Great Philosophers Think About Brands
Although most of the philosophers whose ideas are contemplated throughout The Philosophy of Branding predate the concept of branding as it is discussed today, marketing expert Thom Braun believes it does not matter. Philosophy is the rational investigation of being, knowledge and right conduct, he writes, but these things also "lie at the heart of brands and branding in some shape or form." To get at this heart of branding, Braun takes some liberties with the philosophers to whom he refers - Socrates, Wittgenstein, Plato, Rousseau, Hegel, Nietzsche, Aristotle and others - and dissects their philosophies to extract many fundamental principles for the development and management of brands.
In Braun's short book about the concepts that comprise brands and branding, he provides a context for the differing thoughts of many philosophers from a variety of eras. He explains that branding and Western philosophy both began with the Ancient Greeks, and starts his book by introducing readers to Heraclitus, who said, "A hidden connection is stronger than an obvious one." The connection between philosophy and branding is certainly not obvious, Braun writes, but is arguably strong.
Heraclitus and Socrates
One of Heraclitus' greatest perceptions, Braun points out, was that the world is continually in flux. His idea that nothing is stable and that everything is constantly changing remains as profound and fairly obvious today as it was when he said it over 2,500 years ago. In this world of constant flux, Braun writes, brands act as signposts in a busy marketplace, standing for something more than superficial product or service attributes. Heraclitus' ideas indicate that stability is an illusion. Braun notes that brands are no more stable than the very unstable world in which they exist. By way of Heraclitus' ideas, Braun shows that brand developers and managers must start from a point that assumes that everything is in flux all the time.
Socrates is the next philosopher Braun examines. As a philosopher who turned his focus away from the world and onto humankind, Socrates' moral philosophy was more concerned with understanding the motivations on which we act. Socrates persistently questioned in pursuit of "truth," and focused on the way our understanding of truth affects our behavior - two thoughts that are also at the heart of his philosophy of branding.
Socrates' skills as a great thinker revolved around his use of questions. Braun writes that "in the development of brand and branding strategies, we often lose sight of the need for rigor and the positive use of constant questioning." Socrates taught his students to question everything, to take nothing for granted, and to seek the truth. According to Braun, for a branding process - including a rigorous process of question and answer - to work well, it must be undertaken within a brand and company culture that welcomes change. Don't settle for anything that does not feel like the truth.
Braun writes that Socrates' pupil, Plato, was one of the single biggest influences on the philosophy of branding. Taking Heraclitus' idea of constant change a step further, Plato said that everything we see and experience around us can only be an ephemeral representation of a more real and permanent world that exists outside time and space. Behind the apparent chaos of this world, exists a highly ordered reality - imperceptible to our senses but approachable through our minds, Braun writes. Total reality, he explains, is made up of a changing part and an unchanging part that cannot be experienced, but only glimpsed through mental reflections. Therefore, Braun explains, a brand as we experience it should never be seen as something that is, but rather as something that is always becoming. This means that a brand needs to have values that do not change over time, and which stand behind the superficial characteristics of the brand.
Although these three philosophers' ideas tend to agree, Braun points out that much of the point of philosophy is derived from the way one view is brought into sharp relief by another view. The rest of The Philosophy of Branding delves into the contrasts between these early philosophers and those who come much later in history. Early 18th century philosopher David Hume, for example, takes a different tack when he explains that people (and brands) should not be constrained by an overly rational or logical approach. Braun explains that this means marketers are better off focusing on people's feelings and emotions.
Why We Like This Book
The Philosophy of Branding not only provides a historical perspective of brands and branding, but also presents a uniquely grounded basis for its points about reaching consumers and affecting the ways people experience modern life through brands. By providing brand marketers with a philosophical foundation on which they can contemplate their brands, Braun offers fresh insights that can help them develop new ideas about their brands and connect to the hearts and minds of their consumers.