Work / Opinion

Opinion: A few thoughts on branding from the late, great Wally Olins

This week we are privileged to reprint some of the thoughts of branding legend Wally Olins, who died recently aged 83. Tributes poured in from across the creative industries after his death, made all the more poignant by the introduction to his book Brand New : The Shape of Brands To Come which was published only last month. He rounds off the book’s foreword saying: “I am writing about it all now, because I won’t be here to see it and listen to people telling me how wrong I was.”

And so with kind of permission of publishers Thames & Hudson and the Olins office, here we reprint some of the insights he shared at the very end of the same book. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below.

– However good an organisation looks from a distance, the closer you get, the more flaws you see. When you get bear enough, you find there are no good organisations. Internal politics, poor communication, bureaucracy and petty-mindedness exist absolutely everywhere.
– Where there’s strong, committed leadership, a branding programme will take root and become an intrinsic part of the institutional fabric. Where there isn’t, it will gradually disintegrate and all the organisation will be left with is an empty shell.
– There’s no such thing as a merger of equals. When one organisation merges with another, there’s always a winner and a loser.
– IQ is beating EQ. Right now in the permanent struggle between analytics and intuition, data is winning. But the wheel will turn. It always does.
– Facebook, Twitter, texts and all the technology will not replace human contact. You can’t have family Christmas dinner on Skype.
– Branding is getting too complex. The way branding is taught in business schools and the manner in which it’s mostly practised is unnecessarily complicated. Don’t let process drive it. Fundamentally, branding is easy to understand. Don’t make it so difficult.
– Great symbols – logos, the visual manifestations of the brand – tug at the heartstrings. That’s why national flags and religious symbols still have such immense power.
– Never underestimate the gap between national cultures.
– Don’t fake it. It always shows in the end.
– Don’t ever break trust.
– Be authentic.
– Corporate social responsibility isn’t window dressing. It’s an intrinsic part of what the corporation does, or should do.
– The more the world homogenises and globalises the more it provokes and inspires heterogeneity and individuality. That’s why creativity in branding will continue to flourish.
– You can learn much more from things that go wrong than from things that go right.
– Oh and one more thing. I’ve had 50 years of poking my nose into other people’s business… and I’ve enjoyed it; not all the time, but most of it.

Brand New : The Shape of Brands To Come published by Thames & Hudson is available now – you can buy it here.