Charity, Health, Education, Other

What if brand was a person?

Last week I was mulling over how to best explain to a prospective client IE's position on the relationship of visual identity to brand…Here's what I told him.



The best metaphor for brand is always that of a person. You hear a name – like Dan McGregor. It may be you've stumbled across the name in a web search or through a business network or a mutual friend. It sounds familiar. You begin to gain a measure of the person. You maybe suspect Scottish heritage and you build a mental picture of him.

You check him out on Linkedin and request to follow him on Twitter. You notice his name coming up in conversations. Still no photo – no visual identity – but lots of  information that has helped you to build a wider sense of who he is – his brand – including his history, his relationships, his tone of voice, his key drivers, pet hates etc.

Then finally you meet. He's younger than you expected and you'd imagined auburn hair and a beard but he's bald and clean shaven. He's droll but socially awkward and you find that endearing. You share interests and a little overlap in social circles and you become friends and begin enjoying his company and introducing him to others.

You'll now happily defend his reputation amongst peers and won't hear a bad word said against him. You've become his friend, you choose to spend time with him, to be influenced by him. You are loyal to him, you know he values your friendship and a part of your own identity is now bound up in that friendship.

His appearance – his visual identity – by now is just a tiny fraction of your overall knowledge of him and his character – the Dan McGregor brand.

In an alternative scenario you might have seen him – his visual identity – first at a party, long before you knew his name, who he was or anything about his reputation. This time the journey of understanding began with visual identity but, even then, your understanding of who he is was influenced by whose party he was at and whether he was drinking alone or surrounded by laughter and friends.

Human beings are amazingly good at 'reading' people – and we bring this same unconscious skill set to reading brands. So what I look like is part of me – just as visual identity is part of my story. But – thankfully – it's far from the whole story.