Rikyu then went over to a maple tree that was crimson with the autumn leaf and shook it so that some of its beautiful leaves fell randomly to the floor. He let the artistry of nature put the finishing touches to the earnest endeavours of his son, and in doing so struck a perfect balance between the two. Wabi sabi is not solely the work done by nature, nor is it solely the work done by man. It is a symbiosis of the two.’
This is a famous story which is often quoted by the Japanese when asked to describe the spirit of wabi sabi (taken here from ‘Wabi Sabi: the Japanese art of impermanence’ by Andrew Juniper).
When looking after a brand it is important to realise that it is a shared entity: shared between the business and people who have an interest in it, and so this story is a fantastic metaphor for how co-creation of a brand can work.
As a brand manager for a business you can prepare the brand as well you might – cleaning its stepping-stones, polishing its floor and picking up twigs and leaves. However, it is important to then encourage people (in place of nature) to bring their element of the unexpected to the brand. Don’t attempt to create a ‘perfect’ brand, but instead embrace the random, unexpected element people can bring to co-create a truly shared brand.
Image © Malcolm Browne