Before the experience, there is a promise


Branding is an art form and a science. It’s a way of evoking an emotional response by a seller through a queue to associative memory of a buyer. (Think Pavlov and his dog). The signal can be musical (e.g. the Intel chime). Or it can be odoriferous (e.g. the melded perfume from Lush). It might be lyrical (e.g. “we’ll leave the light on for ya” from Motel 6). And it might be visual (e.g. Nike’s swoosh).

Kuala Lampur Central Market

Kuala Lampur Central Market

Building connections between these symbols and customer experiences takes time and authenticity. But what of unknown purveyors? What of ad hoc consumers?

What would that mean if you owned a snack stand at a busy shopping mall? A place where travelers outweigh locals 10 to 1. How do these shopkeepers make a promise of tasty delights with no time for a swoosh, a chime or a catchphrase? Especially when the final taste is secreted inside a burrito.

KL Central Market - crepe with strawberries & cream

KL Central Market – crepe with strawberries & cream

The answer might just be molded into plastic.

KL Central Market - crepe with chocolate & bananas

KL Central Market – crepe with chocolate & bananas

Behold the creperie nestled inside of Kuala Lampur’s most famous mall, the Central Market. Like the noodle bowl joints in Japan or the food trucks in Puerto Rico, this food stand makes its promise through polyurethane replicas.

It takes no mastery of dialect to distinguish between strawberries & cream versus chocolate & banana.

KL Central Market - crepe with beans and avocado

KL Central Market – crepe with beans and avocado

There is no mystery as to whether you will be taming hunger with sweet or savory. All is on display in full color and volume.

This is something pictures cannot quite achieve. Photography is a form of deception. The lens flattens and distorts. (Remember that: Objects may be closer than they appear).

Rather the synthetic artifice holds shape even under the most unfriendly conditions. Lettuce remains statuesque and translucent despite tropical heat. Ketchup glistens like ancient stars. And the wiener remains forever perfectly just plucked from the grill.

KL Central Market - crepe with hot dog

KL Central Market – crepe with hot dog

Even the layout speaks to the consumption experience. The model shows both interior ingredients laid out like a beach blanket under the Florida sun and the trumpet of earthly delights when rolled into a golden cone.

Yes, this is a simple fix to the branding dilemma of transactional exchange. One which defies decay, hopscotches over misunderstanding and reveals a promise.

Oh yes, a tip of the straw hat to this snack peddler. He knows as much about promises as do luxury retailers a twirl of shadows and lace. And while it easy to see this public display as nothing more than mannequins in the window, the allure just. Might. Be. There.

Glamour is a beautiful illusion – the word ‘glamour’ originally meant a literal magic spell – that promises to transcend ordinary life and make the ideal real. It depends on a special combination of mystery and grace. Too much information breaks the spell.
Virginia Postrel

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