The following passage might be familiar: “Oh, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in ’t!”
The passage is from The Tempest by William Shakespeare, which is set on a virtually deserted island, where the protagonist Prospero has been shipwrecked with his infant daughter Miranda. At the start of the play, the two are alone on the island, with the exception of its native resident, a disfigured creature named Caliban, and Ariel, Prospero’s servant, a spirit.
Miranda grows up without meeting any other humans except her father, so when a horde of drunken noblemen are shipwrecked on the island, despite their unattractive inebriated appearance, she is drawn to them, famously declaring the lines above.
To me, this connects with the idea of brand. If something is “branded” to us to be new, exciting and beautiful, without a context of comparison, like Miranda, we could be convinced by it – however it appears. Or at least, that’s what branding experts invest millions of dollars trying to do.
But there is another more subtle connection in literature here – in Aldus Huxley’s 1931 novel Brave New World, where the lead character, John, grows up in a marginalized group in a dystopian future, ostracized from the clinical and peaceful “World State”. He learns to read from a tattered copy of The complete works of Shakespeare (banned in the World State). John leaves his “savage” surroundings to enter the World State – his own “brave new world” – only to face an ultimately tragic internal battle to make himself “pure” enough to fit in.
I’m not doing either of the great works much justice in summarizing them, but my point is that both John and Miranda are demonstrated as innocent and naïve to the glittering visions that are put before them. But as our authors compellingly argue in this issue of Dialogue, in our “brand new world”, consumers are not so easily convinced.
Branding is no longer merely about slogans, attractive logos and messaging. Branding – whether personal, corporate or consumer – requires a sense of purpose, a story, ethics, values, trust, heritage, vision, service – I could go on. Consumer branding can no longer be just the realm of the marketing department; employer branding is not a function of the HR team; and business values cannot be embodied by an A4 piece of paper taped to the wall in the staff canteen.
Without a genuine brand that backs up the marketing rhetoric, clients, prospects, staff and stakeholders will quickly become disillusioned in our connected, innovative world, where the strongest brands are anything but ubiquitous. Branding has to break through silos in business, so leaders and teams have to make sure they own and develop an inspiring and engaging proposition.
Don’t allow it to be a case of “the bland leading the brand”.