I am deeply hurt by the words of Nick Kendall. Hurt because as I read them I smiled and I shouldn't smile my doctor says, since I have a couple of broken bones. Having read his new book, I think he may be on to something here.
Brands matter more today than they did only a few years ago. With all the noise and commotion in our daily lives, brands play an even more vital role in the fight for love and attention and the person who buys your product.
Like Nick, I too believe in brands. I also have spent most of my career thus far building brands. So baked into my thinking from an early age was an unwavering belief in the power of brands and advertising's unique role in building them. Every pitch I did over 27 years would first step back to define the client's business challenge, then step forward to define the vision for the brand that would solve them. Only then would the brand idea be introduced. A brand idea that is--not a script, not a one off execution!
One person I admired earlier on in my career was Nick Kendall, which probably dates him. He is a trailblazer, a genuinely nice person and someone who worked for many years at the London-based ad agency Bartle, Bogle, Hegarty. Nick was the former global strategy director of the agency. He helped create brand ideas such as The Original Jean, The Cream of Manchester, Dedicated to pleasure, Keep Walking and Dirt is Good.
I have always admired his thinking. So much so that I borrowed the opening of this piece from the introduction to his new book entitled "What is a 21st Century brand?: New thinking from the next generation of agency leaders."
This book takes us through what is a brand and what is a brand idea. It starts off with Nick and then is a curation of some of the more provocative thinkers and thoughts on the subject. But the controversial part of the book, the part that made me smile, is Nick's insistence that the pendulum has swung too far - towards the last click , to the short term, to comms as sales builder vs brand builder to small fires and knocking of the big idea.
Indeed reading into his new book it's clear Nick thinks the solution is we need even BIGGER ideas!!!! (Those are his marks). Bigger to direct and frame all the multiple comms opps . But bigger to shape innovation as well comms. Internal as well as external desire. I could not agree more (I recently wrote a book about building big ideas. The book is called Uprising and it's about how you build Cultural Movement brand ideas, and an introduction to movement marketing. It is one man's perspective.
In this new book, Nick has assembled a couple dozen current and future brand building leaders who have each written a chapter in this curated collection with the objective of stimulating debate and sharpening understanding on the future of brands in order to help agencies transform the value they create for clients.
This has a table of contents with all the essay titles plus intros from Stephen Woodford, Ian Priest, Mark Earls, and selections from Tim Jones, Emily Fairhead-Keen, Sarah Morning, and David Wilding to name a few. The titles are fascinating reading in their own right
Why has Nick compiled this book? Not for histories sake but so we might build better new things not repeat the mistakes of our past because we do not know they are mistakes
"Imagine science without referencing previous experiments
BUT imagine even ART with no memory . It just does not happen .Artists like Picasso, Matisse etc or Andy Warhol or the new breed of Brits-Grayson, Damien and Tracy - all know their art history and it gives them the freedom to re-imagine. It is the obligation of the elders to pass on the framework on which people can challenge."
What is a 21st Century brand? brings together the best essays from 10 years of the IPA Excellence Diploma - the MBA of brands, accompanied by commentary from leading industry thinkers, including Stephen Woodford, Mark Earls, David Wilding and Ian Priest. With a focus on challenging the status quo, the book asks us to question how we perceive brands, how to build them, and how to make them better.
The book offers:
· A future-facing perspective: fascinating comparisons of how brands have evolved almost 50 years on from Stephen King's seminal piece 'What is a brand'.
· A practitioner's point of view: the next generation of agency greats offer invaluable thought leadership and tangible experiences of what a 21st Century brand is.
· Multiple perspectives: the 20 provocations on what constitutes a brand provide agencies with a toolkit for approaching and improving business challenges. For example, Nick Docherty believes 'brand' is a word that has outlived its usefulness, Ian Edwards believes in the Darwinian evolution of brands and Tom Jones believes in gaming your brand.
· A new mode of thinking: focus on developing beliefs on which to act, rather than on action without prior thought. Underpin your strategy by first asking the question 'What is a brand?' Therefore what is a brand idea? Therefore, how should we organise to deliver? This approach, as the book provokes, will reap greater business rewards than the reverse process of asking: What we can do? Therefore what kind of idea can we create? Therefore what kind of brand do we want to be?'
"In our fast-moving, fragmented world I believe that brands can create coherence, clarity, and meaning," says Nick. "Ultimately we need brands and brand ideas to glue things back together, both conceptually and tangibly. Readers can all study the shared texts, learnings and case histories of our business from the great and the good. And they can all be encouraged to think about what 'they believe' about brands and brand ideas on the back of that. If you want to take time to think about the fundamentals of what we do as a business - create and build brands - this book will be all the stimulation you could want."
Scott Goodson writes for the HP, HBR, FC and Forbes, he is author of bestseller 'Uprising: how to build a brand and change the world by sparking cultural movements'. And he is founder of StrawberryFrog.