Strong Brand = Organisational Wellbeing

A few days ago a new analogy for brand spilled forth from my brain. It’s not polished, heck it may even be wrong, but I’m writing it down and putting it out there nonetheless.

If we accept that brand is the intangible that binds together the tangible, if it is what makes an organisation more than just a collection of assets, then assessing it is the same as assessing an individuals wellbeing.

Assessing and treating an organisations brand is the same as assessing and treating an individuals wellbeing

Now, bear with me — like I said this is a work in progress — but when you consider the definitions of Health and Wellbeing I think you’ll begin to see my point.

  • Health : the state of being free from illness or injury
  • Wellbeing : the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy
    (Healthy : in a good physical or mental condition)

Now whilst these two words are similar, they are not the same. Health is functional (“free from illness or injury”), whilst wellbeing is emotional/mental (“being comfortable, healthy, or happy”). In this way, health is assessable by considering the tangible whilst wellbeing is assessable through the intangible.

Looking to Medicine

Now in the medical world, this distinction between tangible and intangible is relatively new, dawning in the last fifty-years or so and only really penetrating into the public conscious in the last decade.

Prior to this, wellbeing was assessed and treated purely through its impact on health; you were ‘well’ if you appeared physically healthy. Inversely if someone appeared mentally unwell, physical treatments were employed to ‘heal’ them. Restraints, electroshock therapy, chemical medicines, induced-comas, lobotomies, and even permanent incarceration were all considered suitable treatments to encourage wellbeing.

Wellbeing used to be assessed and treated through purely through its impact on health

Since the 1930’s however, understanding of wellbeing has progressed rapidly and treatments (except in the most extreme circumstances) now take the form of therapy; talking holistically about the individual and their life, identifying the underlying problem(s) in their life, equipping the individual with the tools to solve their issues themselves, and providing a safe environment in which to enact these solutions. As a Brand Consultant I can tell you now that that sounds mighty familiar.

Implications for Brand Professionals

Brands too used to be considered purely physical, or rather at least irrevocably intertwined with the physical. Indeed this is a school of thought that stubbornly remains in many circles both on client and agency side.

However as I started by saying, the thinking and understanding around Brand is progressing. Much as wellbeing is now understood and treated separately from health, brand is increasingly being understood as a distinct area of focus within organisations.

This change in understanding of Brand isn’t coming fast; it took decades for wellbeing to come into the focus of the general population and popular media. But as an industry we’re lucky, we have hindsight on our side, and we should use this to learn if and how its possible to speed up this process of education.

The symptoms are often the first indicator that something is wrong, but focusing on them will not solve the problem

So yes, as Brand and Design professionals by all means continue acknowledging and treating the symptoms, the designed materials of an organisation — they’re often the first notable indicator that something is wrong. But do then help your clients focus on understanding and treating the underlying problems, the causes of the symptoms.

That’s the route to maintaining and building a true brand, one that enables an organisation to become more than healthy, that enables it to become more than the sum of its parts.

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