Calm Technology Leads to Calm Branding
Recently, I purchased a USB networking adapter for my desktop PC. To my dismay it didn’t feature automatic setup. So following the instruction booklet I inserted the CD to load the driver. But the CD didn’t engage so I tried to manually access the setup file. To my disappointment the files were all in DMG format despite the device being advertised as both MAC and PC compatible. The driver was not available at the manufacturer’s website so I had to locate and download a DMG file converter. And so it went, on and on, resulting in 30 minutes of time wasted, frustration.
Although the device is working well now, my experience was a prime example of poor engineering and modern technology run amuck. The purpose of tech is to increase efficiency and convenience. It shouldn’t suck up our time like an evil, cosmic vacuum cleaner and deter us from our intended actions and goals.
Plug n play on the other hand is an example of what some are calling Calm Technology. The fundamental principle is that quality tech should be close to invisible in our lives. It should serve us and we should not serve it. Our tech tools should operate primarily in the background and should be easy to install, support, launch and use.
Current examples of well executed, Calm Technology include everything from low tech items like tea kettles and conference room windows, to more sophisticated inventions like the Roomba vacuum cleaner and the Jawbone, wearable device. These technological inventions were designed to serve us instantly and seamlessly, in an on demand fashion, without distracting us from our current focus.
The principles of calm-tech can also be applied to company brands. To be calm, a brand needs to have a meaning that is intrinsic and requires only a small amount of attention. I’m thinking of names like SpaceX, DropBox and GrabTaxi. You know instantly who they are and what they offer.
At the same time a calm company name is interesting enough to remain lively in a customer’s awareness but not be so unusual that it required analysis, or creates possible offense or controversy in alternate settings and cultures. Examples of this principle might include companies using an invented-style name like Google and Yahoo!
Furthermore, a calm brand does its job without being intrusive or requiring analysis. It creates trust when it’s familiar and is memorable when its recollection is automatic. Prime examples of this include phrases and words that already have mindshare. This means companies like BlueApron and GlassDoor would fit well into this category.
Lastly, calm brands that are a hybrid or a variation of existing words should be easy to pronounce and their spelling should be automatic and obvious. Calm hybrid brands like Eventbrite and Automattic which are quirky but proceed in a somewhat predictable manner are good examples of this.
Man vs Machine
Just like Calm Technology, calm brands simplify, rather than complicate, the user experience . They respect the customer’s inclinations and predispositions and are descriptive and captivating while simultaneously remaining smooth and familiar.
Despite the ubiquitous nature of technology in modern living, our primary task in life is after all to remain human. The most precious resource in our current century is not measured in megabytes but rather in mental and emotional capital. Attention is the currency of our time and Calm Technology allows people to meet their needs while remaining within themselves. It’s a valuable and worthwhile principle we should be incorporating, these days, into our company naming and branding processes.