Q&A - What branding means to me and how it's different in Taiwan by Chris Hubbard

Soon, DDG will be launching a new series of Q&A articles, and video interviews focused on the subject of branding. We're hoping to share a variety of the brand thinking that takes place within our company as well as the unique connections people make between their specific role and branding as a whole. 

I decided to share my own Q&A on branding here as a way to kick off the conversation and encourage those of you who stumble upon my journal to also tune into what we have going on over at DDG— follow us via our Facebook or journal

Q: What does branding mean to you?

A brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what other people say it is. It’s peoples perception of you—your company or your business. 

This means that—as a company—you can put a lot of effort into painting the type of picture you want people to see, and say a lot of nice things about who you are and what you think you do. You can even have internal agreement on those things. But if people outside your company don’t believe it, it means nothing. Perception is reality.

For example, if you’re not innovative, then don’t say you’re innovative because people won’t believe you anyways. It used to be easy to get away with saying whatever you wanted to people. But everyone has instant access to information now. And newer generations grew up in a world filled with marketing and branding and advertising so they’re more savvy and they know the tricks.

So yes, branding is about understanding who you are and what you want to stand for, but it’s also about knowing what you CAN stand for—authentically—and how this will impact peoples perception of your brand. 

Q: Why should businesses care about branding?

A lot of people will say companies should care about branding because it helps other people understand who you are, and what you stand for—which is true—but the real value of a strong brand is its ability to help a company understand themselves and make choices that align with that reality. 

When you understand who you actually are—and not who you think you should be—you have a valuable tool for knowing where to go, and what to do on the way. History is made up of choices, and making the right choices is what good business is all about. 

Q: What does it mean to be a good brand?

A good brand is honest—they know who they, what makes them special, and they use tools like marketing, design and advertising as ways to authentically connect with others and share what’s so special about themselves. 

A good brand isn’t a marketing gimmick. A good brand walks the walk and lives and breathes the perceptions they desire from others.

Q: Are their differences in the ways companies in Asia vs. the west see branding?

Companies in the west are very brand savvy. They’ve been doing it forever. They know what branding is and how to do it. They have smart people with lots of brand experience on their teams. They have brand managers who work with brand agencies and ad agencies that all speak the same brand language and have a deep understanding of what needs to be done and why it’s important. 

In Taiwan, it still seems that a lot of companies are struggling to understand what branding is in the first place, let alone why it matters. They are realizing that it does matter, but aren’t sure why, and they have very few people on their teams who can help them with that so they just do the best they can on their own.

The common perception here is that branding is marketing or advertising, and it has something to do with having a nice logo. And everyone thinks they are right. So telling someone that no, that’s not what branding is, can be hard. You’re telling someone they’re wrong and are going to face some resistance. So there’s resistance here.

This is changing in places like China. They’re becoming as brand savvy as the west now because the leaders of their companies are bringing on talented people who can help them do it right. And they’re willing to let go a little bit. 

Q: What is a Brand Catalyst?

It’s a focal point for your brand. It’s easy to be distracted in life, and in business so a brand needs a point of focus that can guide them.

In yoga, there is the concept of drishti—a visual focal point while in a posture. Where the gaze is directed is where the attention naturally follows, and the quality of the gaze—meaning how concentrated it is—impacts the quality of the pose and the benefit received from that pose, both mentally and physically. A Brand Catalyst is a drishti for brands.

Q: How does communications impact branding?

Communication is about transferring meaning and understanding to others. If you have a great idea but aren’t able to communicate it in a way other people understand then it’s meaningless. 

There’s a lot of great brand ideas that are meaningless to people outside of the company because they’re unable to communicate it well. 

Q: What challenging situations do you find yourself in?

I think one of the biggest challenges I face, at least here in Taiwan, is getting companies to understand the importance of good brand communications. 

I'm not talking about good spelling or good grammar—I'm horrible at both—I'm talking about the name you choose to give your company or products, the slogan you put on your website and brand messages you share with your customers. These decisions have a massive impact on the perception people have towards you and your brand. Do communication wrong, and even the best logo won’t save you. 

Q: What lessons have you learned over the years working with clients?

There are three important lessons I’ve learned over the years:

1 - Everything communicates something

Everything from what you wear, to what you say, to where you live, and how you eat, says something to other people about who you are and what you believe in. The more a company understands this the easier branding becomes.

2 - Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is

People can be so afraid to fail that they make no moves at all, but no great success ever came from taking no risk at all. In twenty years you’ll care more about the things you didn’t do, so, just do it. 

3 - Everyone is doing their best from their level of awareness

When I was working in advertising in the states, my boss at the time gave me the book “7 habits of highly successful people.” I was totally uninterested in this book but read it anyways. The chapter on empathy changed the way I was viewing other people—especially our clients—forever. I learned to put myself in other peoples position for a moment and try to imagine what they were seeing, or what thing they needed to accomplish that sat outside of my own thinking.

I learned that every single person is doing their best and trying to accomplish something according to their current awareness and understanding. People can be unaware of something, and while that can be frustrating for those who are aware, it doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. 

Q: What are some interesting situations you’ve experienced with clients?

Memorable moments working with clients always happen when I feel we’re on the same side. When we respect each other as people who are all doing our best to accomplish something together, the experience is more positive. Getting to this kind of place usually starts with empathy, compassion and the ability to listen and appreciate what others have to offer. 


2 paragraphs on - Infinite Content by Chris Hubbard

There's a song on the new Arcade Fire album called "Infinite_Content." Without even listening to the song I felt I understood the expression. What used to be the "information age" seems to have transmorphed into an age where even the most obscure bits of "information" has been written about and argued about in an infinite number of ways. The most popular topics are written about and posted so frequently that they need a never ending stream of variations applied just to help them remain relevant; which article should I click on? 10, 20, 30, or 75 ways to make life more awesome?

There's way too much content out there now. Most of it is garbage, a lot of it is marketing nonsense, some of it is marketing but at least entertaining, but very little of it is thought provoking or educating in any truly valuable way. I feel there needs to be a shift from content to something more like conversation, perhaps. Maybe this is already happening. A book like Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss may be a good example. We want comparisons and multiple points of view from people we feel might be authentic and knowledgeable, not self-aggrandizing marketing pitches masked as content. Our new world of infinite content has taught us that the internet is filled with fake guru's and carbon copy marketers all hellbent on tricking us into something. Only authenticity and a move away from trying to be the loudest one on the corner will save us.


Gogoro - The new Gogoro2 goes 110% farther, now do the same with innovation by Chris Hubbard

This article is also available in Chinese

On May 25th Gogoro—the Taiwanese electric scooter brand—hosted a live press event to make some "big announcements.” I had been looking forward to this event. As a Gogoro owner, early adopter, and fan, I feel an intimate interest in the brand and their ability to innovate.

I can honestly say that, up till now, I’ve enjoyed most of my Gogoro experience. I wrote an article encouraging people to buy one. It’s a great scooter. In terms of design and overall quality, they didn’t cut corners. I’ve also enjoyed the feeling that, by riding a Gogoro, I’ve been doing something good for the environment. I also discussed this in my Gogoro owners review as well.  Unfortunately, I have to admit I've experienced a fair amount of frustration as well.

I was desperately hoping that some of my frustrations would be addressed during the event and that I would see some innovative updates involving the brand, business model, and scooters. I was hoping they could renew my belief in the brand. I was hoping to see signs they were listening to people like me.

What I heard instead was the launch of a new lower priced, economically designed Gogoro 2. In many ways, it’s better than the original Gogoro. They gave it a bigger, more comfortable two person seat. It has a more compact touchscreen display. It can be serviced at any scooter shop in Taiwan—as opposed to mine which can only be serviced at a very expensive Gogoro store. It goes as fast as the original but "110%" farther on a single charge. While it costs me $300nt per month for a measly 100 kilometers of battery (My actual bill averages around $1000nt each month), the new Gogoro 2 owners will get unlimited kilometers for $500 per month—a much fairer deal.

The new Gogoro 2 appears to be a smart business move. I assume they will sell a lot more of this version. While many of my friends think the new design is less than attractive, I don’t actually hate it myself. I think it looks fine. It’s just more average looking and cheaper, and in the end that’s what most people seem to prefer these days anyways—average and cheap. Something about that just brings me down though.

After the presentation wrapped up, I felt four things concerning the brand and relationship with Gogoro:

  1. Let down that my concerns as an owner were overlooked
  2. That my expensive scooter had been devalued
  3. That Gogoro is doing what they need to do to stay in business
  4. Curious as to why companies like Gogoro can’t fully realize innovation

I’ll skip the first three and discuss the fourth, more important topic—innovation—because it pertains to more than just Gogoro, but to all brands in Taiwan who are looking to innovate.

There are generally six things that any company, brand or organisation needs in order to genuinely innovative.

  1. An unorthodox, distinctive approach
  2. An ability to embrace diversity
  3. A diverse, open and creative culture
  4. Empathy for the consumer or customer
  5. The ability to execute and practically take action
  6. The ability to be confident and bold

Gogoro is doing two of these really well. First, they are clearly taking an unorthodox and distinctive approach to their product, design, and communications. Their design thinking and presentation of the product is as good and compelling as any of the most admired brands in the world, including Apple. Second, they are confident and bold. It takes confidence and a bold set of thinking and determination to do what they’ve done so far.

What I feel they probably aren’t doing very well, is the rest. If Gogoro can increase the range of the Gogoro2 up to 110% then why can't they do this with their innovation as well?

I could be wrong about this, but I’m going to assume that as a Taiwanese company their workplace isn’t a champion of diversity. There may be one or two foreigners working in their marketing department, but I’ll assume that over 98% of the workplace is Taiwanese. I can understand this, Taiwan isn't America, and having mostly Taiwanese in a Taiwanese company sounds reasonable. But It’s hard to innovate when you only have one type of thinking taking place in your organisation. Some people in government are trying to change this (read about it here) because they know that If you want to innovate, you need different types of people, with diverse mindsets, ideas, lifestyle and attitudes populating your environments and sharing their ideas. 

Second, I’ve heard Gogoro has tried to build a creative workplace environment for it’s employees. But I’ve also heard that while it appears creative, the culture lacks creative authenticity. You can create the best-looking offices in the world, but if your people don’t participate, and you don’t encourage actual creative culture, then it’s just advertising and it won’t translate into innovation.

Gogoro is partially listening to it’s customers. But since—I feel—they are still looking at us as customers instead of a community of users, it hasn’t been able to develop real empathy for us, which means they don’t understand what’s really driving our needs and feelings about the brand. If a brand can’t understand, then it can’t innovate.

Gogoro is taking actions, but perhaps not the right ones. my opinion of course. 

Gogoro is a great product, and I still recommend it. However, these days my recommendation simply comes from my desire for cleaner air, and quieter neighborhoods than it does from my love of the brand.

Currently there's no other scooter quite like it on the market. If you want a good, fast, reliable electric scooter, the only choice is Gogoro—but that could change.

Let me be clear about something. I'm not trying being "negative." In fact, most of what I've said here is fairly positive. I'm trying to be constructive by voicing my own concerns. Like many others, I love Gororo and care about their success. 

I'm also not saying that Gogoro isn't innovative—they are. I feel they are the most genuinely innovative brand in Taiwan right now. They've created a good product that's unlike anything else. I'm just trying to express my feelings that their innovation could—like the new Gogoro2—go a bit further.

I have hope for the brand: I hope they made the right decision with the Gogoro2 and that they sell enough to keep the business alive and thriving. I hope their success enables them to take better care of, and listen more attentively to the needs of it’s users. I hope in the next coming years they are able to take their innovation 110% farther as well. 

Enjoy this nice photo of me and my dad preparing for our Gogoro trip in Taiwan:

Let's go! #gogoro #electricscooter #李悟爸爸 #李悟 #李悟gogoro

A post shared by Chris W. Hubbard (@chriswhubbard) on

GOGORO - 新的GOGORO2能比原本多110%的距離,現在應該也該增加在創新上了 by Chris Hubbard

Translation by Jerry Chan - 2017年6月6日

5月25日,Gogoro - 台灣電動速可達品牌主持了一個現場新聞發布會,做了一些“重大公告”,我一直很期待這次活動,作為Gogoro的車主,早期採用者和粉絲,我對這品牌及其創新能力感到極大興趣。

我可以誠實地說,到目前為止,我很享受大部份我的Gogoro給我的經驗。 我寫了一篇鼓勵人們購買的文章 。 這是一個相當讚的速可達。 在設計和整體質感方面,他們沒有走捷徑。 我也喜歡這樣的感覺,藉著騎Gogoro,我一直在做一些有益於環境的事情。 我也在我的Gogoro車主評價中討論了這一點。 不幸的是,我不得不承認我也經歷了相當多的挫折。

我非常希望在以後的活動中能夠解決一些挫折感,並且會看到有關品牌,商業模式和車款的一些創新更新。 我希望他們能夠更新我對品牌的信念。 我希望看到他們正在聽我這樣的人的跡象。

我聽到的是他們推出了新款價格較低、較為經濟的Gogoro 2。在許多方面,它比原來的Gogoro更好。 他們給了一個更大,更舒適的兩人座位。 它具有更緊湊的觸控螢幕。 它可以在台灣任何機車店提供服務 - 而不是只能在非常昂貴的Gogoro維修中心服務。 它與原來的一樣快,但在電池充滿的情況下則可以有110%更遠的距離。 雖然台幣400的月租費只能跑100公里左右(399資費跑150公里),但新的Gogoro 2車主每月將獲得499的無限公里,這是一個更公平的交易。

新的Gogoro 2似乎是一個聰明的商業舉措。 我認為他們會賣更多的這個版本。 雖然我的許多朋友認為新的設計不那麼有吸引力,但實際上我並不恨它。 我覺得看起來不錯。只是看起來較平庸與廉價,最終來說這是是大多數人喜歡的要點 - 平庸與價格低廉。 這倒是讓我有點失望了。


1. 忽視了我作為車主的擔憂。
2. 我的昂貴機車已經貶值了。
3. Gogoro正在做他們需要做的事來維持經營。
4. 好奇為什麼像Gogoro這樣的公司不能完全實現創新。

我會跳過前三個,討論第四個更重要的話題 - 創新 - 因為它不僅僅是Gogoro,而在於所有正在尋求創新的台灣品牌。


1. 一種非正統的,獨特的方法
2. 擁抱多元化的能力
3. 多樣,開放和創造性的文化
4. 對消費者或客戶的同情
5. 執行和實際採取行動的能力
6. 有自信和大膽的能力

Gogoro正在做兩件事情真的很好。 首先,他們在產品,設計和溝通方面顯然採取非正統和獨特的方法。 他們的設計思想和產品呈現與世界上最受矚目的品牌,包括蘋果一樣好和引人注目。 第二,他們有信心且大膽。 到目前為止,它們有信心和一套大膽的思考和決心去做他們所做的事情。

其他要點我反而覺得他們可能不是做得很好。 如果Gogoro可以將Gogoro2的里程提高到110%,那麼為什麼他們不能同樣用在創新上呢?

我可能錯了,但我會認為,作為台灣公司,他們可能不擅長多元性。 他們可能有一兩個外國人在行銷部門工作,但我認為98%以上的員工是台灣人。 我可以明白,台灣不是美國。 但是,當您在組織中只產生一種類型的思考時,很難創新。 如果你想創新,你需要有不同思維方式、想法、生活方式和態度的員工來滿足你的工作環境。 這也是為何賈伯斯將激發出好的想法歸功於去印度和其他國家旅行。

第二,我聽說Gogoro試圖為員工創造一個具有創造性的工作環境。 但我也聽說,雖然看起來很有創意,但文化缺乏創意真實性。 您可以在世界上創建最好的辦公室,但如果您的人不參與,而且您不鼓勵實際的創意文化,則只是廣告,不會轉化為創新。

Gogoro部分聽取了客戶的意見。 但是,由於 - 我覺得 - 他們仍然把我們視為客戶,而不是一個使用者社群,它不能為我們啟發真正的同情,這意味著他們不明白什麼是真正驅使我們對這個品牌的需求和感覺。 如果一個品牌不了解,那麼就不能創新。

GOGORO正在採取行動,但也許不是正確的。 當然這是我的意見

Gogoro在我看來仍然是一個很好的產品,我仍然會推薦它。 然而,這些日子來,我的建議更多來自於更清潔的空氣,更安靜的社區,而不是我對品牌的熱愛。 另外,市面上真的沒有其他的機車讓我很喜歡。 如果你想要一個好的,快速,可靠的電動機車,現在只有一個選擇 - 在台灣就是這樣。

我還是對這品牌有希望。 我希望他們與Gogoro2做出正確的決定,並且他們的銷售足以使業務活躍和蓬勃發展。 我希望他們的成功轉變為更好地照顧的能力,更加著重用戶的需求。 我希望在接下來的幾年裡,他們能夠將創新提升110%。

How to be a brand that people love to own. by Chris Hubbard

Sometimes the easiest way to understand brands is to think about them as people. there are generally three types of people in your life: People you don't like, people you are indifferent to, and people you love.

The people you love are the one's you should be spending all your time with. They're the ones you should talk about. They're the ones you should introduce to your other friends. They're the ones with the qualities you look for in new people. 

Everything in our lives—including brands and their products—can be put into these three simple categories. Like people, the things we own should be getting the lions share of our time, attention and praise. Unfortunately, it's not hard to find yourself surrounded by things you are indifferent to, and even dislike. Most of us have, at some point, asked ourselves how we "ended up with so much stuff."

"Stuff" is simply products we own, by brands we don't love. No owner of a Harley Davidson ever referred to his motorcycle as "stuff." People don't buy a Harley Davidson just because it's a good motorcycle. It is of course, but they also buy Harley Davidson because they love the brand.

In her best-selling book "The life-changing magic of tidying up" Marie Kondo suggest that we should only own things that we love, and discard the rest. Millions of people bought this book, and are taking her advice.

So how can brands, be brands that people love to own? In my opinion, it comes down to three things:

1 - Make super high-quality products

Things I own, that I love, are always super high-quality products. I might have flinched when I saw the price tag on my Lululemon yoga mat, but the experience of using it overcomes that. 80% of my experience is enabled by it's super high-quality. And no sales person at Lululemon needed to convince me with brochures or a pitch. Its quality is obvious. When something is super high-quality, its hard not to love it. As a brand, make that a goal.

2 - Tell a new story

How's your current brand story? Do you feel good telling it? Do others appear to like hearing it? If not, then stop telling it and craft a new story immediately. Brands that people love to own always have good stories because they know that good stories are the only ones retold. The Lululemon brand name comes from the founder who simply wanted to create a name with as many "L's" as possible. Does that make any sense at first? No, but it's a damn good story, and I love to tell people about it. If you don't have a good story, start telling a new one.   

3 - Seek to build a community, not a customer base

Brands that people love to own don't have customers, they have communities and people who support them. I don't know this for a fact, but I seriously doubt a brand like Nike would ever use the word customer. Customers don't buy Nikes, athletes do, and they love the brand because they can see it clearly supporting the things they love—so they love it in return. Ask yourself if you have a community. If you don't, then you only have customers.

To be a brand that people love to own, you need all three. People might love a product you make, but that doesn't mean they love your brand—there's no promise of support in the future. For example, I love my Philips mini blender. I use it almost every day. It's a high-quality product for a good price. But do I love Philips as a brand? Nope. I have no idea what their "story" is. There doesn't seem to be any blender community that I know of yet. If I needed another beverage related kitchen appliance I wouldn't necessarily look to them first. But those are things that they can change.

Brands, like people, can change and improve. Those you disliked or were indifferent to yesterday have the ability to become super high-quality, tell great stories, and participate in communities that will love and support them. When they do, they will be brands that people love to own too. 

To see some of the brands that I love to own, check out the last part of my Bio page.

8 ways companies can unveil their greatness by Chris Hubbard

At DDG we talk a lot about "unveiling greatness." So much so that "unveil your greatness" seems to have become our official slogan. You'll see the phrase written on our office walls and throughout our company website. We love the phrase so much because it represents at least two of our core beliefs. One, that each and every company has something great waiting to be unveiled. Two, that we can help them to unveil it.

I believe there are 8 ways in which any company can begin to unveil their greatness starting today. 

1 - Identify your brand personality

Everyone has a personality, and so do companies and brands. Is your company personality more laid-back and friendly, or more corporate and professional? is it more cutting edge or established, fun or serious? Identifying your company personality is one of the key ways to gain insight into how others perceive you, how to make the most appropriate decisions, and how best to communicate with others.

2 - Be authentic

Being authentic as a company means being honest about things like the true nature of your brand personality. Who you are, how others see you, and how you desperately want to be seen can be very different things at times, and can lead companies down a dangerous path of inauthenticity. Only authentic companies have an ability to become great ones, and simply learning to embrace authenticity in small ways can lead to long-term unveiling of greatness.

3 - Think about your company culture.

Just starting to think about company culture will lead to small insights and awareness that can help to unveil greatness. A lot of big companies feel they are too burdened down with pressing business goals and day to day organizational issues to put any real thought or attention into something as seemingly insignificant as company culture. But company culture is a lot like brand personality—it's forming and defining itself whether you participate in it or not. That culture will either strengthen your greatness or weaken it. And once it's formed it's difficult to change. Simply taking the time to acknowledge this, will eventually initiate actions that can help to unveil your greatness.

4 - Be willing to make some changes

I wanted to title this one as "reinvent yourself" but then felt it was a little too drastic. You don't need to reinvent your company in order to unveil greatness, but you do need to be willing to make some changes. For example, when I did my own personality exploration, I realized that although I'm more fun and friendly—as opposed to serious and corporate—I'm also more upscale than "accessible to all." In order to communicate this, I needed to make some changes in the way people perceived me. So I updated my wardrobe. As a company, you might need to update your own digital wardrobe or the way you communicate with employees and customers. Being willing to make those kinds of changes is what will lead to your unveiling.

5 - Be patient

It's difficult to see the value in patients when the business world seems to move faster and faster and the pressures to perform become greater and greater. But no great company became that way overnight, and many more mistakes and blunders have been made by moving too quickly than by taking the time to do things right—with consciences and integrity. Patience can mean taking the necessary time to slow down, take a step back, and reassess what you've been doing all these years. Patience can also mean making changes and then giving those changes the time they need to actually unveil the greatness they have to offer. 

6 - Take accountability 

Taking accountability is about being honest about those things you aren't actually great at. Not every company can be great at innovation, and not every company needs to be. Some companies have great products with crummy names that cover up and hide their true greatness. Being able to say "we did this wrong" or "you know, this isn't that great and everyone actually knows it" is really one of the most powerful ways any company can begin to authentically unveil their greatness.

7 - Ask others to ask others what they think of you

Yes, that's correct. If you want to unveil your greatness you need to know what others think of the things you've been doing. I know if I ask my friends what they think of me, they are likely to say many kind things—because they are my friends and they love me. Internally survey employees and you're likely to get a lot of lip service. Companies get better feedback when they use outside people to do the asking because it creates a greater sense of comfort and helps eliminate the fear of being reprimanded for any less-than-glorious feedback.  

8 - Believe in the power of belief

If you don't believe you can eventually do something, then you'll never even try. And if you don't try, then you'll never do. I could never do handstands until I started to believe that it was possible. That possibility led to trying, and the trying to doing. Companies that want to unveil their greatness simply need to start with a belief that greatness can indeed be unveiled, over time, with continuous effort. 

Authentic greatness is already in you, your people and your company. By building awareness and taking action—like reading this article—the unveiling will be put into a motion that will build momentum and strength simply by continuing to give it time and attention.  


2 Paragraphs On - Smelling good. by Chris Hubbard

I've always believed in the importance of smelling good. I've been known to use this example: You could be one of the most attractive people in a room, dressed in the finest or latest fashions, but smell bad, and that's the main memory you will leave with people—"something about that guy was a little foul, but his shoes were nice." Alternatively, if you smell amazing—in spite of your looks or character flaws—you have a pretty decent chance of being remembered as an appealing, quality person. When you smell good, people not only treat you more favorably, but a positive impression of you will be burned into their memory forever. Science backs this up.

The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses. Bad smells were designed to repulse us because they could be a sign that something could be seriously wrong and a threat to our own health. Pleasant smells ensured us relative cleanliness and safety. Because of this, how you smell can either increase or decrease your social value—whether you feel it's fair or not—permanently. Some even believe that the best way to find your perfect match could be through the nose, such as this fascinating new dating site that uses smell instead of looks to find you a date. 






Philosophy & Branding - The brand which is unexamined is not worth having by Chris Hubbard

Do you have a good brand?
How do you know it's good? 

Have you ever thoroughly examined your brand in order to determine if it’s as good as you say it is? If you haven't, then Socrates—one of the founders of western philosophy—would have said that your brand isn't even worth having. A brand not worth having doesn’t sound so good.

Socrates was a 5th-century Athenian philosopher who developed a powerful form of argument—often referred to as the Socratic or dialectic method—which was inevitably used as the starting point for the development of the scientific method and all of western philosophy. If such a powerful method could improve science and philosophy, perhaps it can be used to evaluate brands as well.

Here's what the Socratic method might look like in this scenario:

Even though Socrates never wrote any books, or defined any theories of his own, he did ask a LOT of questions. It was this style of relentless questioning, that led to the creation of a new way of examining what we think about ourselves, and our perceptions. He was the first philosopher to focus almost exclusively on this type of self-examination of ideas and values.

How often is your brand honestly and relentlessly examining it's ideas and values—asking difficult questions to uncover the real way people within the brand think about themselves, their products and communications, and the actual brand perceptions that exist in the marketplace? How often are you digging into the disconnects between the way you see your brands versus the way others actually perceive them.

Most brands are too scared to ask questions that threaten to disturb the comfortable branding bubbles built and supported around them. And yet, without "going there" most brands will never really achieve the type of success genuinely desired for them.

Socrates believed that understanding who we are right now—honestly and authentically—is the first and most important task. His central concern became the examination of life, and his method of direct and ruthless questioning of people's most cherished beliefs made him the enemies who ultimately sentenced him to death.

The fear that many of us feel within our organizations—about asking too many questions, or revealing wrong, displeasing information—is real and valid. Start to imply your brand is in trouble, or that it's not as grand as is claimed, could—in many organizations—cost you your job. But that only reveals a bigger, more dangerous fear—the fear of the real.

For Socrates, understanding reality was a process of questioning the meaning of essential concepts that we use every day but have never really thought about. For example, what is the real meaning of the word brand? Is it even useful or meaningful anymore? Is there a better word we could be using to communicate the modern meaning? 

This type of questioning, Socrates believed, would reveal real meaning, and our own lack of knowledge or ignorance. Only this would help us to eventually achieve true peace-of-mind by allowing us to do the right things; as opposed to simply living—or branding—according to false perceptions or deep-rooted working culture.


Socrates was one of the first philosophers to evaluate what it meant to "be good." He believed that virtue was the most valuable possession and that no one actually desires to be, or do bad. According to him, anyone doing "the wrong thing" would actually be acting against their conscience and eventually feel uncomfortable about it. Since we all strive for peace-of-mind, "the wrong thing" isn't something we do willingly. People do the wrong thing, simply because of a lack of wisdom or knowledge.

It's hard to think there are any brands out there intentionally trying to be a "bad brand." Brands don't try to do "the wrong thing", or be unsuccessful. Bad brands become this way, simply by means of perceptions they are unaware of.

Socrates concluded that there is only one good: knowledge. And only one bad: Ignorance.  Which is why we must continuously examine our lives—and brands—in search of new knowledge that helps us to reshape perceptions. Otherwise—according to Socrates—they just aren't worth having.