Even if brands do not exist, they can not fall on your foot, as Giep Franzen always said, so they mean a lot to how we as humans perceive, shape and consume the world.
In the bestseller Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, a professor at the University of Jerusalem, takes us on a fascinating journey through the history of mankind. Who are we? Where do we come from? And how did we become who we are today? ‘Seventy thousand years ago, Homo sapiens was still an insignificant species that seemed to be going its own way in a remote corner of Africa. In the millennia that followed, he transformed himself into the absolute ruler of the planet and the worst nightmare of the ecosystem, “said Yuval. Sapiens ultimately revolves around the claim that Homo Sapiens differs significantly from all other animal and human species on because of the gift of being able to invent their own myths (religions, social forms, cultural values), which have no biological basis, but which lead to great collaborations.
In other words, man is the (only) species that is able to imagine and imagine things and believe in something.
No creative solution can be devised, designed and realized without imagination. Imagination enables us to evaluate ideas, develop new visions, push boundaries and invent new products, services, brands and companies. Thus man created the whole world as we know it in this way. And everyone can contribute to this and should not be caught up in the status quo, as Steve Jobs recalled in a 1994 speech on his perspective on life:Everything around you, as you call life, was invented by people who were no wiser than you. When you grow up, you tend to be told that the world is the way it is and your life is just living your life inside the world. Try not to hit the walls too much†
How we as humans make sense of things, life, the world and ourselves is also the leading theme in Harari’s second book, Homo Deus. And it naturally touches the core of our profession in marketing, branding and communication: giving creative meaning to brands, people and everything in between. Harari consistently speaks of the dominant meaning of ‘imaginary orders’, which coexist with objective and subjective realities. In objective reality, things exist regardless of our beliefs or emotions, take a product like an iPhone. A subjective reality, on the other hand, depends on personal beliefs and feelings, such as feelings such as love or fear. However, there is a third level of reality, the intersubjective level, where the phenomena depend on communication between large groups of people. The great phenomena of history and our daily modern lives are largely intersubjective. Such as money, countries, the EU, religions, the importance of economic growth, democracy and other social / political systems, companies and brands.
Fiction, the imaginary, that which does not really exist, therefore plays an important role in the thinking and activities of modern man, the market and society. We dream our world actually says Harari. Ideas such as freedom, human rights, gods, laws, cities, countries and companies exist only in our imagination, but nevertheless play a crucial role in motivating, captivating and (connecting) people. The same goes for brands. Brands do not really exist either. Or as Giep always put it: they can not fall on your feet. They are mental phenomena that are a mental world of brands. We could also talk about ‘metavers’. We form our image of the world through this web of meaning. And the strongest brands are particularly well represented at this intersubjective level. They represent dominant algorithms, ‘live scripts’.
Neuroscience brands are ‘hardwired’ association networks in the brain. According to neuroscientist Ronald Dietvorst, ‘our senses process information from the real world, after which the brain, so to speak, builds a representation of that reality’. He also talks about ‘what one might call the expectations of the brain’. As Anil Seth shows in her amazing Ted Talk, the brain not only perceives reality, but also creates it continuously. The world we perceive comes just as much, if not more, from within and out, as vice versa. What we think we see, for example, recent research shows to be determined more by our memory than by our eyes. And despite the fact that these associations are often unconscious, they largely determine what we do as human beings in our role as consumers, but also as co-brands, investors, entrepreneurs or leaders.
The book Brand Society, by Martin Kornberger, is also written on the basis of this insight. The Brand Society shows how brands have the power to transform both the organizations that build them and the lifestyles of the people who consume them. Tags are defined in this book as the interactive interfaces that connect the economy with society, production with consumption and trade with culture: “Tags are props and scripts that individuals use to ‘style’ their lives”. Thus, The Economist concludes in its reader Brands and Branding that ‘brands have evolved from simple brands to one of the most important organizing principles of modern life’. To: ‘concepts that drive our business and life’. Although brands do not literally exist, they make sense of our existence. For example, during a visit to Shanghai, where I teach Strategic Brand Management at Jiaotong University in the DBA program for Business School Holland / Asia, I learned that the Huawei brand is much more than just a trade name for Chinese; the brand represents the Spirit of China, ‘China can do!’ and it is definitely not to be joked with.
A recent survey by Forbes among members of the CMO Network concluded: “In today’s world, branding is more important than ever.” More than half of the value of the modern economy is now intangible, and much of it is brand equity, based on imaginary value (s) / meaning we associate with brands. It’s no coincidence that Apple is both the most valuable company in the world (more than $ 3 trillion) and the most valuable brand (over $ 400 billion). Modern brands are like Russian dolls, according to Forbes, with many different layers of meaning that increasingly arise naturally in interaction with many different people (consumers, employees and investors). A modern Brand Equity Model, such as Keller, integrates all these kinds of layers. From the basics, made popular through the book How Brands Grow ‘Salience‘understanding, up to the more behavioral’ Resonance ‘understanding.
This last Forbes comparison reminded me of Wendy Leigh’s David Bowie biography. Bowie was also a Russian doll, a man with many faces and layers. Consistent by constantly changing. I think today’s most powerful brands are like that too. Paradoxically, they change continuously but without losing themselves and therefore by not changing at the core. On the one hand, they remain recognizable, but on the other hand, they are also strongly in motion and in line with the changing context, the culture and the society in which they exist. In this way, they remain prominent, relevant and competitive, they hold their history vivid and interesting, and they activate and refresh the network of associations that they represent in our (collective) memory.
It’s Gip too.
Which I have been able to learn a lot from, and which I have been able to work with for a long time to follow him in the legendary agency FHV / BBDO. Of course, I would like to contribute to this book. For although the human Giep unfortunately no longer exists, partly because of this book, its significance, the Giep mark, is largely alive.
Long live Giep.
Andy Mosmans is an entrepreneur, consultant and teacher in branding, marketing and communication and has worked for more than a hundred (inter) national start-up and established brands. He is a member of the Speakers Academy, author of Adformatie and publishes regularly in (international) professional journals. In addition, he has several books to himself; most recently Startup Branding for Boom and Branding for Noordhoff (with Patrick van Thiel). See also www.andymosmans.com.