit, McGrath Foundation delivers support, Rebel delivers inspiration, Starlight Foundation delivers brightness. Creating an iconic brand is about bring the brand promise to life via an engaging, creative and effective visual identity, that is then consistently communicated across all consumer touchpoints.”

“Branding shapes a consumer’s perception and it differentiates products or services in an attractive, meaningful and compelling way. The keys to creating an iconic brand – simplicity, consistency and deliver on promise.”

So influential is this deliverance of consistent brand promise, that it even inspires radical acts of tribalistic alleigance.

In 2018, 43-year old Tasmanian woman Elisabete Lincoln proudly tattooed the Woolworths logo on her hand, stridently proclaiming that “she’s always been a Woolies girl”. The tattoo took the internet by storm, with Lincoln at the time telling outlets “it was the perfect way for me to show my loyalty to Woolworths.”

This precise loyalty is an exemplification of Hulsbosch’s articulated philosophy on engendering loyalty through consistency.

There are a bevy of other instances wherein devoted customers ink themselves with their cherished brand’s logo in a bid to gain membership into a social group, connect more deeply with the brand’s ideals, and be reminded of personal values that the brand itself reflects or embodies.

In Max Barry’s twisted, dystopian 2002 novel, ‘Jennifer Government’, citizens live in a unfettered marketopia where employees take the last names of the companies they work for, and brand worship dominates school curriculums, relationships, healthcare and matters of life and death.

In the book, a scene takes place where teenagers fight to the death over limited release, $2000 Nike sneakers at the Chadstone-Walmart mall. Unbeknownst is the fact that the shootings were orchestrated by Nike itself as a marketing ploy to drive up consumer desire and demand, making competitor’s sneakers appear less culturally desirable as a result.

While the novel’s grotesque plot is an extremely satirized extension of modern brand loyalty realities, it does serve as a potent reminder that consistently instilling universal values, mental imprints and experiences in branding strategy is critical for inspiring long-lasting emotional attachment and consumer loyalty.

“Branding is about visualising emotion. It shapes, clarifies and articulates how an organisation perceives itself and its products. When we brand, we develop an emotional connection between a business and the consumer in order to build awareness and create customer loyalty,” says Hulsbosch.

“Thorough research and careful strategic planning drive branding processes. When envisioning a desired future, this vision needs to be translated into broadly defined goals – the brand purpose. This sets the tone for the value proposition, which is a defining set of beliefs that result in the brand adopting a ‘personality’, describing its character traits and how it might be perceived in the community.”

“Once established, brand personality positions the brand in a national or global context. And it is from this platform, with a defined sense of place and purpose, that compelling brand ideas are generated and launched. It’s the role of the brand strategist to extract what the brand stands for, then to develop a brand brief to ensure that key decision makers agree on the brand’s essence, its competitive advantage, target market, and value proposition.”

When I asked Hulsbosch about what it meant to create a brand legacy that endures for generations, he was firm in expressing that strategically developing a holistically long-term orientation was critical to sustain both success and longevity.

“Unlike tactical planning, which is narrower in focus to achieve interim objectives, our brand identity and design is strategic in that it encompasses a broad array of contexts. Its longevity demands that branding needs to be strategic, in order to stay relevant and flexible, so it remains ahead of the pack.”

Brands will always dominate an influential position in the Australian collective consciousness, and so the art of effective and sustained branding evidently relies on a disciplined approach to curating public perception.

The responsibility of years spent cultivating the legacies of some of Australia’s most widely-recognised, loved and long-lasting brands alongside his team was not lost on Hulsbosch.

“The brands we have created, and others, do influence the collective consciousness. We are proud and humbled to have this position of influence and we will continue to take this responsibility with great care, passion and professionalism.”


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