‘-ness’ and the power of branding 20 April 2015

At Living Group we’re passionate about branding. I’d like to share some of our passion with you. But before I get started humour me – we’re going design a bike together. Not just any old bike; a bike for Apple. We’ve only got 10 minutes so grab some paper and start doodling. 

Ready? What type of bike is it? What’s it made of? What special features does it have? What does it feel like to ride? Why’s it different from any other bike?

Now as far as I know Sir Jonathan Ive and his colleagues at Apple have never designed a bike (yet). And I think that the chances of you ever having worked for Apple or designed a bike are pretty slim too. But I’m fairly certain that your bike and mine, and anyone else who takes up the challenge will be pretty much identical. Now that doesn’t make you and me mind readers, it simply means that the branding of Apple has been so brilliantly executed, that we understand instinctively what is –and more importantly what isn’t – Apple. Everything about our bike designs is informed by our sense of ‘Apple-ness’.



And this thing called ‘-ness is what branding sets out to create. ‘-ness matters because even though we can all name our favourite brands it can be hard to describe exactly why we love them. When we see a logo – on a shoe or a scarf, a letterhead or a luxury hotel – it conjures up powerful emotions. That’s why branding is a very important tool in business. That’s why we get very excited about it. Let’s take a look at how it all works.

How branding works

The life of a brand is characterised by three stages; birth, growth and maturity.  Brands can, and do, die – they can also be resurrected. But brand death is not inevitable so we’ll deal with that later.

Characteristics of stage 1: birth

  • Brand components: logo, brand promise, features & benefits.
  • Brand voice: parent, owner, third-person.
  • Brand perception: ignorance, curiosity, hope.
  • Brand confidence: at this age it’s all about potential.

Brand components

When a baby-brand (‘BB’) is born and launched on an unsuspecting world it’s naked and vulnerable. Except for a logo, a lot of promise and a few untested features and benefits.

Brand voice

Newborn BB can’t speak for himself. He relies on his parents to do it for him. And proud parents tend only to say nice things about their offspring. It’s lovely to hear but it’s better when they’re a little older and learn to talk. “I love my Mummy!” means so much more than “He loves his Mummy!” A sign of a BB’s increasing maturity is when he finds his own voice.

Brand perception

Grandparents, aunties, uncles and assorted close relatives will flock to see newborn BB. They’re bursting with curiosity, dying to see the little darling for themselves and give him a hug. However, beyond immediate family – those ‘in the know’ – the existence of BB is relatively unknown. But once word gets out and people start talking, he won’t be.

Brand confidence

At this age it’s all about potential. If BB’s parents are smart then it’s likely he or she will be too. But nothing is proven, nothing can be taken for granted. Although the most ugly BB may be 'Adonis' to his mum and dad, the rest of us would rather wait and see how he grows up before we make up our own minds.

We hope you've enjoyed this view point and we'll share our thoughts on the growth stage of a brand in our next article in May.

Duncan Shaw
Executive Creative Director

If you would like to know more about how our team could transform your brand, as we have for many of our clients, please contact Duncan Shaw on +44 (0)20 7739 8899.