Give the brand a starring role in the theatre of the mind

Charles Young

The metaphors we use to think about things influence the way we interact with them, and how we attempt to change them.

If you think about a corporation as a giant machine, you compartmentalise yourself, become a cog in its wheels, and attempt to move it through force by identifying leverage points to build a business. If you think about a corporation organically, then you become part of an ecosystem in which you compete to find your niche, and you grow business through patience and cultivation.

We use many different metaphors to think about brands – those abstract constructions of the mind that stand above the physical products or services we sell with advertising.

No metaphor is perfect, and may be more or less appropriate depending on the business audience you're communicating with. For the chief financial officer, you might talk about a brand as a store-house of value and describe it in the manner of management consultant Peter Drucker – as an erstwhile commodity for which, as a result of advertising, you can charge a premium price. For the director of human resources, you might talk about the brand as a community of customers who can be aggregated into a brand franchise through the bonds of loyalty created by image advertising.