A new way to see branding (with some help from 5th grade science)

Your brand. It’s a world you create and maintain.

Your brand. It’s a world you create and maintain.

An art teacher of mine had an interesting, and I think very observant, view of nature. He believed that when things were in balance and in a good state, they also happened to be naturally beautiful.

The example he would use is one many of us can relate to—someone who is overweight and unhealthy finally deciding to adopt good eating habits and exercising. As that person’s cholesterol and blood pressure drops with the pounds, his body gets closer to a more balanced, better state—and people start to notice.

“I’m glad you’re getting healthier… and by the way, you look great!”

This simple example teaches us marketers a valuable lesson: When everything is working together in a complex system—in harmony and in balance— it’s a thing of beauty. It attracts.

I was contemplating all of this on a number of recent, long bike rides. I thought about that art teacher and his theory, and my mind darted to some articles and conversations I’ve had about cutting-edge branding. Yes, the repetitive nature of my pedaling is offset by a slew of random, bouncing thoughts. And as I biked along a quiet road through a heavily wooded area, I thought—branding, and our approach to it, has evolved dramatically.

We have to look more at branding beyond logo color, social media tactics, and video—beyond execution. We need to think of it in terms of an ecosystem.

A little throwback to fifth grade, dioramas and fourth-period science class: An ecosystem is one that includes all things in a given area or space, and how they interact with each other.

In the case of nature, that includes plants, animals, weather, soil, atmosphere… everything… and their co-existing in a sustainable manner.

Everything in an ecosystem has its own role to play, but contributes, fundamentally, to the whole. If one is out of balance, the rest suffer or must adapt in some way.

The same is true of branding today.

Driven by technology, global competition, fragmented media, and a number of deep cultural and economic factors, the art and science of branding is considerably more complex—with a slew of interacting elements that need to co-exist and find balance. Sound familiar?

If we think in terms of a “brand ecosystem,” those elements would include brand personality, design, content and social, of course—but also encompass customer service, environment, product interaction, applying for job, and more. Basically, your brand ecosystem is every possible touch point a person could have with you, whether that’s talking to a customer service representative or watching one of your YouTube videos.

It all needs to be you… your brand… your organization… your ecosystem.

I think this is why we’re seeing the rise of such positions as chief experience officer in many larger companies. In my mind, this person, along with marketing, customer service, IT, and others, are the stewards of an organization’s ecosystem.

In fifth grade, we learned about all the different types of ecosystems. There are forests, aquatic, grasslands, deserts, and more.

Like each ecosystem, each brand is unique. The Sahara and Mojave are both deserts, technically, but they are radically different places.

For everything you create, and for every touch point your customer has with you, ask yourself: Does it belong? Does it contribute, balance and enhance this system of ours?

Or, in fifth-grade parlance, it may belong in a desert, but does it belong in our desert?

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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