Brand magic is the tension between infrastructure and creativity


As I get older I realize more and more that creativity without structure is useless. That's what a brand is, in the end...a vital container for creativity. One that gives it form, and shape, and life and vitality. Without the container you have nothing.

I used to be against the container. I used to think that containers were inherently crushing. That's not true.

You can see this dynamic in an office setting of course. You can have lots of creative work to your name, but if you don't keep a portfolio, case studies and metrics then what have you accomplished really? At the moment it was great, but then's all forgotten.

Sometimes I think that the sole purpose of creative awards shows is to get visual and verbal communicators to find all their work and get it organized. The awards stuff is just the icing on the cake. The nicest thing is when you find what you've done and get it all into place.

The container - the infrastructure - is of course the central concept of project management software and processes. Most people think it's about collaboration. Not true. It's about knowledge management - the ability to find, organize and re-use the intellectual property you spent so much time developing before.

I am spending a lot of time on infrastructure nowadays. And while the right side of my brain misses the creativity of marketing strategy, I have to say that I find it really fulfilling to build the container for awhile. Where does the work go, once it's retired? What jobs are coming up? How do we measure success? What are the meaningful metrics, and what is the dreck? Most of all, how do you get people excited about being organized?

Someone once said to me that with branding, you have to explain it and explain it till all of a sudden the customer completely understands. Then you've tipped the dominoes into motion. Now nothing in the company is safe. Because consistency of brand is consistency everywhere.

It's exactly the same thing with building the container. For while there is nothing a creative loves more than to stand on top of the truck like Ariel in "Footloose," at a certain point it sort of gets un-creative to reinvent the same wheel over and over again. When you have a template, a portal, a structure, a process and a system for the 70% of the work that can be automated, it actually frees you up to do the other 30% in new and even more innovative ways. Not to mention freeing up time and money to explore the frontiers of self-expression.

Believe it or not I was looking at a tree when I realized all this. I was standing with my back to the car, looking at a magnificent tree stretching up to the sky. Beautiful and strong, its leaves fluttering this way and that. Anchored to the soil, but reaching for the stars. I think great creative infrastructure is something like that. It grounds you so that you have a solid footing, and sets you free to exceed everything you've done before.

Have a great evening everyone, and good luck!


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