Releasing The Opportunity In Brand Fields

Jerome ConlonApril 21, 20166 min

Plato’s ‘theory of forms’ or ‘theory of ideas’ argues that non-physical (but substantial) forms (or ideas) represent the essence of reality. Another way of stating this…before a thing exists, first there is the idea of the thing.

Before a chair exists there is first an idea of the chair in the mind of the carpenter or the designer. And even though there are thousands of individual chair designs with distinct differences, pretty much everyone everywhere when presented with a chair they have never seen before can identify the object as a chair. This gets at the supporting idea of universal archetypes or classic forms that people across time and culture can easily identify.

In ancient African tribal cosmology the Dogon’s believed that when Universes are born they are created in pairs. There is a physical side to a universe and there is an invisible (meta-physical) side to a universe. This is essentially the same idea that Plato had.

Both of these worldviews are relevant to any business today that wants to develop an iconic brand. Before any brand comes into existence first there is the “idea of the brand” in the minds of the founders, key executives and planners. The idea of the brand can be designed around a very simple construct or a more sophisticated philosophy that taps into hidden sources of energy.

The simple concept of a brand is usually designed around a name, logo, a tagline, unique products and packaging. These elements create the initial visual identity of the brand and for many companies – the marketing game then forms around how to increase awareness of the brand and increase distribution of the product. This is branding 101.

More substantial and sophisticated brand ideas develop differently. The founders first take great care in the creation of a business mission statement and sometimes a vision statement, which primarily address an investment audience. Then there is work on the brand values, purpose and mantra. These are customer facing ideas and if they are defined and executed in a way that has great purpose, meaning and inspiration then these ideas can add considerable magnetism to the attractiveness of the brand. These are brand field concerns.

Enter The Brand Field

What is a brand field? There have been a number of good books published in the past twenty years on what the emerging science of source fields are all about. Two books in particular are ‘The Field’ by Lynne McTaggart and ‘The Source Field Investigations‘ by David Wilcock. For purposes of this thought piece on branding, fields are non-material regions of influence that contain invisible forces that are capable of structuring space or behavior. The earth’s gravitational field for example is all around us. We can’t see it but we know that it is real. It gives things weight and it enables life to flourish and become full. People with strong personalities also project interactive field energy. Steve Jobs famous reality distortion field was a well-known character trait in the computer industry.

How Nike Thrives In Its Brand Field

All brands exist in categories that have unique field energy in play. Nike for example exists in the sports and fitness category. There is a hidden energy inside the sports category that existed long before Nike came into existence as a brand. This hidden energy has to do with athlete’s hopes and dreams. It is operative when a young man is practicing basketball in a playground and plays mind games related to winning a close game with a last second shot. There is a feeling of exhilaration that young people feel as they become incredibly fit playing competitive sports. There are hidden powers that come online when a person dedicates themselves to a sport and see’s continuous improvement in their abilities and game play over time. The actual experience of participating in sports regularly makes one ‘feel’ more alive! This (invisible) feeling creates an incredible magnetism to sports of all kinds. The category of sports for these and other reasons therefore can be viewed as a high interest – high involvement category.

Evidence of the high interest in this category are the many levels of involvement in sports from little leagues to high school and college and then the professional level. All the TV networks and many cable channels are dedicated to sports and incredible audiences are aggregated in stadiums, arenas, television and the Internet. Most newspapers have a sports section. Nike as a brand didn’t create this under current of interest and engagement in sports but as a brand it has discovered how to tap into and harness the power of this invisible energy in its brand field.

In assessing its brand development potential Nike has taken a considerable amount of time, energy and interest in studying this field and aligning its brand purpose to find better ways to connect with this energy. But, this is not how the Nike brand started out. Like most other companies, Nike’s origins were grounded on an intense focus on the products it was creating, enhancing the performance of its running shoes with new designs, materials and cushioning technology. In the 1970’s through the early 1980’s Nike focused much of its marketing communications on product positioning, that is telling people why their shoes were better than competitor’s shoes.

The Weakness Of Product Positioning

Had Nike followed the product positioning formula all the way, sticking with it even to this day, it never would have achieved its potential as a brand. Why? Because there is so much more brand development energy that can be identified and aligned within the fields of sports and fitness. There are after all super star athletes who generate their own magnetic fields, as do winning teams and national championship tournaments. There is a side of sports that the Just Do It campaign (now going on thirty years) has tapped into.

Just Do It celebrates the joy of the experience of working out, taking a long run, extending ones personal radius and personal limits. This campaign taps into hidden energy governing experiences that all athletes have had, the runners high, the clean burn from circuit training, aerobics, spinning or playing ones best in a close game. There is a very wide spectrum of personal experiences that act as an underground current of energy that feeds engagement with sports and fitness.

These invisible things are all layers waiting to be discovered, uncovered and celebrated within the field of sports. If Nike had stayed focused only on its products or on technology innovation but had no real feel for the role that its products actually played in peoples lives it never would have developed the vision for brand communications that it has today. It never would have become the leading cultural protagonist for all that is good, cool and rewarding about sports and fitness today.

Your brand as an idea can be taken more seriously. What could it become? What hidden energy is lying dormant within your brand field? How can you better connect with the hidden emotional energy within your category? Better yet, how can your brand take the emotional high ground within your category? Brands that have a clear vision surrounding these questions can patiently and consistently build greater positioning power over time.

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Jerome Conlon

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