59 Minutes of Branding


So, Albert Einstein is famous for saying that if he were given one hour to save the world, he would spend 59 minutes framing the problem. Not for the faint of heart, but who am I to question Einstein.

I’ve done some thinking about this lately though, and the more I think about it, the 59 minute thing applies to branding.

There’s the final minute — the one where the  marketer or executive saves the brand.  Saves the company.

So what about the first 59 minutes?  The 59 minutes should be spent framing the world the audience lives in. Once this is done, it becomes much more obvious to the gifted marketer or executive  exactly what to say and do and how the brand they are promoting should be positioned in the audience’s world.  Achieving that clarity and sense of fit is the key to a successful, sustainable branding effort.  It’s the secret sauce.

What takes place in those 59 minutes?  A map is created, a guide to:

  • How members of the group envision reality — how they see it everyday, consciously and unconsciously.  (Are we players acting out a larger universal drama, or are we creating the story as we go? Is there a reality independent of what we see and think, or do we create our own reality?  What does it matter?)
  • How members of the group interact to solidify shared values and social norms — the rituals that ensure that all members of the group conform to certain ideals and world view and what those norms, or “rules of the road” are.  (Should we play the national anthem before every baseball game? Should we stand and take our has off?  Why?  What if we didn’t?)
  • The social and structural elements of group life that create obstacles and pathways to certain kinds of thinking, certain ways of interpreting people, events and messages. (Does the need to work redefine what a “good mom” is in Manhattan?  In Topeka, Kansas? Does social media and abundant access to information render attaining formal knowledge and training less valuable for recent high school graduates? All high school graduates, or some? Which ones and why?)
  • How particular brands, products, and messages “fit” into the world as group members see it — the method or process that is used to decide how a new object or concept is to be evaluated and used, the “purpose” or “utility” it will have in group life.  (How does a teenager in suburban Los Angeles decide if a new shoe brand is cool or not? Is there a checklist?)
  • The values that drive perception and choice, and what they are based upon. (Why will some consumers patronize a certain store even though they can get the same products less expensively elsewhere? Is that rational? It may be.  Does it apply to all products?  Maybe not.  Why would there be a difference?)
  • Who the influencers of the group are, and why; what ideals do they embody and why group members follow them passionately. (Lady Gaga? Jon Stewart? Ron Paul? Really? Why?)

When you have a map of  the beliefs, values, and social norms that shape perception and behavior in group life  —  a portrait that lays out how things work and how specific products, brands and messages will be interpreted and treated within the daily life by members of the group — it becomes obvious to the marketer or executive what must be done.  This type of guide gives them the parameters within which to work.  The rest is up to them.  That last minute is decidedly crucial. It takes great talent to see it through and use it wisely, and involves a great deal of pressure.  But if the first 59 minutes are spent correctly, the final minute becomes a pleasure, a triumph.

Taking the time to frame things properly before acting can be the difference between creating a brand or product your audience embraces and promotes, or one it is indifferent or hostile toward.  Can we save the world with this approach?  Maybe not.  Or just maybe we can.

Depends on how you see the world.