Tag Archives: brand philosophy

Content, Form, Fantasy

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Picture credit: John Holcroft Art

There is no content without form.

Neither is there form without content.

Neither one is greater than the other. As both have their unique roles. And as creators, we must take care to ensure that they play their parts to create the world that we’re aiming to create.

As creators, our job is in fact to conduct two equally capable musicians coming together to create a single piece of music coherent to the ear.

We must take care to not present content with no form whatsoever. For form helps content by making it more easy, interesting and appeasing to absorb. Most philosophy is guilty of a lack of form. So is most theoretical physics.

But bring together a fair balance of form and content, and you have the opportunity to bring to the world things that are normally difficult to digest.

Alain de Botton does this with Philosophy. Or Jason Silva.

Carl Sagan did this with Physics. So does Stephen Hawking.

On the other end, we must take care not to glorify form at the cost of content. For we can build several empty things on form, but they shall be just that: empty. Fads are guilty of a lack of true content. So is most pop music.

This is when any creation enters the realm of fantasy. It is when you see that metaphor is greater than meaning itself. Or showmanship, greater than the show.

In a culture that encourages and propagates this, real content is either non-existent or completely forgotten.

And any culture with empty form, is just that. Empty.

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Faith

I have often wondered; in my travels, how humans have had the capacity to build such larger than life monuments as the Taj Mahal, the Sagrada Familia, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Sistine Chapel.

I’ve also been amazed at how religion was the muse for so many creations of great art and architecture: and therein, lay my answer.

Humans have the capacity to create something larger than life: something that goes beyond their own lifetime – as they are driven by a faith in something larger than their selves.

I choose the word faith, not religion.

Faith is multifold. It could be a faith in God (religion) A faith in love. Faith in progress. Or simply faith in the act of, and desire for creation. The desire to create something magnificent because why not?

But the answer is the same: faith.

And it perhaps isn’t without reason that the word faith is often suffixed with the adjective ‘blind’. For it rests; not in something we see, but in something we choose to believe in despite the lack of any signs of it’s presence.

This; I fear, is what we miss today.

For we would rather be driven by insignificant things that are apparent. Than significant things; that though invisible to the naked eye, we can create everyday.

Brand Your Business Model

Recently, while working closely with a startup help build their brand, a series of interesting revelations about the company and business model came to light. In one of the exercises, we sought to help define the brand purpose. The brand purpose; for those new to the concept, is an idea in branding which aims at helping brands define what they stand for and their place in the world. It has largely been inspired by this interesting talk by Simon Sinek:

But here’s what most I find most organisations, or branding exercises miss out on when trying to define their purpose: They build their ‘Why’ independently of their ‘How’ 

I find that the brand’s purpose or reason to be is not authentic, honest or real if it is not reflected in how you do things. If your brand’s place in the world is completely different from your competition, then certainly you would be doing something different from your competition too, wouldn’t you? So why then, would you stop your brand idea at the ‘Why’? A lot of new successful brands actually have an interesting business model at their heart, but fail to bring this to light.

AirBnB, I find, is a brand that’s doing this right. The AirBnB is brand created around the idea of belonging:

But without its business model, and the true nature of what the company delivers, this idea is nothing but an empty brand purpose without meaning of tangible delivery.

I find that startups would find success if they define their purpose: this helps align the team to a greater objective, instead of being lost with the many operational nightmares of the startup life. But at the same time, they must look at linking this closely with how they actually do things, and a unique and differentiated business model is a great way to make this authentic and tangible.

To Have Or To Be: Social

If we believe that brands can be human, then by extension the human sciences can teach us a lot about how brands behave. Or should behave. Philosophy; I find, has several answers to the problems that brands face. One idea that I think is particularly relevant was explored by Erich Fromm in his book “To Have Or To Be?” (Fromm also has a book “On Being Human” which also holds several introspections for the humanness of brands)

In “To Have Or To Be?” Fromm suggests a premise that humans have two states of life: the having mode, and the being mode. He explores in depth the two states and their effect on the quality of our lives and relationship with the world. Briefly, the two states are:

The having mode: “In the having mode of existence my relationship to the world is one of possessing and owning, one in which I want to make everybody and everything, including myself, my property.”

The being mode: “In the being mode of existence, we must identify two forms of being. One is in contrast to having … and means aliveness and authentic relatedness to the world. The other form of being is in contrast to appearing and refers to the true nature, the true reality, of a person or a thing in contrast to deceptive appearances as exemplified in the etymology of being”

I think there are several areas of branding where this idea of having or being can be applied, but I’d like to start with how this affects a brand’s view on and use of social media.

Social media, in my opinion, is a tool for something that people always needed: belonging. It simply gives a place for people to engage and interact with each other. An online bar of sorts. By extension, a friend of yours who is boring in a bar, is going to be boring on Facebook too. So why should we view social media as being different from just being social!? People who are inherently social, don’t have a “social media strategy”. They’re just themselves, but online.

If we were to extend Fromm’s two modes to brands on social media, we would have two types of brands: Brands that have social, and Brands that are social. 

Brands that have social are by nature hoarders. They talk about “What are we going to do online?”, or “How do we engage with our audience?”, and often the answers to these questions seem almost unnatural to these brands. These brands seek to measure the quantity and quality of their social presence: with a primary goal of increasing social media presence. While there is nothing wrong with measuring presence, it must not be the sole driver of what brands should do online. This brand personified, in a bar, would probably be clueless about what to say to people around but would focus on how many people he/she could impress. Nobody wants to “engage” with someone arrogant, defensive, unapologetic or even trying-to-please-everyone. (Of how many social media failures does this sound familiar?)

On the other hand, brands that are social, will extend themselves more naturally to social media. Without even trying. They’re the friends in the bar whose company you enjoy. Whether it was before social media or after social media, Coca-Cola has always been about bringing people together. Coca-Cola (among other brands) is in the state of being social. It finds it easy to integrate itself into conversations, situations that people are really involved with because being social is core to who the brand is. A “social media strategy” for such brands is easy to define, because these brands are inherently social. 

In this era of social media proliferation, brands must not define a social media strategy outside of their brand strategy. Rather, if social media is so important to the brand, they must define the brand in a way that it is social by nature, or that a part of the brand’s identity extends itself to being social.