What I'm reading

What I'm reading: The life changing magic of...branding? by Chris W. Hubbard


A few weeks ago I was visiting a new acquaintance at his home. He generously offered to let me borrow one of his favorite books, and gave me a choice from about 4-5 titles he had prepared. One of the first books that caught my eye featured a long black braid of hair laid against a bright red cover. I'm a sucker for attractive book covers, and almost immediately went with it; I had barely even looked at the other books. 

Before I grabbed the book—my impulsive decision in hand—I became curious, and asked him which book he would prefer me to borrow. I was surprised by his response. He said he kind of wanted me to read "The life-changing magic of tidying up."—which was there on the table, but had not caught my eye—so that he'd have someone to talk about it with. As it happens, I'm also a sucker for books that claim to possess life-changing magic. And my interest in being tidy only seems to increase along with my age. So that's the book I took home.

There are three main things I took away from reading this book:

  1. Marie Kondo LOVES to tidy up. It's shocking to me how much passion a person could develop for something like "tidying up." If Marie Kondo can find this amount of enthusiasm for something as seemingly mundane as cleaning, then none of us have any excuses for not finding our own passions in life—seriously.
  2. Folding clothes—including sock and underwear—can honestly bring a sense of zen to your life, and create more useable space. 
  3. Deciding whether to keep or discard things based on if they bring you joy or not, is one of the most brilliant, insightful pieces of organizational advice I've ever heard. I think it could be applied to almost everything in our lives; how we spend our time, who we spend it with, and even how we choose to build brands, marketing and communications.

Does it bring you joy?

That's the key question that Marie Kondo suggest we ask of the things in our lives. The question is meant to give us a better way of deciding what to keep and discard. After experimenting with it myself, I believe she's right. For example, instead of keeping or discarding things based on how much they cost you, how useful something may or may not be, or what you may or may not want to do with it in the future, simply ask if it brings you joy. If it does, I keep it. If it doesn't get rid of it.

My patio has a large concrete planter built into it. When I first moved into the apartment, I discovered that it was filled with a mixture of bad dirt and bits of rock and concrete. There were a bunch of pitiful looking weeds struggling to grow in it. Looking at it definitely didn't bring me any joy. So I decided to spruce it up by replacing the dirt and planting some pleasant looking bamboo instead. The vision was simple. Little did I know how much work and money it would require. First, I had to remove all the bad dirt, which was—in spite of how simple it might sound—backbreaking work. Then I had to go buy new dirt, which had to be good dirt, which is surprisingly more expensive than I imagined dirt could be. Then I had to haul all that dirt back and get it into the planter. I bought some tall bamboo which, again, was more costly than I expected. I needed some ropes, pieces of wood, clippers, fertilizer, a hose. I even had to pay someone to drill a huge hole so that the water would effectively drain out of the planter. It required a special machine to do it and cost more than the bamboo. In the end, I spent way more money than I thought I would, and I did a tremendous amount of work. All so I could look at a simple row of bamboo on my patio. The numbers and work didn't add up. On paper, it was a horrible investment. But honestly, I now feel a very real joy when I step out onto my patio and see that pleasant bamboo swaying in the breeze. And that kind of joy is—as they say—priceless.

This got me thinking about how the technique could be applied to things outside the home. Perhaps we could even make better branding and communications decisions.

What if, when making branding and communications decisions we asked this same question? Does it bring us joy? Does it bring our customers Joy?

Maybe the questions would sound like this:

  • Does our brand, and what it represents, bring us joy? Do we imagine it brings joy to other people?
  • Does it bring me joy to look at my business card and the logo printed in the corner? Will it bring another person joy when I give it to them?
  • Will the name of our new product bring joy to those who see it on the shelf? Does the name of our old products bring the same joy?
  • Does engaging in this type of activity bring joy to our organization? Are the people involved experiencing joy?
  • Which of these designs for our new website will bring the most joy to us personally, as well as to those who arrive at it? 
  • Do our messages bring us joy to deliver them? Do they bring joy to those who receive them?
  • Does launching this new campaign bring us joy to do so, in spite of the cost and difficulty in measuring tangible returns?
  • Does our workplace culture create a sense of joy for those who are a part of it?
  • If nobody in our organization feels a sense of joy for the brand, is it at all possible for any customer to feel joy for it?
  • What aspects of our business and our brand have the most joy giving potential, and how can we make sure we invest more heavily in them?

Some people may find things to disagree about with Marie Kondo, but the fact is her strategies have proven to be superior, effective, and life-changing for many people around the world. Her book is a New York times bestseller, and her new book "Spark Joy" promises to take the concept even further. 

If a concept like this can change individual lives, perhaps it can even change brands. Imagine living in a world where brands around the world are all trying to "out-joy" each other? Sounds like an amazing place to be. It's a lofty idea, I know, but it's possible. And it could be one more way businesses can start to "realize" instead of "brand" themselves. 

If you liked my post, please follow me on Twitter because it will encourage me to write more. Thanks, Chris.