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What’s your brand’s ‘leitmotiv?’

Burberry’s Britishness. Apple’s sleekness. Red Bull’s energy and fearlessness. Prada’s edginess and bold product design.

The leitmotiv, as the German composer Richard Wagner called it, is the signature concept of your brand that makes it impossible to ignore. 

For Wagner, music was the key ingredient to his theatrical performances. 

Shakespeare leveraged the creative power of uncertainty to illustrate the leitmotiv of his craft. 

Leitmotiv makes the end-product poignant and memorable. It underlies the emotional experience we all encounter at various touchpoints: in a book, at the store, or online. 

As the philosopher Alan Watts so wisely noted, “We say you play the piano, you don’t work the piano.”

Once the artist or company establishes its leitmotiv, it can shy away from revealing everything. The theme becomes intuited, and it treads lightly, an extension of the brand without always wearing it on the sleeve. 


The marketers are the buyers

Ditch the logo (photo via David Beale)

  • The dealership leaves its logo on your license plate when you drive off the parking lot.
  • WordPress stamps its logo into the footer credits after you set up a blog. “Proudly powered by WordPress.”

You can remove the branding with a screwdriver or change the code in the footer.php file.

Most people find the branding tolerable or at the least, not annoying enough to remove. Others like to signal their participation in the larger community. Few people remove the logo completely. They take the extra effort to white-label their property.

People are the product, the promotional carriers of the branding virus. The seller is always subtle, ready to stamp the extra awareness where it can get it.


There’s never been a better time to work in advertising

Technology has created a space that, ironically, has made us more human. Online we see more, know more, have more friends, like more things and know more about what’s going on in more places around the world.

Technology has meant that the truth is readily available to anyone who might care to find it. So the flim-flam that we used to peddle to people in the name of marketing doesn’t stand up any more. People can easily get to the real story about a brand or product with two clicks of a mouse.

Even if you read a lot a decade ago, the only way to really learn about another place or person was to travel or meet them face to face. Now you can gather a lot of information about a place and person through the Internet, seeing pictures, conversing with locals, and watching events on YouTube, Instagram as they just happen.

The world is interconnected. We’re all living in each other’s shoes. Every problem is potentially a global one.


Marketing Mysteries

On René Magritte’s MOMA exhibition:

You may not get, at first glance, what’s going on in his paintings, but you get that there’s something to get. So you look again. And again. Which is, of course, a marketer’s dream.

The best marketers create mysteries. Apple excels at keeping its customers guessing and fantasizing about new releases. But sometimes the mystery behind a product is in the name.

OBEY, for example, thrives on its own eponymous obscurity. Below is a snippet from the OBEY manifesto written by its creator Shepard Fairey:

Because OBEY has no actual meaning, the various reactions and interpretations of those who view it reflect their personality and the nature of their sensibilities.

Marketing can be both blunt and misunderstood at the same time. The perspective is really up to the sensibilities of the individual. If you haven’t been exposed to a variety if things then you’ll be remain blind or bewildered.

Why do you need to even get the message in the first place? Let confusion remain indefinite.


The search for “Personal Brand” is rising. Sounds like it’s time to create your own blog, or just make more stuff. Dictate the conversation and get feedback. Fail and get a few wins. #DIY
The search for “Personal Brand” is rising. Sounds like it’s time to create your own blog, or just make more stuff. Dictate the conversation and get feedback. Fail and get a few wins. #DIY