There are two distinct neural circuits linking the eye to the brain. One answers the question, “What is that?” The other answers the question, “Where is that?” A sense of place is fundamental to perception.
Places are also storehouses of memories. Place is a powerful, but frequently overlooked way of conceptualizing and storing the brand experience in the consumers mind.
Places can be spatial, temporal, or social. For advertising purposes, place can be metaphorical, not literal. If you want to sell a sexy new brand of shampoo, you might show a longhaired beauty walking down the street attracting looks as if she were strutting on a catwalk. If you want to sell a new brand of cutting edge technology, you might show it displayed in a setting where it seems displaced in time, as if it had just arrived by time machine from the future.
Prestigious, luxury brands frequently appear in high society social settings—but price-driven “anti-brands” can play downstairs against upstairs. Suave Shampoo once did this by showing the brand in “backstage” settings where ordinary people deride the imaginary product differences for which rich people pay premium prices.
Creating an own-able brand place can differentiate a brand in ways that help maintain focus in long-lived advertising campaigns. In the 1980s, Miller beer created a memorable brand place called “Miller Time,” sandwiched between work time and home time. It was a third space where you could be yourself and enjoy a Miller with your friends. A generation later, Budweiser looked at the time continuum differently and created the “Whassup” campaign. It was based, in part, on the idea of “slacker time”— anytime, even when you’re hanging out and doing nothing, is a good time to drink a Bud.
Place can also be used to think systematically about how to extend a brand into new territories of the mind. To illustrate, consider the entertainment brand, Star Trek. Since the TV show was first created in the sixties, it has created five places for performance.
In the first Star Trek series, stories were set in a 24th century starship that went “where no man has gone before.” In the sequel the stage was moved forward in time to follow the exploits of the Next Generation of the crew. For the third show, Deep Space Nine, the setting was fixed in space, in a space station orbiting a wormhole. In the fourth series, Voyager, the space ship was translated across space to the other side of the galaxy where the crew wandered lost, searching for home. And in the most recent television version, Enterprise, the brand place was moved backward in time, to the era of space exploration before the original series that launched this valuable entertainment brand.