Let’s play a game. You are managing a brand, which is about to celebrate its 25th-year anniversary. Your director asks you an interesting question: “Should we promote our company’s length of life? Should we add “Since 1991” to our logo? Does it make sense to celebrate our brand’s history? What’s the right thing to do?” It is my hope that after having read this short essay, you will be armed with a solid answer -should that question ever comes!
Two years ago, Rebecca Robins and Manfredi Ricca of Interbrand co-authored an insightful book named Meta-Luxury. One of the many issues they tackled was the concept of time for luxury brands. Recently, Jennifer Eggers of Siegel + Gale wrote her perspective on the same topic, but this time for B2B brands. She shared equally useful insights regarding time and branding. Let’s pick up from they left off.
I believe that the time dimension is a fundamental –yet seldom thought out- branding issue. If we hope to find a silver bullet that would work for all kinds of brands, then we would have to descend to the essence of the issue and remember the true nature of time.
Modern physics teaches us that space and time are intertwined, that we can’t get one without the other. Actually, that fact is closely related the Greek notion of locus and focus. Based on my observations, all iconic brands have a strong sense of locus (as in location) and focus (as in the center point or a point or time in which they are centered.) That’s why the answer to our question is hidden in those two time-honoured words.
Focus allows a brand to believe wholeheartedly and act single-mindedly upon a particular truth. Etymologically speaking, focus means hearth. (For more, read the archetypal story of Hestia, the Goddess of the Hearth.) It is the fire that keeps you warm. It happens right here, right now. It connotes instantaneousness.
Following that train of thought, as long as an organization is burning (the strong emphasis is on the present participle) to offer value to its customers, its brand has focus. Should that fire cease to shine though, your historical achievements become mere nostalgia. So, the concept of focus teaches us that, for your track record of accomplishments and goodwill to matter, you need to be burning with the same eternal passion, right now.
For your track record of accomplishments and goodwill to matter, you need to be burning with the same eternal passion, right now.
The sister of focus is locus, which can be imagined in two ways. At the outer shell, locus means geographical position. That is to say; it is the place of origin of the brand. That particular interpretation of locus tells us that brands that are rooted in their communities, that are touching the locals’ everyday lives, that are not only selling products but also creating occupations and helping communities to flourish have a strong sense of locus. Obviously, in today’s digital era, communities are no longer bound by geography, but by common interest.
At a deeper level, though, locus could also be interpreted as the place a brand occupies in our collective minds. That interpretation is in line with positioning. The latter sense of locus is what all branding professionals aim to create for that makes the time aspect relevant for brands.
Here is a simple rule of thumb: To achieve the latter version of locus, first you have to take care of the former. To be positioned properly, the brand needs to be able to posit its case first. After all, strong positioning is all about deciding on what specific value (focus) needs to be offered to whom (locus.)
Now, let’s get back to our little game. You, the brand manager, who is celebrating the 25th-year anniversary of your brand, could use focus and locus as decision criteria. Focus is your company’s present-day energy, and locus is the roots of your brand. If -and only if- those has stayed consistent since day one, then adding the “Since 1990” statement to your logo would make sense. Otherwise, it would be a futile, self-serving promotion. Even worse, it could make your brand vulnerable to the attacks from clean-slate brands.
If your brand is approaching a critical milestone, feel free to drop me a line. By remembering your brand’s locus and focus, we can help it become historic, and not history.