Forgetting 'brand position'

10th March 2015
Paul Bailey

It is increasingly accepted that a brand is not just the elements such as the logo, website, product, etc, but is the values, beliefs, mission, purpose, behaviour, principles. Using this definition of brand we might rethink how we consider a brand.

Specifically, if a brand is its values, beliefs, purpose, experience, etc can it be best considered spatially or temporally? And so if a brand is to be considered temporally should it have a static brand ‘position’ at all? Is the definition of a brand as having a ‘position’ helpful, is it suggestive of a rigid, inflexible, set-in-stone entity that inhabits a fixed space?

This is why I say we should forget ‘brand position’ – a brand is always in development, in redefinition.

But redefinition by whom and how? In our networked, digital economy the content and value of brands are increasingly being created by all stakeholders, and by stakeholders I mean the company, staff, users, etc. We are aware how digital technology has encouraged conversations between a company and its ‘users’, between users themselves, and what value user insight brings to ‘co-created’ content. Societal, cultural and economic environments are constantly changing, and so if a brand is social, cultural and economic shouldn’t it be flexible?

So what makes us think that the old, static model of ‘positioning’ a brand makes any sense?

Yes, various elements of a brand exist spatially, such as the products, visual designs, etc, but the brand itself if taken as being the values, beliefs and purposes does not. A brand exists temporally and in so doing cannot be fully understood in spacial terms but must be considered both in its historical process and as part of its current environment. In other words its current form is co-constituted by its history, its present environment, and its potential futures.

I believe that in order to better understand brand we must search for a way to consider them temporally rather than spacially. This is where I am increasingly looking to Bergson, and more recently Kember and Zylinska, and their definitions of intellect and intuition. Bergson discussed how the intellect considers spatiality, how intellectually we cut up temporal processes into static things in order to see them (photographs are a great example). This is of course vital to everyday living, but if we are to consider a brand in continuous, durational terms then we need to also consider intuition.

‘Instead of a discontinuity of moments replacing one another in an infinitely divided time, it will perceive the continuous fluidity of real time which flows along, indivisible’ (Bergson, H. 1946: 127).

For me, we can begin to understand brand better through Bergson’s definition of intuition – a way of using ambiguous, but relevant, forms of metaphor and comparison to paint a picture which cannot fully be explained intellectually. What intuitive thinking will allow are considerations of a brand as a whole, not as ‘slices in time’. Intuition can not, and should not, replace intellect but it can give a more full a picture if not dismissed entirely.

As you might expect, I wouldn’t call this my ‘position’ on brand. These are some thoughts on brand which are in process, they aren’t intended to be an ‘answer’ to anything but just to be thought-provoking.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Einstein

Note: For more on how we can better consider things temporally rather than spatially please check out Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, Sarah Kember and Jan Zylinska

I believe that in order to better understand brand we must search for a way to consider them temporally rather than spacially.