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The Sense of a Brand

We talk about a “brand” all the time and people believe it is all visual, but that is only one component.  There are many parts to a brand, and the most important one is the feeling you get when you experience the brand.

Since I am Italian and visiting my parents, I thought I could make a point as I share with you what the “Living in Italy” brand feels like.

I open the shutters in the morning and the view is on one side over the typical “borgo Italiano” (red roof tiles, cobblestone courtyard, and a bell tower), on the other side the Italian Alps – Graie, looking to the west – with all of their majesties, and on the third side vineyards of the local autochthonous grape.

I start my morning routine brewing coffee with Moka – not the one you find at Starbucks but instead the Moka pot made famous by engineer Bialetti in the 1930s. I start moving around and getting the house prepared for the day while the smell of fresh coffee fills the kitchen and the air in the entire house.

The rest of the day, on the surface, could look like any ordinary day of any ordinary person living in the 21st century, no matter on what side of the earth you find yourself. Deadlines, emails coming and going, conference calls – with an internet connection nowadays this is possible virtually from anywhere and also a little town in Italy in the middle of the NW countryside hasn’t escaped, so you can manage all of your tasks that the modern world throws at you. The only adjustment to keep in mind is taking into account differences in time zones between you and clients or teammates you work with.

I step outside and while I take a break from the computer screen, I sit on a wicker chair and I look and listen: the mountains, my cat walking around on the roof, a bird flying and birds chirping, the sound of the bell tower telling me it is 12 pm so it is time for a break for lunch! My mom is in the courtyard watering the flowers so we start chatting about this and that; at the same time from the house on the opposite side of the courtyard, my sister in law is on the balcony, hanging her sheets to dry. She joins our chat on the latest local news and the weather but most of all: what we are going to cook for dinner. There is not a good Italian conversation that does not revolve around food. Sooner than later that is all we end up talking about!

The town I am in – where I grew up – has only 900 residents. Just a few minutes away you have bigger towns that offer everything you would expect from cozy little towns in Italy for a perfect break, when you need one, from the stress and high pace of computer screen, tasks, agendas, deadlines…you name it!

You can find cozy coffee shops with brick ceilings and the best homemade hot chocolate. Daily colorful markets with fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, flowers, clothing. Arcades where you can walk leisurely or duck under in case of inclement weather, while at the same time look at window shops with the latest trends in clothing, furniture, jewelry, have gelato or sit at a coffee shop patio for a cappuccino that is out of this world! And if you don’t feel like driving, the landscape is pristine with vineyards, fields and gorgeous mountains in the far distance.

So what makes what we call a “brand”? Is it the colors, the smells, touch, or expectations? I believe it is a 360° experience we create with our senses. It is the feelings evoked by the amazing combination of senses we have been given as a human – how blessed we are. It is so much more than a name and logo. It is not something we can hold in our hands, it is not a “thing”. It is a culture. It is an identity. It is how our memory catalogs the experience — and if yours is a good one I will be back again and again!

I miei sensi sono vivi in Italia —

Mariella


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“Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design.” –Charles Eames