What can Descartes teach us about brands? His concept of duality applies more to modern business than you’d think
René Descartes, a towering figure of the scientific revolution, described the mind as non-physical, as opposed to the brain, which he reasoned is made of matter. His position, referred to in philosophy as dualism, seems like common sense: everyday experience suggests our own thoughts must be “made up” of something very different from our bodies and the solid objects around us.
But while some continue to debate the mind/body issue, the majority of today’s experts agree that, despite our subjective experience, the mind and the brain are not separable; they are simply two ways of talking about the same thing.
It’s this kind of philosophy that can be applied to brands. Like Descartes’ view of the mind, some businesspeople still perceive brand as existing in another realm, away from the real-world activities that keep a business running, such as manufacturing, accounting and managing employees. They use “brand” to refer to an intangible thing that is related to, but separate from, the more tangible business entity it represents. It’s why entrepreneurs ask questions such as, how can I create a brand for my new venture? It’s why executives at mega-corporations insist: that’s good for the brand, but it’s a poor business decision.
The brand is the business
This separation between brand and business has proven useful. If the brand is a thing unto itself, it can be managed, measured and valued in order to better understand its potential.
But drawing a line between brand and business also leads to confusion and missed opportunities. To extend the philosophy metaphor further, one of the biggest problems for dualism is the “problem of interactionism” — the idea that if the mind and body are made of different kinds of stuff, how can one affect the other?
The brand/business dualism faces the same challenge; in order to have any impact, the brand must be able to influence the rest of the company. It cannot simply be a “ghost in the machine” — it must be of the machine; it must be part of finance’s investment decisions, and HR’s treatment of employees and approach to recruiting. To achieve this level of integration, we must deconstruct the concept of “brand”.
Read the article in full on the Guardian’s Organic marketing hub, sponsored by Havas Media Group.
[Originally published on brandchannel.com]
Zappos, the online retailer and subsidiary of Amazon, raised eyebrows last week by announcing that it’s scrapping job postings in favor of a social approach. Prospective employees are now encouraged to join its social network to become Zappos Insiders, and start interacting with its recruiters on Facebook, Twitter and on the company blog.
A few months ago the iconoclastic Amazon-owned company also said goodbye to job titles, and it’s not alone in deciding to eliminate and evolve some traditional human resource functions. In fact, other companies are doing away with HR employees entirely, replacing them with software and outsourced services.
It all goes back to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s statement that “Customer service shouldn’t be a department. It should be the entire company.” So if job postings are obsolete in this real-time, social era, is this the beginning of the end for HR?
I recently used a question on Quora as an excuse to think out loud about how we talk about brands and brand strategy. The question was:
How do you create and communicate your brand story?
So your fledgling business is finally taking off and customers are flooding in. But how do you move forward from a good site to a Brand. How do you create and communicate your brand story? What are the things to consider?
There are a few words and ideas in this question that indicate how many think about brands these days—things that I are think are flawed and obscure the objectives, means, and methodology of “branding.” So I tried to answer using words and ideas that are less misleading, although I admit they’re not necessarily simple ideas. For example, I prefer “identity” as a replacement for “brand” in many cases. Unfortunately, “identity” is too often used in our industry to mean “logo,” or the broader visual identity system. But if you look at the definition of “identity,” you’ll find something that speaks quite well to—again—the objectives, means, and methodology of “branding.”
Here’s my complete answer, below. Curious to know what you think.
[This post was originally published on Interbrand's blog.]
Created in 1999 by Alex Calderwood, who passed away last November, Ace Hotel is famous for disrupting the hospitality industry with a fresh identity catering to the “creative class.” Countless books, articles, and blog posts have already extolled the strengths of that identity (and Portlandia has mocked its eccentricities).
For example, according to a 2010 post on this blog, the brand’s approach to co-branding and partnerships is “endlessly creative” and “always perfect.” Gawker quotes the co-founder of review site Mr & Mrs Smith: “I can’t think of another hotel group with such a strong brand and all-pervading identity – everything from the cocktails to the cleaning signs is unmistakeably Ace.” On a recent trip to New York, this author had the pleasure of staying at Ace Hotel.
The room’s artwork (local artist) was impressive, as were the vintage-style furnishings (Smeg fridge, reclaimed mirrors) and carefully selected brand partnerships (Fred bottled water, Pearl+ soap-on-a-rope). But it’s more than art, music, and hipster-friendly ephemera that surrounds the guest at Ace; painted on the walls, printed on signs, handwritten onto the bill, words also permeate one’s stay. And it’s through these words—through the brand’s voice—that the hotel’s personality shines brightest.
It starts with an amusing, reassuring welcome note on the front doormat: “You are here.” Once inside, signs at the elevators remind guests, “If you took the stairs you would be there already.”
One man’s “spicy mint” is another’s “spic mint.”