The Attitude of a Brand
If you were to ask ten designers for the difference between branding and identity, you’d get ten different answers. Regardless, I’m going to give you my own definition. To me, it’s a simple distinction. Branding is the attitude of a company or product, while identity is the physical manifestations of that same attitude. You can agree or disagree with me, I really don’t care. That’s not the point of this post. The point is that successful branding is much deeper than a company logo or corporate stationery.
I’ve always thought that the movie V for Vendetta is an excellent crash course on the subject of branding. Much of the story centers around a man who goes by the name V. His aim is to spark a revolution in a not-so-distant future England. He is labeled as a terrorist by the government but is seen as a prolific leader by the people. However, the revolution isn’t about him. He wears a mask and goes by an alias because he claims to represent an idea rather than a man. A man can be caught, he can be killed, he can be imprisoned — but an idea, an idea is invincible. This is exactly what it means to brand something. To build it around a core set of ideas or an attitude, not around a logo, product, or any particular person.
The Legacy of Steve Jobs
Apple is viewed by many as the most valuable and strongest brand in the world. The question remains, will it continue that pattern? Or did that brand begin its decline with the passing of its leader, Steve Jobs? It’s true, much of Apple’s success is directly linked to one man and his personal insights. Even the keynotes and product announcements were centered around him. He was the hero. The master mind. The one who could see what others could not. And without him, it’s hard not to acknowledge a void in the company. So, is the strength of Apple’s brand centered on one man? Or did his leadership create something bigger than that?
[Spoiler alert] In the movie, you never learn the identity of V. In fact, he dies on the cusp of his long awaited revolution. When the police ask his accomplice about his true identity, she replies that V is everywhere. That he is in every single one of us. Not just one man. How can that be? V represented a specific set of ideas and, as the movie points out, ideas need not be exclusive to one person. Anyone can chose to believe in them and adopt them as their own. Although V started the revolution, as his ideas spread, the movement is carried by everyone else who chooses to believe in them.
Yes, Steve Jobs was one man. One man who caused an immense amount of change in the world — his very own revolution. And now, that man is gone. Will the same innovation continue? I believe it will. Because even though Steve was always at the heart of the movement, it was never about him. It wasn’t about the iPhone or the iPod. In fact, what Steve engrained in us has very little to do with any particular Apple product. Instead, it was his attitude and ideas that we are left with. An attitude of excellence and passion. A constant restlessness that meant never settling. A stop to complacency and idleness. Apple was the vehicle that he chose to embody these ideas, and by extension, they have become the soul of Apple’s identity. As long as that identity lives on, so will the success of Apple.
Steve is gone. We’ve lost a great man, but we have gained his vision. His revolution will continue to live on. It’s carried by each of us who have been inspired by his attitude and ideas that will continue to echo for years to come.
If that’s not a legacy, I don’t know what is.
I'm Scott, and I love writing things like this. But I spend most of my time working as a designer.
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