Pause: A Brand For Our Time
One afternoon, an entrepreneur called me. He liked my blog, and wanted to know if I was interested in helping him name a new relaxation beverage. The opportunity was so unusual, so exciting, that just developing the name didn’t feel like it would be enough. I proposed that Operative Words also develop the tagline and provide creative direction on the brand identity and packaging. Our mutual enthusiasm sealed the deal.
This project began, as all do, with learning about the product category. I discovered that the emergence of relaxation beverages bears significance. More than just new products on the shelf, relaxation beverages are an inevitable outcome of our times.
Let’s consider their larger context. Advances in technology enable people to be constantly connected. Social networks and societal expectations urge an immediate response to every email, tweet and text message that comes our way. As a result, we have become overloaded and under-rested. It’s no wonder that relaxation beverage sales doubled between 2008 and 2010, and is projected to double again by 2014. Our growing need to unplug is reflected in articles, springing up everywhere.
The names of current relaxation beverages reflect the opposite of our connected world. More analog than digital, the names have a vacation/zen/escape vibe. There’s surprisingly little differentiation:
Dr. Zen’s Liquid Calm
ViB (vacation in a bottle)
The problem with these names is they are removed from workaday reality of today’s connected urbanites who have the greatest need to disconnect. They don’t reflect the hectic and demanding lives that characterize BlackBerry-next-to-the-bed workers. Aspirations to take a vacation in a bottle or retreat to zen serenity feel more like wishful thinking and suggest promises that can’t be fulfilled.
People who are overworked and always connected do need relaxation. But relaxation should be framed in a real-world and relevant context, not as a pie-in-the-sky, day-at-the-beach fantasy. Therefore, I recommended this new beverage should make relaxation practical and relevant. It should be inspired by, and be a part of, our digital, connected world.
Allow me to take a short detour and provide instructive details about the creative exercise that led to the final name.
In developing creative directions for a naming project, it’s most fruitful to broaden core functions or benefits to more conceptual, expansive ideas. Creative development for this new brand required thinking about relaxation broadly and its context narrowly. Rather than just focus on relaxation, bigger ideas like change, decreasing, cessation and ideal end states were considered, specifically within contemporary and vernacular domains.
The ultimate name came up during a creative ‘excursion’ to the ‘world’ of electronics. An excursion is a brainstorming technique that inspires by analogy. I learned about excursions at Lexicon, where I was trained in Synectics problem solving by John Prince, whose father, George Prince, invented Synectics. Excursions are part of the Synectics process and an indispensable part of my creative process. Excursions are related to the ‘cloaked brief’ technique which I described in Creative Names the Easy Way.
Here’s how to use excursions to create brand names:
Choose a key attribute or idea that’s essential to the new brand (in this case, change).
Then choose a ‘world’ that’s distant from the actual product category (for example,electronics).
Brainstorm examples of the key word in that world.
For example, change in the world of electronics would lead us to names like Toggle, Switch, and...Pause. Electronics is an excursion world I came up with, even though there are many already in the Synectics roster. Here’s a list of other worlds to inspire your creative development:
Through excursions and other idea generation techniques, over 900 potential names were developed for this assignment. A shortlist of several dozen candidates underwent preliminary trademark screening. I presented about 30 names to my client.
Demonstrating keen judgement, the client zeroed-in on Pause. The name was unexpected yet relevant. Pause could be a philosophy, a mandate, and maybe even a movement. Enthusiasm was had by all.
After Pause was vetted by the client’s legal counsel, the naming was complete. The next step was to develop a tagline. This proved to be more challenging than naming, perhaps because there were more creative possibilities, directions and objectives.
It was the general direction of time that inspired the best work. Take ownership of your time as a specific tagline direction reflected the day-to-day demands that can make people feel as if their time is not under their control.
A related tagline direction, be present now, is a cornerstone of mindful relaxation and de-stressing regimens, and therefore benefited from existing validation.
After two rounds of tagline creative there were plenty of good ideas, but nothing that quite rose to the level of the name. I called a colleague, Daniel Meyerowitz, to talk about the taglines. He’s among the best marketing writers I know.
Upon review, Daniel dismissed anything that sounded old-fashioned or new-agey. The most promising taglines were imperatives, especially those that would incite people to, in Daniel’s words, “reclaim now”. We talked about the power of owning the moment – being present and mindful – as an effective antidote to stress and worry. And then I heard my mouth say, “make now yours”. It seemed like the words spoke themselves through me.
Daniel calmly said, “that’s it, that’s the tagline”.
Make Now Yours is a call to action urging people to take control of their time. Relaxation is, as suggested by the tagline, really about coming back to yourself and being the present at this moment. Make Now Yours feels fresh and contemporary and fits with the name. Tagline: done.
Writing for the back of the bottle was also needed. I recall the client wrote the first draft, I wrote the second, and Daniel provided valuable direction and advice for this final version:
Sometimes the best way to recharge is to unplug. How? Naturally, with chamomile, lemon balm and wild oats to calm your mind and vitamin B’s and green tea antioxidants to clear your head.
Get back to your productive best with a Pause and a few minutes of downtime: Step away from your work and the screen to let your body and mind reboot.
You’ll be ready for anything and everything when you take control and make now yours.
With the word work complete, it was time to express the brand visually with a logo and packaging. The client engaged several designers from around the world who submitted sketches of their ideas. I continued in my role as creative director of the brand by reviewing work, insisting on simplicity, and guiding creative to reflect the spirit of the brand.
The leading logo built on the name by incorporating a pause symbol in the letter u of Pause. It was elegant serendipity; by sheer accident the symbol was centered perfectly in the word.
Like the name and logo, the packaging design for Pause would also have to reflect our wired lives. My client was on the front line, evaluating over 120 initial designs and then sending to me those that passed muster. In my view, the most intriguing packaging candidate had its origins in ISO-like icons and modern vernacular: In the foreground, silhouettes of two people lounge on a bench while beyond them, in tinted colors, busy workers buzz about on the move and on their cell phones. The silhouettes sit calmly amid the commotion. The graphics depict a modern-day still life. Here’s an early rendition:
The design was simplified and polished. Instead of two people lounging, there would be just one. Instead of a bench, a figure sits back relaxing in an office chair. Appetizing imagery of fruit was added. The typography and layout was refined again and again. Packaging design: done.
With the core brand identity and packaging complete, the client brought the brand to life in other media. There’s a website, Facebook presence, and periodic pop-up Pause relaxation stations that give hardworking people a chance to pause, drink Pause, and pause for a chair massage.
That’s the story of Pause, a brand for our time.