Synesthesia and Experiential Branding

Are you familiar with synesthesia? I was thinking about this particular neurological phenomenon the other day, as I was considering experiential branding in the era of constantly emerging technologies. For those who don’t know, synesthesia is a perceptional condition in which one sensory or cognitive pathway winds up “crossing wires” with another sensory or cognitive pathway. Those who experience this might see brightly colored shapes when they hear music, for instance.

Here’s an example: the top being the word you might think about, with the bottom being how you might “see or experience” that word if you experienced this phenomenon:


Well, leave it to the folks in the MIT Media Lab to explore, if not exactly what I was musing about, then something very closely related. Andante is a new technology interface that “promotes an understanding of the music rooted in the body, taking advantage of walking as one of the most fundamental human rhythms,” states online resource, Xiao Xiao. By applying the interface directly to a keyboard or piano, players not only hear the notes they play; they can direct colored walking figures across the keyboard as they play different scales or notes.

Here’s a Vimeo link that shows you a bit of the technology:

And here’s the legendary jazz musician, Herbie Hancock, having some fun with it:

So, what are the potential implications of this new technology for you and your business? As old media tries to reinvent itself for cultural relevancy, and as new media emerges, whether social in nature or simply new technologies that offer consumers new platforms to “play or interact” with your products or services, consider that creating an experience is key. It’s vitally important, vs. simply expecting rote memorization of your product’s benefits or attributes. If you seek to break through the reams of clutter that populate the average consumer’s daily intake, begin with what you know they consume, and shift their experience consuming it. If they expect to hear sound, show them colors. Remember synesthesia…and the power of the unexpected phenomenon to make your consumers’ experiences with your brand both profound and memorable.

Jack Becker

Brand Strategist, Creative Director

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