Is there a brand elephant?
My friend was writing an article for a business magazine.
He emailed me a few questions.
Ones that really made me pause and consider (again) this notion called “brand.”
He asked, about a well-known company’s recent initiatives.
“Isn’t where [the company] sources ingredients more important [than creative content]?
How about employment policies, or frequency of lawsuits filed by or against?”
I instantly thought of the blind men and the elephant.
An ancient parable about subjective reality confronting the totality of truth.
Five blind men (or men in a dark room) touch an elephant to discover what it is.
The elephant is massive, so they can only touch a part of it.
Later, when they compare notes, they are in complete disagreement.
The man who touched the leg said the elephant was like a pillar.
The tail toucher said the elephant was like a rope.
The one who felt the trunk compared it to a tree branch.
The man who felt the ear said the elephant was like a fan.
And the tusk feeler insisted the elephant was like a spear.
The same is true of the marketplace.
People are blind to the totality of most brands.
They simply don’t have the time or cognitive resources to be otherwise.
Some people choose brands based on price or convenience.
Others are influenced by what people like them are choosing.
Some choose brands due to how advertising makes them feel.
While others may care about product attributes, ingredients and sourcing.
And some people are moved by a brand’s sustainability and employment practices.
They’re all touching different and sometimes multiple, but true, aspects of the brand.
But they never touch every aspect.
So does a brand, as a totality of truth, even exist?
If your brand elephant is lacking a tail, does it even matter?
The German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s remarked:
“We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself.
But nature exposed to our method of questioning.”
The same is true of brands.
A brand is not a solid, stable truth.
It’s not an objective concept, like an elephant.
A brand is a dynamic idea.
One that evolves over time.
And one that changes in our minds through multiple touches.
One managed for the short term.
While, at the same time, being passionately developed for an envisioned future.