Archive for the 'Brand Creativity' Category

The brand as polymath (connecting the dots)

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Steve Crandall has written a fine piece on the role of the polymath in business, with reference to the stellar achievements of Steve Jobs at Apple.

Polymaths can connect the dots

As Steve Crandall notes, polymaths (literally those with “much learning”) have the rare ability to connect the dots, to see what’s latent and to bring it to life.

When you have a bit of understanding of divergent areas there is a fascinating crosstalk – you begin to see the world differently in an intellectual synesthesia.  As Jobs might say you “think different”.  Dots begin to connect and new questions arise that might not come to anyone without your mix of backgrounds.  Pushing further may give answers and puts you in a position to intelligently communicate with real experts in other fields perhaps trading some of your own expertise as part of the bargain.

Connecting dots in a novel way is a form of discovery and invention.  It can be a generator of serendipity and let you see farther than those with a narrower vision. It is an enormously efficient mechanism for understanding and using information.

The brand (and brand team) as polymath

A company of polymaths would be a great place to work, but it’s always seemed to me that the brand and the brand team should be Polymath Central, the cultural core, by inclination and by learning. Brands help customers interoperate with the universe, and to succeed in brands you have to hold that universe in your hand (or maybe juggle several). You have to sense what’s latent within what’s emergent. Beyond that you have to know the product, the market, the customer and 360 degrees of the cultural context, so you can grasp what’s possible to raise customers, the brand and the business to the next level, and beyond.

Salesmen sell what’s on the shelf, but the brand team knows the higher truth: To make your products fly off the shelves, give wings to your customers. The dots brands connect often go outside the box.

Take the Brand Builder Test

A polymath could easily answer the Brand Builder Test: “Explain why Capuchin, Capulet and cappuccino are heaven on the lips.” Yes, the deeper the brand the more dots we connect, and the richer realms of living we attain.


The brand as artist

Monday, August 29th, 2011

How should we think of the brand? And more importantly, how should the brand think about itself? What is it, really?

I like to think of the brand as an artist, a force that’s creatively re-shaping the world. Brands see what products can’t, and often what customers can barely imagine.

I recently came across a fine quote from George Bernard Shaw on the role of the artist, and I would apply these very words to the function of the brand. Here is what Shaw said:

“The great artist is he who goes a step beyond the demand, and, by supplying works of a higher beauty and a higher interest than have yet been perceived, succeeds, after a brief struggle with its strangeness, in adding this fresh extension of sense to the heritage of the race.”

—George Bernard Shaw, The Sanity of Art

Replacing “artist” with brand, and editing a bit, we have this:

A great brand goes a step beyond demand, and, by supplying works of a higher beauty and a higher interest than have yet been perceived, succeeds, after a brief struggle with its strangeness, in adding this fresh extension of sense to the heritage of the race.

Leonardo, Shakespeare and Picasso all added a “fresh extension of sense” to our lives. There’s no reason your brand can’t join them.



Whip out your phone and record a brand story

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The new Apple iPhone 4 has some stellar HD video capabilities, and the following clip showcases what they can do in professional hands. It’s a pretty amazing feat for a smartphone, especially since the video was edited on the iPhone itself. (See the extra “behind the scenes” feature for details.)

Record a brand story anywhere your phone goes

How might this technology affect your brand? Well, anything worth sharing about your brand can now be told visually—and creatively—anywhere your phone goes, with decent production values. Just whip out your iPhone 4—or fairly soon, no doubt, any of its direct competitors—and assemble your brand story. But don’t delay. Your customers (and competitors) will be sharing brand stories, too.

SOURCE: “Apple of My Eye” – an iPhone 4 film – UPDATE: Behind the scenes footage included from Michael Koerbel on Vimeo.

Today’s creative challenge: brand these shorts!

Friday, November 6th, 2009

hotpantsToday’s creative challenge is to craft a compelling brand identity for these awesome fire retardant shorts. In our hectic web-driven lives we sometimes forget to guard our shorts from spontaneous combustion, misdirected hellfire or the errant match. But these things do happen. The question is: will your shorts survive?


Thanks to modern technology, fire retardation is an exact science. Notice that the shorts remain completely and blissfully inferno-free. They most certainly can be worn another day.

Feel the flames

The referenced “Burning Boy” label may be a bit too literal for the miraculous powers of this product. Where’s the metaphoric leap to catapult these shorts into the realm of meta must-haves? We need a brand that makes one feel the flames, the habanero heat on privates in peril, the elemental ignominy of, “Yow! My shorts burned off!”

Be sure to pass any guarantee through legal.

NOTE: The world would be a far more interesting place if brands were left to artists. An artist, Christian Northeast, created “MacGregor’s Fire Retardant Shorts.” Yes, it’s a work of art—all of it. And it’s a good one. Don’t go looking for these shorts at Nordstrom’s, or Goodwill.

You can see more of Christian’s work at his website. Through his site you can purchase his book.

Hat tip:  The J-Walk Blog
Image: Christian Northeast

Power of the brand metaphoric

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Raymond Pirouz brings us a charming little video on the story of the ASICS brand, told in origami. The piece was done by German ad agency Nordpol+ Hamburg and origami artist Sipho Mabona. More creative details here.

A brand is at its best when it doesn’t pitch or posture or pretend. It simply becomes a metaphor on the world, endlessly inventive, buoying customers along.


Food for brand builders

Monday, March 9th, 2009


Be picky. Better yet, cook your own.

Meanwhile, there’s Short of the Week. And check out their resources.

Photo: Cheekybikerboy — Flickr

Links for creative brand builders: 12/19/08

Friday, December 19th, 2008

These are links for brand builders pursuing creative contexts for brands, as well as radical new (root) connections with customers. I’ll try to post such links a couple of times a month.

Brand identity: go cosmic, or go home

For a nice identity fix, check out these spiffy tattoos from young scientists. They may not win any design awards, but that’s not the point. They’re emergent identities—symbols of fundamental truths, processes, or discoveries that shape the universe, and humankind. They’re identities that transcend market offerings and shopping carts.

In comparison, many conventional brand identities seem small-minded and transitory. That’s because they aim too low. They’re commerce, not cosmos.

Some corollaries: In brands, the biggest universe wins. Go cosmic, or go home. Identities chained to products risk becoming dead-end DNA. They can’t evolve, and they’re doomed to perish.

Brands radiate possibilities

Benjamin Zander elucidates the principle. Does your brand enable major breakthroughs in the lives of customers? Does it take customers to places they couldn’t reach without you? Is your brand a new world of possibilities?

Put your brand on the map

Google Maps now makes it possible. The creative context is up to you.

In brands, the back is the new front

Touchscreens are an emergent interface for a whole host of new digital devices such as the iPhone. However, designing small touchscreens is tricky because one’s fingers can easily block the interface elements on the screen itself. Solution: use the back of the device for touch inputs, rather than the front. You make things happen from the “working” side.

There’s a metaphoric analog here for brands: While every brand likes to strut its display side, it’s often inputs through the back end of the brand—the customer side—that move the brand forward. Every customer is a “capacitive interface,” with back-end customer inputs more valuable in the long run than the dazzle of up-front campaigns.

Store brands lift grocers in troubled times

Conventional packaged brands from “name brand” manufacturers were once the measure of what brands were supposed to be. Now they’re in danger of becoming obsolescent, if not obsolete.

Conventional packaged brands tend to fall short on two accounts. First, they can’t match the experience level of retail brands, who are far closer to the customer. Second, retailers can shape their brands to the context of their total offering, and to the whole customer. To see what this means, traipse on down to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, two stores that act like communities. When your brand is confined to a package, it stands alone.

Moreover, a store experience can differentiate the customer. That’s a far more valuable experience than package brand dress that merely differentiates a product from its neighbors on the shelf.

How a Steve Jobs approach might transform Detroit auto makers

Small chance of this ever happening, but Robert Cringely scores some good points on the strategic importance of brand focus and customer experience.

I especially like this line: “Apple is worth more than any of the car companies and for good reason: Apple has a future.”

Yes, indeed. Your brand holds the keys to your future. For decades, Detroit brands have been pseudo brands, little more than stylized sales stimulants. Lately they’re being reduced to progressively puerile ad campaigns. Customers are taking their futures elsewhere.

In brands, culture trumps commerce

The gist of a brand is its contribution to culture. Thus, brand builders pay attention to thinkers like Michael Shanks, a leader in reappraising past cultures and their living heritage, especially in terms of processes of adaptation and innovation.  He’s helping transform archeology into a discipline of foresight, rather than hindsight.

Brand builders are culture creators. The more your brand adds to the culture, the better its chances to self-seed and take root. A brand that isn’t a new context of culture is effectively DOA.

Also: the Stanford Humanities Lab, a brand builder’s sandbox.

Brand values are craft values

The new book is called The Craftsman, by Richard Sennett. It explores “deep connections between material consciousness and ethical values,” which just happens to be the very stuff of brands. Well, real brands, not pseudo brands. Brands predicated on craft have a material and spiritual advantage over synthetic brands (fictions) predicated on selling. When companies lose their craft, they wind up in dire straits, like those brand-deficient Detroit automakers.


Merlin Mann reinvents the 43 Folders brand

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Merlin Mann has announced that he’s “shifting gears” at his famed 43 Folders personal productivity site. In effect, he’s reinventing the 43 Folders brand. The site is changing from a brand of personal productivity to a brand of personal creativity. It’s brand deliverable is changing from improving one’s core efficiency to improving one’s creative output—and one’s personal relevance in the world.

The shape of a new brand

The new 43 Folders brand approach is evolving as we speak, but we can glimpse its general shape and direction. It’s RIP for “productivity pr0n.” The new focus of the site, in its own words: is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.   . . .

This is now a site for people who want to finish things that they care about — but who still occasionally need help, inspiration, and the courage to push all the bullshit off their work table. This is about clearing that space every day, and then using it to do cool stuff that makes you proud.

Right now, 43 Folders is focused on an arc about how to improve the quality of your career and life by managing your attention in a way that allows you to work your ass off on the creative projects that matter most to you.  . . . .

I want to help you identify and remove any obstacle that keeps you from making things that you love. And then I want to help you figure out how to make those things even better. That’s pretty much it.

The person the new brand will create

It appears that the new person that the 43 Folders brand intends to create will be one who can enjoy a creatively-focused life in the context of a workaday world. This is a trans-cubicle, integrated approach that opens up a lot of possibilities. Defining oneself as a creative individual who articulates a passion can dramatically refocus one’s life; it can actually make certain mainstream “productivity” issues irrelevant. One’s life jumps to a whole new level.

Some questions

  1. It’s not clear yet if the new approach will concentrate on workaday people with passionate hobbies, or also lean toward serving artists and creatives. Will this be a new 43 Folders for the “creative class?”
  2. The original 43 Folders approach helped spawn a “productivity process” movement where process took center stage. People flocked to GTD and joined the Moleskine militia. However, a strict focus on productivity process can be limiting to an individual’s growth. Will the new approach be more “philosophical,” with less emphasis on process? In other words, will the journey take precedence over the journal?
  3. Who might serve as a model practitioner of this new approach? Every new brand should bring to life a new model of customer, someone who incarnates the brand and serves as a reference.
  4. A brand “arc” or a brand journey?
  5. What are the brand possibilities inherent in a DIY approach? How might these trump factory brands? This might be the basis for a multithreaded brand from the bottom up.

The incumbent challenge

Of course, there’s one dark shadow hanging over this new 43 Folders initiative. The last word on creative productivity has already been uttered, and immortalized, by Father Guido Sarducci, two decades ago. It’s hard to top that.

Illustration: Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook entry for a flying machine. (Leonardo could have used 43 Folders. He was notorious for starting many projects and finishing very few.)