Brand Thinking by Debbie Millman (Allworth Press) features interviews with some 22 brand, design and identity thinkers. A thoroughly enjoyable beach read this week on Cape Cod, I was delighted by some of the tangents Millman took the conversations, pressing the ad hoc panel on the social role of brands and the business around them.
Many times, she asked for a definition of brands. I found the answers both confirming and provoking — and worth sharing:
Wally Olins, founder of Wold Olins:
Fundamentally branding is a profound manifestation of the human condition. It is about belonging: belonging to a tribe, to a religion, to a family. Branding demonstrates that sense of belonging. It has this function for both the people who are part of the same group and also for the people who don’t belong.
When branding moves into service, it becomes much more complex. From that point of view, a brand is a produce or service with a distinct personality. And that distinctive personality is what enables people to differentiate one brand from another.
Phil Duncan, Vice President and Global Design officer at Procter & Gamble:
A brand is something you have an unexplained, emotional connection to. A brand gives you a sense of familiarity.
In earlier years, I thinking branding was a lot about a recognition and an attachment to a person that you aspired to or held up on a pedestal…Now I think we’ve evolved, and brands now have the responsibility to enhance the communities in which they exist.
Brian Collins, formerly of Ogilvy & Mather, working on Dove, Motorola and Hershey’s:
The best brands embody mythic archetypes. They literally are stories. Nike is a great example. Nike calls on the goddess. She is not the goddess of sport, or sportsmanship, or of fair play, or achievement. Nike is the goddess of victory. Now, Nike — the brand — has done a remarkable job bringing the story to life.
Stories are how we give meaning to happens to us. When we call upon them, they activate archetypes — “archetypes” as defined by Carl Jung. They remind us of eternal truths, and they help us navigate through our lives.
Brian Duckworth of Turner Duckworth:
Branding is an experience, and advertising is a temptation. Branding leads to an ownership, one that has a touch-feely aspect to it. Advertising is more distant. It offers a promise, but it doesn’t actually give you the product. Whereas design is the part you pick up, the bit you touch, the bit you wear. People have a more intimate relationship with brands than they do with advertising.
Stanley Hainsworth, former Creative Director for Nike, and former Vice President Global Creative for Starbucks:
A brand is an entity that engenders an emotional connection with a consumer. Consumers emotionally connect with brands when the brands repeatedly provide something that the consumer wants, desires or needs.
I think the best brands are those that create something for consumers that they don’t even know they need yet.
Cheryl Swanson, president of Toniq and adviser to Pepsi, Kraft and Nestle:
A brand is a product with a compelling story — a brand offers quintessential qualities for which the consumer believes there is absolutely no substitute.
The brands are totems. They tell us stories about our place in culture — about where we are and where we’ve been. They also help su figure out where we’re going. Brands have become time capsules, and in many ways, they’re now navigation and identity devices. They’ve transcended their transactional economic function and now reflect our culture and who are in a way that no other objects can.
Seth Godin, marketing author:
I believe that “brand” is a stand-in, a euphemism, a shortcut for a whole bunch of expectations, worldview connections, experiences and promises that a product or service makes, and these allow us to work our way through a world that has thirty thousand brands that we have to make decisions about every day.
Sean Adams of AdamsMorioka:
I think the biggest misconception is that people typically think their logo is their brand, and they believe that if they redesign their logo, they’ve somehow managed their brand. The logo is irrelevant. The logo is a nice foundation, and it’s an identifier. But it’s not the brand.
The brand is not necessarily visual. It’s a promise of an experience.
Daniel Pink, author:
(A brand) is a promise of what you can expect if you use the product or service, or if you engage in the experience.
You can buy Brand Thinking here.