The New ABCs of Branding

When most people think of a brand, they tend to focus on “artifacts” such as the logos, names, slogans, colors, icons, shapes, sounds, and products of a brand. For example, Nike’s logo, Intel’s mnemonic, or McDonald’s golden arches all stand out as specific brand components that immediately connect us to an experience. But according to Marc Shillum of Method in his recent and fascinating report entitled “Brands as Patterns” (which was not only picked up by Fast Company, but served as the basis for a recent SXSW panel discussion), in addition to artifacts, brands also consist of their “behaviors” like states, traits, actions, performance and ability to respond, as well as “concepts,” such as the plural thoughts and visions that strategically bind an organization.

According to Shillum, artifacts, behaviors, and concepts must not only become inter-related, but interdependent in order to form memorable and meaningful patterns. In the report, he argues that patterns are sticky: the familiarity of a pattern can create a map to an experience. And while the repetition of patterns builds recognition, it’s the variation in patterns that creates relevance and sustains interest. In essence, this type of framework provides a more holistic orientation to uncovering, discovering, defining, and managing a brand in a social landscape where a brand is “no longer a proprietary tool for the company that founded it,” but an ongoing, transparent, and real-time negotiation between its various stakeholders.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Of course, it wasn’t always like this. In a recent post written by branding strategy expert Derrick Daye entitled “Brands Face Dramatic Shift in Social Economy,” he explores what it means to be a brand in today’s dynamic and engaging marketplace, and how the meaning of a brand has changed over time. He writes:

Technology has shifted from putting brands at the center of power to diffusing power across a network of social connections among individuals. This is something that brand marketers have trouble grasping. Not because they don’t understand social media, but the way people use social networks runs counter to their understanding of brands … It’s not about brands being at the center of the conversation. It’s about brands delivering more opportunities for people to have the kinds of conversations they want.

Further to Daye’s analysis, Patrick Newbery, Principal of Strategy at Method discusses his view of how the perception of brands has changed in this video. He notes:

It used to be that brand management was around consistency of application of the logo, it was in how you used your brand assets, the trick now is that assets are so dispersed, you’re not fully aware of whose consuming that asset, when, and how. So brand experience is something you need to think about as more than simply just a marketing communications function, this is literally, what is your business like to be around, in every step of the way.

The implications that these truths hold for brands are clear: a traditional approach to brand strategy is no longer enough as fixed rules can make a brand seem “unresponsive, mechanized, inhuman, and out of step with its audience.” In short, brands must become more interactive, responsive, collaborative—in effect, more human—to capitalize and thrive in a world where brands are not only “informed by multiple voices, but exist in multiple mediums and through multiple contexts.”

For more detail on this very rich and interesting topic, please visit Method’s web site to download “Brands as Patterns.”

About Method

Method is a brand experience agency with offices based in San Francisco, New York, and London. Their clients are best described as owners of progressive, era-defining brands, and include Google, Comcast, Nordstrom, Sony, Samsung, Nokia, Microsoft, Time Warner, Intel, and BBC. Collaboratively, they help their clients create products, services, and businesses that are smart, beautiful, and extendable. For a full array of case studies, a series of videos about branding, and more from their blog you can visit their web site at

Now it’s your turn! What do you think about the concept of “brands as patterns?” What are some of your favorite brands and what are the primary ways you connect with those brands? How has social media changed your perception of certain brands?

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