Sit on your brand-hands

David Mitchell – the Peep Show star, satirist, and Observer columnist made a neat point about branding in this recent piece

Now, David Mitchell isn’t actually a big fan of branding, certainly not logos, and who couldn’t agree with him about the “nascarization” of sports sponsorship (where shirts, cars, rackets, golf bags are crammed with sponsors’ logos like a heaped plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet.)  David doesn’t call it ‘nascarization’, probably because it’s a horrible word from the world of branding, but I’m happy to offer it to him for free.

No – it isn’t this, or indeed David’s reaction to Roger Federer’s ‘F’ logo, which I find interesting.

It’s his observation of the pressure to conform, to second-guess, to play to the masses,  that last week led a faltering Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to join-in with a Mexican Wave at Wimbledon.

“There was nothing distinctive about the Cambridges’ Mexican waving. It was just blandly normal…if they seem too normal, more of us will question all the free stuff they get. They need to maintain a distancing glamour; without seeming stuck-up…”

Most of all – it’s not the conformity, per se, but –

“With the royal waving too, I think it’s self-consciousness that makes me squirm. You can sense their doubt, the slight panic: “How will this look? How will it look if we don’t?””

Compare this with the confident old MCC buffers, Mexican-wave-refuseniks to a man, sitting resolutely in their chairs as the ‘wave’ passes the clubhouse at Lords cricket ground, who “are unafraid to assert their difference, as are the people who boo them.”

They remind us, those old boys in the clubhouse with their steadfast adherence to pomposity and Panama hats, that – when it comes to brands – our job is to remove choice. To be unafraid of some ‘boos’, confident that others are cheering all the harder.

When we develop a brand’s position, identify it’s difference, assemble it’s identity-wardrobe and lexicon, it isn’t out of some avant-garde artistic determination to be different, for different’s sake.

It is to make a distinct connection, to own unique ‘territory’. But it is also to build that internal self-confidence of the brand, so that the “ooh, how is this going to look?” knee-knocking panic doesn’t come-up. Because, as we know from all other walks of life, nothing attracts like self-confidence. And because –

a. you’re leading, not following (it is your own unique territory, after all)

b. you know you don’t have to (never will) please everybody. That you’re ‘more right’ for some by being ‘not right’ for others.

So next time, when they’re all waving, sit on your brand-hands.




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