All I Need To Know (About Branding) I Learned From Gandhi – Part 1

Posted by:
Tate Linden (who is, incidentally, not pictured below.)

Virtually everything I believe – inside and outside of branding- can be summed up in two quotes by Gandhi. Today I’ll focus on the first of the two:

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Whether applying this to a person or to a brand (the latter of which, in my view, is basically a reflection of an organization’s leadership) the statement holds true. This state of happiness and harmony is a critical ingredient in the establishment an maintenance of a lasting identity.

The Pursuit of Happiness

It sounds corny, but happiness – as Gandhi defined it –  is to me the foundation upon which a successful and resilient brand is built. Having your thinking, saying, and doing in harmony means that your genuine motivation is effectively communicated and that you deliver the results that you promise. As long as it’s genuine, this transparent alignment can do something traditional ‘manufactured’ identities can’t; it can weather virtually any scandal and recover from market weakness faster than competitors. A happy brand is difficult to tear apart because everything it says and does is attached solidly to its true purpose.  Putting pressure on it just reveals more stability and strength.

But every unhappy brand I’ve found – the ones that fall apart under stress – have a problem with either the relationship between thinking, saying, and doing, or within at least one of the three individual components.

Indicators of Unhappiness

An unhappy identity is one of the most common things in the world. I’d argue that just about every identity is unhappy at some level. Don’t think so? Consider these brand-oriented insults and what they mean in terms of alignment:

“Those guys are sellouts” or “they have no soul” means that thinking and doing are out of alignment.

“They’re all talk” or “they’re inconsistent” is an indicator that saying and doing are out of alignment.

“They’re just telling you what you want to hear” or “they’re slick” shows thinking and saying are out of alignment.

These three indicators speak to an identity’s inability to hold up under stress. Without pressure these problems aren’t really an issue. It’s only when there’s a powerful alternative solution or some sort of crisis that alignment issues become visible. And visible alignment issues seem to be universally bad.

What’s the Result of Misalignment?

Misalignment of brand is very similar to misalignment of a military’s armored defenses. Any cracks or irregularities can be exploited. In a competitive market, or in situations where one entity is trying to convince another to do something, any misalignment makes the ability to produce a desired change much harder.

Misalignment is the beginning of failure. It’s the weakness to which you’ll be able to track back almost every lost opportunity you’ve had in the past or will have in the future. It’s that feeling we get when we know something isn’t right but can’t quite put it into words. Maybe Gandhi’s concept of happiness gives us what we were missing before.

But this concept of alignment really only seems to come into play once an opportunity exists. A big part of success is getting noticed – and all of the problems stemming from misalignment seem to assume that a relationship of some sort already exists. Misalignment only matters once the spotlight is shining on you, but if you’re not center stage the flaws don’t matter.

Supposing we’ve solved all of our alignment issues, though. We want that spotlight and fixing flaws doesn’t mean people will pay attention. We need something else.

So Where Does the Attention Come From?

That’s the topic of my next post, but *spoiler alert* it’s got a lot to do with the strengths or weaknesses of each element of Gandhi’s trinity of thinking, saying and doing. From there? We’ll go down the rabbit hole of intent and perception. Because Mr. G has a lot to say on that topic, too.

Until then… what do you think? Is it worth exploring more deeply? Do you have any examples where this theory of alignment is either proven or unproven in the real world?

One Response to “All I Need To Know (About Branding) I Learned From Gandhi – Part 1”

  1. Jeremy says:

    Just followed you on twitter…. and found this Ghandi post about brand identity…. Really good and valuable information!

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