There are very few times in my life when I’ve heard or read something so profound I stop dead in my tracks, close my eyes, and allow the significance to sink deep into my subconscious. I had one of such experiences recently when I heard this definition of a brand by Michael Wolff (Co-‐founder of the Wolff Olins Agency).
“A brand is a way of remembering what something is like for future reference… It is simply a word for a file in the mind, in which you put in prejudices, and personal experiences… its made up by the customer.”
The simplicity and purity of this definition is extremely erudite. In my opinion, this is the best-‐distilled description of a brand. Let’s break this down…
“a way of remembering what something is like for future reference” – what I find striking is the experiential and foresight components to this description. Logos, (despite being used as an integral factor for differentiation), can sometimes be confusing. Taglines, no matter how witty, are easily replaced and forgotten. Experiences, however, are distinct: no if’s or but’s. They leave a branded impression (pun intended for emphasis).
Secondly, branding should be a continuous reinforcing process not a one-‐time thing. If you take stock there seems to be this “for now” approach to branding: companies pull all the stops and fireworks only on the days leading up to a product launch for instance. What ensues can be likened to a surprise party gone horribly wrong -‐ nobody does anything and leaves everything to fate.
“a word for a file in the mind in which you put prejudices, and personal experiences” – this poignantly weighty metaphor is in line with the first description: experiences (positive and negative) are accumulated and stored in the customer’s mind. Companies should remember that every encounter a customer has with them isn’t just a singular event, but one that builds up to either reinforce or dispel a particular prejudice and/or prior personal experience.
“it’s made up by the customer” – Marketers, Branding Pundits, Companies, GIVE OVER! It’s not about creating the next great ad or about winning awards. Bottom line: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! It is about making a memorable impact that enriches the life of your target audience.
In conclusion, I beseech my fellow branding brethren to stop, close their eyes, and let the significance of these words resonate. Maybe, just maybe, this myopic and self-‐indulgent approach to branding will end.