Yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend who’s a former colleague from my earliest days in advertising. Adam came up on the creative side of the business and he’s a great strategist to boot. We got to talking about the Apple logo at one point and he said “The apple with a bite taken out of it means nothing on its own. You need context to understand it fully.”
How true! Unless you knew the David and Goliath story in the early years, the symbolism wouldn’t have made sense (Apple being David and Microsoft being the monolithic Goliath). Further, what we now take as a hallmark of simplistic design is really more than that: the logo reinforces the approach Apple has taken with all its usability, design, and marketing efforts. We wouldn’t need to see a logo to know something is Apple’s – that’s how well all of its parts are integrated. Beyond this, in my view, because of its consistency and discipline in what it produces (products, ads, stores, service), Apple is the rare brand which is much more than the “sum of its parts.”
This conversation with Adam comes right on the heels of watching TED Talk’s “Julian Baggini: Is there a real you?” where Julian put forward a rather “gestalt” notion of “self.” He asked:
- Are “You” a thing which has all the experiences (beliefs, desires, sensations, etc.) of life OR
- Are “You” a collection of those experiences?
He gave two examples to support the latter point:
- Water cannot be water without its parts (hydrogen and oxygen).
- A wristwatch is created by its parts, but there is no thing which exists on its own called a watch.
Taking his philosophy to the extreme, there may be nothing but the unknown – parts to the Nth degree. (What are the parts of hydrogen? And the parts of hydrogen’s parts? At some point, we simply don’t have all the answers.)
Nevertheless, this idea really is at the core of how brands are built. A brand clearly isn’t a person with desires and sensations. Yet, everything a brand does, says and shows helps to create the brand and its corporate culture – whether they transcend beyond mere branding as Apple has done.
In the interest of “self-awareness,” when was the last time your company did a image/concept brand audit showcasing all your “parts”? Are they working together? Anything need to be refined? Anything which can be leveraged to new marketing practices or products that reinforce consumers’ view of your? My take: this audit is just as important as a financial audit; however, they often get overlooked.
Back to Julian: I do think the human “You” is more than a collection of our experience – which was his argument. Until there are brain transplants, my brain is unique to me and can’t be used to reassemble another homo sapien. So on that, I disagree with him. But my brand? Time for my own self-audit!