To build a brand you need a 100 years or $100 Million

I’ve heard this so many times, normally from a client, normally when we’re talking to them about the effort needed to bring their brand to life. It’s a simple response that gives them a simple out: We don’t have the monumental time or budget of the uber-brands, It’s ok to give branding lip service, to allocate to as after thought, part of sales and marketing, We need to focus on business not brand.

The problem is you can’t separate the business and the brand, they’re as separable as the mind and the personality. To prove my point I have an example from one of the greatest brands ever.

Well, here’s a great example that responds to that kind of thinking. IBM, truly one of the first uber-brands, has made it to 100 years. They’ve probably spent a hell of a lot more than a hundred million on the IBM brand. But I’d argue that while time and budget certainly help build a brand, bring it life if you will, they are not the most important element. What is? The realisation of the idea.

The idea can go by many different names, we, for example, call it the brand essence. It can be called a mission or sometimes a vision. But it is essentially the same thing, an overarching thought that ties everything together: The reason your in business; the products you make; the way you market them; you relationship with you audience; customers and community; everything you do.

Now if your true to this idea it will guide, your mantra, your call to action. For IBM their idea is to THINK. They believe that all the worlds problems of the world can be solved if only people are willing to Think. Think about solutions. Think and then keep thinking. It’s my theory that it is adherence to this mantra, to acting on it in every-way that has made the brand what it is today. So where’s the evidence? Well I mentioned IBM celebrated it’s centenary this year and as part of the celebration they commissioned some short films to show how clever they’ve been. Watch these movies and consider how many of the examples are driven by taking thinking to the next level.

The First is called 100×100

The second, They Were There

If you’d like to find your brands idea, essence, vision, dream, whatever you want to call it, why not give us a call.
Remember, good design is good business.

Derek Carroll
Director of Design


  1. Derek this is a great example of a brand owning its internal brand essence and living it day in and day out. Some great films here to, it is amazing how much they IBM has pioneered in todays society, lets hope they continue to do so as well.

  2. Interesting Derek, when you chose IBM as an example to everybrand I was wondering how the lessons of such a huge brand with huge investment over many years could be of value to most brands around the world. In the end the films showed clearly the power of brand clarity brought to life every day by a thousand small gestures.

  3. Tim,
    Before researching this post I thought IBMs best days were behind it, but now I think it plays the long game.
    It may have lost the PC battle, but may win the IP war. Who else builds with Atoms?

    Exactly, time and money help, but if you don’t have absolute clarity, like IBM have, your activities can be futile.

  4. Derek, brilliant reminder that the brand’s reason for being has to not only direct the brand but have the scope to evolve that meaning as time goes by…and their is nothing more universal as an organising brand principle than THINK. Think about it!

Post a comment

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,