This summer, Airbnb attracted enormous attention over its rebranding. In addition to a new identity, the online travel rentals company now has a detailed philosophy and brand narrative, and a fresh website featuring rich photography and video vignettes of homes available to rent around the world.However, most of the chatter was almost exclusively about its new logo (and the suggestive imagery it evokes). This is not entirely shocking—after all, a brand is often judged as less than or equal to its logo. This reduction into a simple graphic form is called on to embody so much about the company: its past and future, its employees, its strongest beliefs and ideas. While there is an undeniable art to brevity, there is greater value in actually engaging consumers. In the end, the true perception of a brand isn’t in its logo or a favicon with perfect pixel placement. It’s how it lives in the way the consumer experiences the brand and breathes it in. And when a brand seeps into unexpected environments, that’s where a new kind of brand alchemy can happen. One great example of this is Marimekko, the clothing and textile company known for their iconic playful patterns steeped in its Finnish heritage. At last year’s Harvard xDesign Conference in Boston, Marimekko’s creative director Minna Kemell-Kutvonen, and marketing director Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko shed some insight into how they make big splashes with moderate media budgets: never underestimate the power of surprise and delight.
In spring 2013, Marimekko and airline company Finnair teamed up for a design collaboration. Select planes proudly showcased Marimekko tableware and textile collections. The brand’s iconic patterns were tailored for in-flight displays by designer Sami Ruotsalainen, with the large abstract shapes referencing the blue and green tones of Finnish landscapes as seen from a fly-over perspective.Even the exterior of the planes were outfitted with Marimekko’s signature Unikko floral print, in large yellow and blue flowers. Beyond aesthetic value, Marimekko also strove to reduce overall aircraft weight and kept in mind extreme space constraints. These types of cross-industry partnerships strengthen the perception of both brands. In a tired category like airline interiors, Marimekko shone through with its cheerful, bold aesthetic. The brand’s colorful—and unexpected—presence on Finnair also brought a new dimension to the travelers’ on-board experiences, making for an aesthetically memorable and pleasing journey. And with a captive audience suspended in flight, gleefully documenting and sharing their experiences upon landing, it was a great success for both Marimekko and Finnair. Watch the video here to see the full experience: