Be The First To Know

Welcome aboard! We are thrilled to have you.
Uh oh, something went wrong. Try submitting the form again.
Cart Icon

Christine Looser

In this Clubhouse Q&A, Chris is joined by Dr. Christine Looser. The conversation gets brainy and there are plenty of SAT words throughout it, but it is a deep and fascinating dive into the concept of branding. Dr. Looser puts Chris on the spot (which is always entertaining) and the two delve deep into the evolution of our brains and culture to try and make sense of the phenomena we call a “brand.”

What is a brand?
What is a brand?

What is a brand?

Ep
138
Jun
16
With
Christine Looser
Or Listen On:

What is a brand? And can you control your own brand?

What is a brand? What is branding supposed to do? And can you control your own brand?

In this Clubhouse Q&A, Chris is joined by Dr. Christine Looser. You might remember her from episode 109. Dr. Looser teaches marketing and branding, and is the head of business, at startup school, The Minerva Project.

If you have any kind of interest in branding, then save or bookmark this episode. Because you will want to re-listen to it.

The conversation gets brainy and there are plenty of SAT words throughout it. But it is a deep and fascinating dive into the concept of branding.

Christine puts Chris on the spot (which is always entertaining) and the two delve deep into the evolution of our brains and culture to try and make sense of the phenomena we call a “brand.”

Hosted By
special guest
produced by
edited by
music by
Appearances

Episode Transcript

Christine:
Why can we even experience a brand? One way I come at things often is to say, what's the evolutionary basis for some of the things that we do? And this is really important because our brains evolved in a world that looked very, very different than the one that we live in today.

Greg:
Welcome to The Futur podcast. The show that explores the interesting overlap between design, marketing and business. I'm Greg Gunn. This week, we have another Clubhouse discussion to share with you. And it's all about branding. In this Q&A, Chris is joined by Christine Looser. Now, you might remember Christine from an earlier podcast episode. She teaches marketing and branding and is the head of business at startup school, the Minerva Project. And if you have any kind of interest in branding, then save or bookmark this episode, because you will want to re-listen to it.
Now, the purpose of this discussion is to answer the question, what is a brand? What is branding supposed to do? And can you control your own brand? The conversation gets pretty brainy and there are plenty of SAT words throughout it. But trust me, it is a fascinating discussion. Christine puts Chris on the spot, which is always entertaining to listen to. And the two delve deep into the evolution of our brains and culture, to try and make sense of the phenomenon we call a brand. Like I said, book mark it. It might take a couple of listens to absorb everything, but you'll be smarter for doing so. Please enjoy our conversation and wonderful discussion with Christine Looser and our friends on Clubhouse.

Christine:
I'm so glad to be having this conversation with you, because I have more questions than I have answers, so I'm hoping you can help me out.

Chris:
Oh-oh, is it the blind leading the deaf?

Christine:
It's going to be great.

Chris:
Okay. So I'm going to turn this over to you. What do you think we should do?

Christine:
I feel like I would love to pick your neurons a little bit about what you think a brand is, and kind of see where that conversation goes. And if anybody has any questions, feel free to pop up your hand, and we will try to answer them as we go. This might get a little esoteric. It might get a little out of hand. So if anybody wants to bring it back to the practical side, I always need somebody to help me do that. So I'm hoping Chris and Drigo, you can really be a sounding board for me as I try to sort through some of these strange academic ideas and really ground them into people's practical reality. Does that sound like a good plan, Chris?

Chris:
It does. Let me do some of the housekeeping stuff. Drigo, you know what to do. You're here to help us moderate and to bring people up who have something to say. So those of you that are following me, you kind of know how this show works. So what we want you to do is go onto Twitter and use the #FuturPro, F-U-T-R-Pro, and send us your comment or question, and that's how we're going to know who to bring up. So Drigo, why don't we do this. Let's turn off the hand raising function from the start, because I don't know how somebody has their hand up already, we haven't even started. So Christina and I will talk a little bit and then we'll bring you up when it makes sense. Is that okay, Christine?

Christine:
That works for me.

Chris:
Beautiful. Okay. So why don't you kick us off?

Christine:
I know that you are used to interviewing people, Chris, but if I put you on the spot and I asked you what a brand is, what would you say?

Chris:
Okay, this one's easy for me because I've been searching for the meaning of branding for some time. And then I came upon Marty Neumeier, and he wrote this amazing book called The Brand Gap. And in it, Marty talks about what branding is. And his definition, which I love, and I will repeat here for everyone to hear, is a person's gut feeling about a product, service or organization. So it's not what you say it is, it's what they say it is. So when enough people have a gut feeling about your product or service that are the same, it is said that you now have a brand.

Christine:
Ooh. Okay. So what's a gut feeling?

Chris:
It's impression, I don't know. Maybe something from your limbic brain.

Christine:
Yeah. I think we have the sort of really, really not rational feelings that we encounter in certain circumstances that are often related to other people. We don't often get a gut feeling about a space unless that space maybe has the potential for somebody to jump in. And so what I'm really interested in, and I come at this from a social, psychological perspective is how we respond to other people. So I loved your idea that this is really about person perception in some ways. It's what the person perceives about an organization. But I guess I'm trying to get at how we can make that useful. Because one of the challenges about saying that a brand is in the head of an individual, that means you don't have complete control over your brand. And I'm curious, Chris, if you think that poses a problem for people who do branding. What kind of issues come up if it's just in the mind of another person?

Chris:
Okay. I think this is going to be really good. I think we're going to say a whole bunch of things and we're going to probably make a few people ... When I say we, I mean, mostly me, I'm probably going to make a couple of people angry, and then I'm going to have a couple of people who are going to be cheering me on. Let's talk about this. I believe this. I don't think you can control your brand. I think you can influence it, because I can't control people. I could barely control myself, my own thoughts, my own actions. Like I would love for my wife to say and do certain things, but I can't control her. I could try, but it's not going to work. So if it's somebody else's feeling and perception, the best that I can do is influence it. I influence it by how I behave, the things that I say, the things that I do, and if I do these things consistently enough over time, maybe that impression, that gut feeling starts to change or evolve.

Christine:
That makes total sense to me, because one thing that we know is that consistency is really important in what I'll call impression management. So if we take a step back and we say, what is this bit of machinery that branding is even built on? And I love that you brought in this example of your wife, because that's an interpersonal relationship. So do you think branding is interpersonal, Chris?

Chris:
I think so, if I understand it. I'm just going to say yes.

Christine:
Okay. So let's take a step back and maybe I can break my question down a little bit more. Why can we even experience a brand? And that question is much bigger than it sounds because it sounds a little bit fluffy, but one way I come at things often is to say, what's the evolutionary basis for some of the things that we do. And this is really important because our brains evolved in a world that looked very, very different than the one that we live in today. We have things that are now called evolutionary mismatches. Have you ever heard that term, Chris?

Chris:
No. What is that?

Christine:
Do you want to guess what it is?

Chris:
No, I would just make a fool of myself.

Christine:
No, no, no. Okay. So I will tell you what it is and then you can make a guess about an example of one of the things. So an evolutionary mismatch is something that we do now that is probably maladaptive, but probably made sense when we were evolving. Do you eat a lot of sugar, Chris?

Chris:
I do not.

Christine:
See, you're smart. But do you wish that you would because they taste good?

Chris:
No, I do not.

Christine:
Ruining my example.

Chris:
I'm sorry. I think I know what you mean thought. Do I say yes?

Christine:
You should not say yes, but you can explain what you think that I mean now.

Chris:
Yes. I think they are things that we needed to learn on how to survive that we carry with us today. Like for example, if a tiger jumped out of the bush and you didn't respond to danger, your life would be in peril and you might die. And so we carry these things like say, for example, now when we feel uncomfortable around people, public speaking or any situation, although our life isn't totally in danger, we still respond in a similar way. Is that what we're talking about?

Christine:
It's exactly what we were talking about. And the sugar or the fat example is this sense that food used to be really rare, so we would get these big dopamine hits when we consumed it, because it helps sustain us. And now food is far less rare for many of us. And we can over consume and find ourselves in this cycle where it feels really good to eat a lot of sugary, fatty, high caloric food, but we're not in that same environment anymore. So it's not the most adaptive thing we could do. I often look at human behavior in this crazy modern world and say, "Okay, well, what parts of your brain are subserving this?" And beyond finding sugary, fatty food and avoiding tigers, one of the most important things we had to do was pay attention to and understand other people. Why do you think that is?

Chris:
Oh, this is really good. Okay. So this is how little I know. I'm going to throw out random observations and thoughts and then you'll tell me, "Hey dummy, this is not how it works," but okay. I think when we started to form in small groups and make communities and societies and civilization, we had to learn to cooperate with people. And so people are sending us nonverbal cues all the time as to how they feel, and we need to figure this stuff out. So, again, back to the ancient times, if I meet with another group, a tribe and they mean us harm, I need to be able to pick up these cues really quickly because I don't want to be ambushed. And so there's certain things about body language and I think micro expressions on your face and change in tone, the way you speak to somebody. For example, if I speak to you with my teeth kind of greeting together, closed mouth, tight jaw, I know-

Christine:
Yeah, I can even hear that.

Chris:
Yeah, I did that. And I feel like, oh my God, there's tension in you. And then all my signals are up, my eyes, everything's going to be much more alert. I may be stepping back. I may be expose less of my body to you, my chest, and I would stand a little bit different. Instead of standing square with arms relaxed, I'm going to tighten up too. That's what I think.

Christine:
That's dead on. We have all of these interpersonal cues that we are super, super sensitive to it. And part of it is distinguishing in-group from out-group, the way you were talking about different tribes and trying to understand if there's danger there. But even more than that, it's really understanding the people you're close with, because they were your group and humans are kind of weak. We're pretty useless on our own. And that's why we evolved as social creatures, because when we could understand the intentions of others, really understand what they were thinking and feeling and how they were going to behave towards us, we were much less likely to get kicked out of the group. And then those socially sensitive genes got passed on, and now we live in a world where we very, very readily make up minds for other people. It was this evolutionary pressure that made us social animals, and now we're highly, highly sensitive to social cues.
And so what's funny about that is we never evolved to encounter brands. Brands are large weird things that we now talk about without actually having a clear definition for what it is, but it's kind of like the mind of an organization. So we evolved to do mind perception for other people. And then we have organizations where we can't possibly even individuate the people who work for them. The kind of weird academic framework I'm toying with is that brand perception is really like mind perception and what we do for other people, but an individual towards an organization. Does that resonate at all?

Chris:
Yes. And I just want to say just for half second here, I love how brainy this conversation ... Where this is going. It really is resonating with me right now because it's not that often we have somebody with your background to talk about something that for a lot of creative people is this fluffy, the dark mystic arts, and we don't have a lot of understanding. So please continue.

Christine:
Awesome. Okay. So if we take that framework, I get to get extra nerdy with it because then that's suddenly in my wheelhouse where I understand some of the things that we do. And one of the things that is, me looking at somebody else, is I quickly make up a mind for them. That's kind of this mind perception. This is the brand perception side of things. And then the other side of that is I know other people do that for me. Impression management is the nerdy term for it. Chris, can you come up with anything that would capture impression management? What do you think I mean when I say that?

Chris:
Ooh, I don't know, but I like where this is going. Impression management? Can you help me out?

Christine:
Yes, I hope. When you meet someone for the first time, there are certain things we do to present ourselves well. We know that we're making a lot of impressions about them, but we also know that we're making impressions upon them. And so when you and I had our first conversation way back when, we probably went through this whole back and forth of trying to get to understand what the social cues are and really trying to make sure that people have a generally positive impression of us. And so that's one thing we do rather naturally, is we try to predict what somebody thinks, try to respond in a way that gets them to see us as interesting and likable. And what we're really trying to do is set people at ease for seeing us in a positive light. Did that help?

Chris:
Totally. When you explain it and you use those words, it just makes it really easy for me to understand. Because at first I was like, impression management, you mean like social media tools? What are we talking impression? Because that's like where my brain is, but I totally get it. So the way that I appear to you and the way that you appear to me sends subconscious signals to one another, that we could trust each other, we like each other or whatever it is that we're saying or the exact opposite. Right?

Christine:
Yes.

Chris:
Okay.

Christine:
So we're constantly trying to do this calculation, sussing out other people and trying to have them think a certain way about us. And it does sound very calculated. And we do, do calculated things. Like we might dress really nice for an interview. We might make sure we have really good posture. We might nod our head a lot when somebody is talking. But more than those intentional things, there are all of these things that I don't even know that I'm doing, I've just learned over time that they seem to work and that's what's going to create a social connection with somebody else.
And I think that's important because to bring this all back to branding, I think there's intentional things that organizations do that I sometimes call top-down branding. But then there are bottom-up things that organizations do that are more of those subconscious cues that I don't even know that I'm engaging in. So if I said that there was top-down branding that happens. And if we wanted to make an analogy to impression management, it's like wearing a nice tie, wearing a nice suit, whatever you have it. What is top-down branding for an organization?

Chris:
Could that be your logo, the color palette and the materials that you use in terms of the things that people come in contact with in the physical world? Could it be the product design? The website the user experience? The advertising and marketing campaign, it's that all the top-down stuff?

Christine:
That's what I think. That's the way I try to describe it to my students is that it's anything where you're intentionally trying to manage the impression that consumers have of your organization. So this is all the design. It's the brand book you put together. It's the visual identity that you're crafting on purpose.
But then there's all of this subconscious stuff that we give off, these signals that we don't necessarily intend to do, but we engage in anyway. And I think that this is often overlooked when you think about branding. Those are things like maybe my posture for thinking about it in the interpersonal sense. But there's also this bottom-up branding that happens for an organization. And I often try to get people to think about all of the unintentional touch points that you might have.
Like I call Zappos and I get a really, really pleasant customer service representative, or really, really negative one. And that's going to affect my individual perception of what that brand is. And so what's really, really hard about that is top-down branding is what most people think of as branding, but they tend to ignore this bottom-up aspect. Or at least in my experience, that's what I think a lot of people miss. They think that branding is the stuff that you do intentionally, not all of the unintentional stuff the customer's experience. Does that feel accurate?

Chris:
Yes, it does. So is the bottom-up stuff what people say about you when you're not in the room? Is that the unintentional branding?

Christine:
Maybe. I think that people say stuff about you when you're not in the room is both top-down and bottom-up. That's the overall impression. Bottom-up is more the stuff that you didn't design, but happens anyway. Here's another example. Let's say you let me on your podcast and we had put this in Futur Pro and then I say, really, really awful things. Does that affect your brand, Chris?

Chris:
It does. I think so.

Christine:
Yeah. So you didn't intend to design it that way. It's just something that happened organically. And this happens when an organization gets a brand ambassador and then they do something shitty in the world. So you have all of these unintentional consequences. And this is why I think that culture is really important. And we often talk about brand as something that's external and happens to consumers, but really you have a brand in the minds of your employees too. And that's why, I think you said this word at the beginning, consistency is so important. How can you create a culture where everybody understands what that brand image is supposed to be? Because if what people are doing is trying to perceive the mind of the organization and that's many individual brains, we're trying to understand this large group of stuff based on the actions of many different actors, then everything that everybody in your organization does, impacts what any given person thinks of that organization. And that impacts the brand.

Chris:
Okay. That makes sense. So let me just dive in deeper here. And you may be supplying me with ammunition for a debate I'm going to be having with Fabian at some future point.

Christine:
I love that.

Chris:
If I'm an automotive manufacturer, if I'm one of the big three from America, I can say we're built X tough, or we're quality first. Quality is job number one. That's what I say. But then at the plant, we cut corners and we cheap out the materials and we have recalls and there are some crash safety issues. Is that part of my unintentional brand at that point?

Christine:
I think so. I think it's part of your brand and that's all of the unintentional actions that went into giving people that perception. And it's probably even worse than not saying you're great in cutting corners, because then you have an inconsistency. Not only are you not great, you're also a liar. And that's not what you want customers to think of you. And so all of the actions that an organization takes, whether it's cutting corners, whether it's treating employees badly, if we take this really, really large umbrella view of branding, that it's anything that makes people have that gut feeling about you, all of your actions are branding. And that's why I hate when people think that branding is like a silo of marketing. Like it's a kind of marketing you do. Like, no, branding is the entire organization working in concert to give people gut feelings about your organization.

Chris:
There's so many things you are saying right now, I'm sure people are going to be in trouble after this conversation, because there are a lot of people who call themselves branders, branding people, brand consultant, brand specialists, creative branding marketing. But what they do is a tiny little part of this giant iceberg, because you say it's the entirety of everything that you do. And so how can somebody call themselves a brand designer who does branding a brand strategists if they only look at one very small aspect? I'm curious about your take on that.

Christine:
I think that a brand strategist is a really real thing, but it's somebody who helps the organization see the system level impacts of all of the different pieces and how they work together. So one of the things we spend a lot of time getting my students to think about at Minerva is systems thinking. How do you not just look at the tiny little components and say, "Okay, will, they add up to this?" You say, "Actually the sum of all of these parts is greater than you would expect it to be." And I think a brand strategist can provide a lot of value if they bring that perspective to the organization. Somebody who says, I'm a brand strategist and I helped you make a logo, that doesn't seem like it's delivering as much value as you could be delivering.

Chris:
Okay. So what kinds of things do I need to know or study or to provide so that I can feel more complete in the delivery of the brand strategy?

Christine:
I think it starts by having a really, really, really clear idea of who the audience is. And I try to break down branding brand into three different components when I work with my students. And I get them to see that part of it is branding. This is what the organization is doing. Some of that's top-down, some of that's bottom-up. Then the second component that's really important is understanding that these are impressions in the minds of consumers, of perceivers, and they're bringing their entire history to that, which is why you can't control your brand. You can help manage the impression of your brand, but you can't control it.
And then the third thing is that brands only make sense if they are distinguishing you from the competition. And to use a really possibly horrible metaphor, although maybe it's not so bad. Do you know where the word brand comes from, Chris?

Chris:
From cattle maybe.

Christine:
Yeah. Okay, perfect. So what do you do to cattle and why do you do it?

Chris:
Oh, it's a horrible thing. But you burn a mark into the cattle because cattle, back in the day, I suppose they would roam around, you would have cattle rustlers or is that what they're called? They steal your cow and then there's one way to prove it, and you have this mark and it's like, "No, that's mine, not yours."

Christine:
Yeah. There's a couple of different things that we try to break down that example. Because brand does literally come from the word burn. Brander meant to burn things. I think if you think about branding in that really visceral sense of like, oh, I'm a rancher and I have a branding iron, and I'm going to burn a cow and it's going to distinguish my cow from other cows, you end up with those three buckets that we just talked about. The actions that you do as an organization, that's kind of designing the branding iron. Then there's the cow itself that you're branding. And I want to make the jump from like, we're not actually branding the products anymore. What really good brand strategists do is think about how you're branding a very specific idea of what you want people to see your organization as into the brains of consumers.
And then that third piece is the competition. A symbol only makes sense in the context of another symbol. And so you really have to think about positioning. So to do branding well, I think you have to think about what the organization is doing, intentional branding, from a design perspective, and then bottom up branding from a cultural perspective. You have to think about your audience. And that's why segmentation is so important because if you're trying to get people to see you a certain way, you're miles ahead, if you have a specific segment, because they're already similar in some way, and then you have to think about the competition. How do you position yourself relative to alternative offerings?

Chris:
I love that. This is such a meaty brainy conversation about brand branding. I think our audience is completely silent at this point in time. Is that right, Drigo? Drigo?

Christine:
Drigo is silent too.

Chris:
Drigo, say something. Are you alive?

Drigo:
Is it working?

Chris:
It's working now. You're a little hot. You're a little Peaky. That's as much as we're going to get from Drigo. We'll just keep going.

Christine:
All right. We can get more applied or more nerdy. Because I think when we start talking about impressions, we can go really deep into like what a concept is and how that activates other concepts, which I think is a really interesting aspect of what we try to do when we're branding something is basically take a name or a logo or something and figure out all of the other concepts that are connected to it. Or we could go more applied and talk about what all of this might mean for a specific brand. And Chris, since you're here, we could talk about The Futur.

Chris:
Wow!

Christine:
Which direction do you want to go?

Chris:
I want you to lead. My inclination is go nerdy, because I think you're a big nerd and I'd like to listen to you, but I I trust you, so take us where we need to go. I want to also let Drigo and the audience know that we're going to be bringing people up on stage. The first thing I'm going to ask you to, please, please, please make sure you're muted. We're just bringing up on stage, we're not ready to take questions yet, but we're going to bring you up. Okay. So Drigo, bring a few people up. Christine, keep doing this. Keep doing your thing.

Christine:
Awesome. Okay. Do you what a semantic network is? Let's start there.

Chris:
There you go with these terms? No, I don't know.

Christine:
I'm just trying to ground ourselves somewhere. Find a common ground. Okay. If I made you guess what a semantic network is, what would you say?

Chris:
Shoot, again, this guest is going to make me seem like a fool. When people say like that's an issue of semantics, right?

Christine:
Okay. I'll do something different.

Chris:
Okay.

Christine:
Yeah. So it's the concepts that we have. The words that we use. And if I say the word red, what comes to mind, Chris?

Chris:
Lollipop.

Christine:
Okay. And then I say the word lollipop, what comes to mind?

Chris:
Cavities.

Christine:
This is why you don't eat a lot of sugar. If you said red to somebody else, we could ask Drigo like what's the first word that comes to your mind? So basically the way people think cognition is organized is in a series of interconnected nodes. Most people know what a social network graph looks like. Imagine that for every word or every idea in whatever language it is that you speak.
And so some words, some concepts are very, very tightly coupled with other concepts. Most people might say firetruck and they would go to red. And red would then activate maybe lollipop for you, Chris. So this idea that you can cue one concept and it will activate lots of other concepts, that's kind of what I think a brand is when you think about it living inside of someone's head. So if we said The Futur, no E, that's going to cue a lot of things for a lot of people and it might not cue anything for anybody else. So, Chris, what do you hope gets queued in people's heads when they see Futur with no E?

Chris:
Are you going to put me on the spot to talk about my own brand?

Christine:
Yeah, I am.

Chris:
Okay.

Drigo:
Baldation, dude.

Chris:
Okay. That's what Drigo is going to think. Futur, I'm going to say education, and probably something about business, entrepreneurship. Maybe it's creative entrepreneurship education.

Christine:
Ooh, I love that. So those are really, really good keywords that you're hoping are attached to a word that has lots of other things attached to it. So Futur, I might think far away. I might think past. All of those words are kind of, they're in any individual's head. And what I think is important is that everybody has a different semantic network. And this top-down branding is trying to decide what that semantic network should look like for people. And you're never going to completely control it. But if you have that specific audience and you know how it's positioned relative to the competition, then you can make really smart choices about your design, about the language you use, about the voice, the personality, all of these things that people talk about, about brands, I think it's coming back to trying to homogenize the semantic networks between individuals. You want the concepts that get activated when people hear your company name to be really, really consistent.

Chris:
Okay. I just wrote down some SAT words here just for everybody to know, semantic network, cognition, interconnected nodes, homogenize. I understand these words.

Christine:
Did the picture make sense though, right?

Chris:
I think so.

Christine:
Homogenize is a bad word. That one's not great. But you're just trying to make them the same. I think that organizations that have really strong brands, have very similar semantic networks in the heads of diverse audiences. And so if you're just starting out building a brand, what's the first thing that comes to mind when you say the word Nike?

Chris:
Why did I know you were going to say Nike? It's like you're the mentalist to me.

Christine:
Because everybody says Nike.

Chris:
Okay. It was going to either be Nike or Apple, right? Okay. So I'll play along. So what's your question?

Christine:
I think Nike is better for this than Apple, but go ahead with Nike.

Chris:
Okay. So what's your question?

Christine:
What's the first thing that comes to mind if I say the word Nike?

Chris:
Athletic performance.

Drigo:
Really, Chris?

Chris:
Yeah.

Drigo:
Okay.

Christine:
Drigo, what about you?

Drigo:
Just do it.

Christine:
Right, they have this tagline. Some of us might have envisioned the swoosh. Some people might've jumped to a specific athlete. It's very consistent. And what I love about the Nike logo, actually the catch phrase just do it, is that they don't even define what it is, and everybody feels like they know. It's like this purposeful ambiguity, but it's so well paired with the word Nike, that we all immediately jump to some version of athletics, some version of the swoosh, some version of the tagline. That's because they do such a good job of getting inside of people's heads in a consistent way. Did that makes sense as an example.

Chris:
Yeah. Very much so.

Christine:
I've been talking for what feels like forever. So do we want to ask some other people of their thoughts?

Chris:
No. Not yet.

Christine:
Okay.

Chris:
I'm going to hit four more SAT words before we open it up.

Christine:
All right. Kerfuffle. It's one of my favorite words. I will try to work them into other people's answers.

Chris:
Okay. So it's time then, you're saying?

Christine:
I mean, we could wrap it all up or you could ask me some questions about places I wasn't clear. But mostly what I'm trying to do is figure out how to take this idea of systems thinking and cognition, and really give people actionable advice for how to think about a brand. Because I run into so many people who use the word, and when you're, okay, but what does that word mean to you? They don't know how to operationalize it, another SAT word, in a way that is useful in some sense. I hope this framework helps. What does the organization do? What is the audience's history and how do you position yourself against the competition? With the idea that we're doing is you're making these gut reactions in however many heads experience your brand.

Chris:
Okay. For those of us that don't know what systems thinking means, because it sounds ... I know the word systems and I know thinking. What does that mean, systems thinking?

Christine:
Excellent question. There's so many things in the world that are systems. We all operate in systems, but it's kind of fluffy. And there are some systems that are really obvious and pretty predictable. So a watch is pretty complicated, but all of the things are predictable. This is going to turn. That's going to turn that widget. The hand is going to turn. It's going to keep going until the battery dies. There's other systems that are very, very hard to predict the outcomes. They are complex systems. They tend to have things like emergent properties. And what I mean by that is that the sum of the parts is equivalent to more than the whole. So it's getting us somewhere where we wouldn't necessarily expect.
Biological systems are often complex. There are lots of cells in your heart that are all the same. And it's not about the cell itself, it's about the way that the cells are organized, that lets them pump blood. No individual cell pumps blood on its own. It has to be in that system. That's how social systems work as well. One individual might behave very differently inside of an organization than they do at home. And all of those are a function of the fact that you have agents that are interacting, and the interactions amongst those agents have somewhat unpredictable and often surprising outcomes. Did that help?

Chris:
I think so. More words. Okay. You said social systems, right? You said the parts are more than the whole. Usually we say the opposite, right?

Christine:
The sum of the parts is more than the whole.

Chris:
Yeah. So as an individual in a society, is that an example of that?

Christine:
Individual interacting with each other is always a complex system. So a good example of this is traffic. So if I have a three lane highway and it's really congested, what should I do?

Chris:
Three lane highway?

Christine:
Should I make the road bigger? Do you think that would reduce traffic?

Chris:
I think that's the conventional wisdom, right?

Christine:
Yep. And so conventional wisdom would say, there's a lot of people there. We need to give them more space and then traffic will go down. But what ends up happening in roads where you add more lanes is that agents start to behave differently. People drive differently when there's more lanes and more people will move over to the left, which will actually cause congestion. On a longer timescale, more people might move out to the suburbs, which will put more people on the roads anyway. And so this idea of small changes that we think will have a particular outcome, having some other property associated with them where you can't really predict what's going to happen because the agents can interact with each other, that's when you get to complex systems.

Chris:
I see. I think it's...

Christine:
I feel like I confused it more.

Chris:
No. Maybe, maybe. I mean, it's getting deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole here. What's at the end of the tunnel here?

Christine:
I think this idea of understanding that there's lots of components to what a brand ends up being, and it can be so many different things to other people, is really where you can say, okay, let me break this down and say like, what are the parts in this system that are doing give me the emergent property of this brand perception. And that's where you get the smaller pieces that people will often say are a brand, but they're really just contributing factors that make up aspect of the system and they all interact with each other. To make it more concrete, imagine you had like a really serious, serious brand that you were trying to convey to other people. You wanted to be seen as really competent. You want it to be seen as very serious. Would you use Comic Sans as your font, Chris?

Chris:
Not by choice.

Christine:
Not by choice. If somebody told you to, you might?

Chris:
Yes. I mean, if I had to, I would do it.

Christine:
Yeah. So why would you not?

Chris:
Because the tone, by just looking at the letter form, says it's not serious. It's fun. I mean, the word comic is in the word Comic Sans.

Christine:
That's so good. So that's a semantic network thing. It's associated with something very different and the shapes of the letters are sending you down a different path. And so if you didn't realize that a brand was kind of the interaction of all of these components, you might think that it's okay to have a very serious brand voice, but then use kind of a comical font. And you'll get much more purchase if your brand is consistent. And you're able to look at all of the ways the parts interact with each other.

Chris:
Okay. That actually made it really concrete. Appreciate that.

Christine:
Oh, I'm glad.

Chris:
Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back with more from Christine. Welcome back to our conversation with Christine Looser. So, in case you're totally lost, who the heck are we talking to today? What the hell is a brand? We're talking to Christine Looser, and you can tell this is a very academic, high-level conversation, but I love this because so many people haven't studied branding and talk about it, and it's all just opinion based. And they don't tie it to the science or psychology or philosophy or sociology. And then it's just a bunch of creative people talking to each other, and it makes no sense. Okay. Here's what we're going to do-

Christine:
It makes sense.

Chris:
Does it?

Christine:
I just come in with big words. I think so. I think a lot of people have good intuitions about what to do with a brand, but I think if you had this sense that it's all of these components working together, and you had a language to say why we have to care about these different components and how it's making an impression on people, based on our evolutionarily old machinery about perceiving others, you start to get some really concrete suggestions from the research literature on impression management, interpersonally, that you can then start to use when you're doing this large-scale branding for organizations.

Chris:
Okay. You probably have not been spending the same amount of time that I have in these little design circles where people talk about things. So we'll just leave it at that.

Christine:
Accurate.

Chris:
Yeah. Before I make any enemies in this room, let's do this. Let's turn it over to some of the people who are on stage. We'll go in this order. Okay. We'll go, Jerry, Belinda and Lexi. And please just help us get straight to your question or comment. And then we'll lean in and listen to what Christine has to say. Jerry, you're up first. Go.

Jerry:
First of all, wow! Blowing my mind and I love science and I love geeking out. This is just great. Geeking out, nerdy, perfect. Quick question is, I want to hear maybe, Christine, you've just basically you said ... Basically I call this applied brand science. Tell me any theories or concepts that you have them from neuroscience. Maybe just do the case, like use a brand and show example. Maybe even refer to The Futur. I just want to hear examples of how you ... Because everything's like touching field. Like, yeah, you're right. We'd be kind of use gut feeling experience. This is putting clarity into it. I'm sorry, I'm rambling. Just curious like, I want an example, taking something and showing what you just talked about and how it applies across the board, impression wise.

Christine:
Yeah. I think it's a great question because I tend to live up in the clouds a little bit and I love being asked to ground it in examples. And I think that a really easy one might be ... Already talked about Nike. We can do it for Apple. Apple's making very, very specific design choices to be seen a certain way. Jerry, if I say Apple, now that we're already thinking about design, what comes to mind for you?

Jerry:
Elevated lifestyle.

Christine:
Okay. So, Jerry, even going past all of the specific things I could say about the design, you're telling me what the design means to you. So what Apple has done really, really well is build this lifestyle and they've done it because they're very, very, very consistent in the way that they develop their products and then message about them to consumers. And I think that that was particularly true like 10 years ago when they didn't have so many products. But even now, you expect certain things because they have created products that mean something and are messaged about in very specific ways.
And that's why we all have a similar impression of Apple. If Apple products broke for me and other people, we wouldn't think of them in the same way. It wouldn't get us to lifestyle. So they've done a really successful job of saying, this is the image we want to cultivate. This is the audience we're trying to reach. And this is how our messaging techniques are going to get us to be seen by this group of people in this specific way. And that's going to help differentiate us from the competition because the competition doesn't have what we have. Did that help Jerry?

Jerry:
Yes. Thank you.

Christine:
No problem.

Drigo:
The competition doesn't have a Clubhouse because they have Androids and they're not here right now.

Christine:
See, you can make really, really interesting ... No, this is brilliant. This is something Clubhouse did. It had nothing to do with anything Apple has done to invite Clubhouse in. It's because Clubhouse wanted to associate itself with Apple because you get that kind of halo from associating yourself with a particular kind of audience, with a particular kind of brand that already is well-established in the minds of its users.

Chris:
Or it could just be that they had really limited resources and launched a beta and you can't do all things for all people at the same time. Could be that.

Christine:
If you can find out the answer to me, whether they did this intentionally or whether it was just, we'll go with that one, I would love to know that.

Chris:
I'll do my best.

Drigo:
I mean, we already know.

Chris:
What's that Drigo?

Drigo:
I think we already know. There's already a stigma already associated with Androids. Like if you get a green text message from someone like I automatically like, yo, this person has an Android. Like you're texting me from an Android versus an iPhone.

Christine:
I got to go.

Drigo:
I got to go. I'm not talking to you. Bye. There is a bit of a brand build behind that.

Chris:
I believe that's a semantic network and an internal bias that you're using there.

Drigo:
You are you using a lot of big words-

Christine:
Internal bias is probably your semantic network, Chris. You're crashing it.

Chris:
Okay. We don't know what the developers thought because there were only two of them at one point. I know that just even releasing a product, it's got to be very challenging with a very limited team. Okay, let's do this, because I want more people involved in this conversation, so I'm not the only idiot up here. So let's bring up Belinda. And then after Belinda, it's Lexi. Belinda, what's on your mind?

Christine:
Chris is not calling you an idiot, to preface that.

Belinda:
Oh, I didn't think that, but, oh no, now I'm thinking about that. I did have to have a dictionary open to look up half the words that you were mentioning. That's just something I have to improve on, my vocabulary. My question is, how can I best represent myself as a brand that's organic and fun, but also professional?

Christine:
It's a really great question. I think it's a line a lot of organizations try to walk. And I think it has to do with knowing that that's what you're trying to do. Because a lot of the things that happen are like, oh, we design this brand, but then we behaved in a different way. If you can take your personality and the personality of your employees, and to actually answer your question, I have to know more about your organization, but it's really having that clear vision and then building the culture around fun and professionalism, which don't necessarily go hand in hand, but aren't mutually exclusive. And saying, these are the choices we're going to make. This is the way we're going to run our business. This is the way we're going to talk to clients. This is the way we're going to do our design work that tries to balance that.
That's what most people miss. Implementing it is difficult, but most people don't even get the opportunity to implement it, because they're not intentional. So having a really clear vision of how you want to be seen and knowing information about your customers is going to let you make those choices much better than somebody who just accidentally did a bunch of stuff. And they have a brand anyway, it's just not a very good one, because it's not consistent. It's not intentional.

Belinda:
I see. Okay.

Christine:
Do you want to push back on it?

Belinda:
Well, my thing is I do illustration. My illustration grew from just organically drawing, but I want to branch out and reach brands that helped encourage me to grow, like the people who provide the software or the hardware, but I still want to keep my regular group of fan base who have also been encouraging me to draw. I try to keep a conversation going with the people around me, but I also want to have an echo towards the brands that it's like, hey, I really love what you do, and I want to share that.

Christine:
Yeah. I guess the question would be, what are you growing the brand for? What is your strategic goal that you're trying to accomplish? And then that's going to help you figure out who you want to be talking to and why you want to be talking to them. And then you make choices for that messaging strategy that try to take that fun, but professional tone. I don't know enough about your business and give you specific examples. Do you want to tell me a little bit more?

Belinda:
Oh, that's all right. I mean, if you know of a brand that already does this successfully, I would love to know that, so I can maybe study how they do it.

Christine:
Chris, is there anything that comes to mind for you?

Chris:
Yeah. Johnny Cupcakes.

Christine:
I feel like The Futur does this.

Belinda:
Okay. Yeah. I do recall Johnny Cupcakes. That was a really fun way of branding themselves. I guess I have to study like maybe their captions or how they set up their copy.

Christine:
I think you want to find an organization that gives you the feeling that you want to inspire in your own customers and clients. That's what you're really looking for is what's the gut feeling you want people to have about you and your organization, and then see what else is out there. And it's even better if they're not in the same space as you. If Johnny Cupcakes is a bakery, that's awesome because they're doing something in the way that they're talking to their clients that you aren't going to copy, you're going to make it an analogy. You're going to go in and say, oh, they have this kind of design or they host these kinds of events. And that's probably the best way to model it is to think about that gut feeling you want people to have about you and find other people who give you that gut feeling.

Belinda:
That's perfect. Thank you so much.

Chris:
All right. So we have up next Lexi. Lexi, what's your question on what the hell is the brand?

Lexi:
Well, hey, thanks for having me. This is very interesting conversation. Much different than our general branding conversation. So I appreciate you leading us in this discussion, Christine. What I posted on Twitter was just something I'm dealing with right now. With branding being so important, why is it often deprioritized by businesses? It's often the last thing on their list of things to do. Sometimes they don't even address it until they start to grow. Why is there this hesitancy to assign value to it, specifically dollar signs, money? Like setting aside money for that, do you think?

Christine:
I think it's because it's so fluffy. Yeah, I'd love to hear Chris and Drigo's perspectives on this too, but I think it's because it's so fluffy. There's not a great definition. And the closest is Marty Neumeier, and it's like, oh, it's a gut feeling. And people are like, okay, whatever, I can't do anything about gut feelings. But if you go into the psychology and the systems thinking, I do think you get some purchase on what specific actions you would take and why, that will help people have a really consistent gut feeling.
But when you come in as a brand strategist or an employee of an organization, and you are one of the few people who really understands what a brand is supposed to do and how you can cultivate that, that's fighting an uphill battle. And that's why really, really strong brands often have somebody at the top who seems to understand that and see its importance. And if I don't understand why a brand is important, and I look at all of the other things I have to do, I'm not going to spend money on it.
So I think it's partially education. And you can lobby for that inside of your organization, or when you talk to clients by really explaining what the value of it is. That customers are the people who bring in money, and they come with their dollars and their time and their resources because they have a feeling about what you're going to provide for them. And that's what branding is supposed to do. It's supposed to be this unifying approach to making people feel a certain way.

Lexi:
I love the answer. Thank you.

Christine:
Thanks for the question. Chris, want to jump in?

Chris:
A little bit. Generally speaking, I want people who want me. Let me just step back and explain what I'm talking about. My son and my wife love ice cream. They love ice cream. They're ice cream fiends. And so when it's after dinner time and we're looking for a little after dinner snack, a little munchie there, my son will get a bowl of ice cream and he'll hold a spoon in front of my face, like, "Dad, you want some?" I'm like, "Nope. I don't want an ice cream." I love ice cream. I'm a bit lactose intolerant, but I also don't love the calories that come with ice cream. So I keep refusing it. And if you're a person who does branding and your client is me, and you're trying to shove that ice cream scoop in front of my face, it doesn't really matter how convincing are, I'm just, "I don't want any of it. I don't."
So I think if you spent more energy positioning yourself relative to your competitors to distinguish yourself and create the kind of impression that you want, so that you bring awareness to this kind of intentional top-down influences you're talking about, and also the cultural impact you want to make from a bottom-up, perhaps different people would be attracted to you. My suggestion is if you're thinking about your end-user and trying to build a brand, that's more user-centric, speak to that segment. Having said that, I use as many ideas that Christine shared with us in last 45 minutes as possible. How did I do Christine?

Christine:
You threw in all the buzzwords. I was very impressed.

Lexi:
And I liked that you used ice cream because that is definitely Achilles heel of mine. So that is real for me.

Chris:
Beautiful.

Christine:
It's such a good example of her product market fit though. You don't want clients who don't want what you're offering. And so part of that is people who don't understand it, can be educated and you can explain it to them, and then maybe they're really receptive to it. Part of it is like, you can explain it and they might not care. And then you go somewhere else, because they'll probably be shitty clients anyway.

Chris:
Oh, that's the second S bomb you dropped. Okay. Let's just keep going.

Christine:
Sorry.

Chris:
It's okay. Okay. I like that.

Christine:
I didn't know if this was PG.

Chris:
No, it's all good. Okay, here's what we want to do. There's a lot of people who want to ask the question and I have finite time and Christine has finite time too. I want to prioritize the people who actually work in the brand space, a brand strategist, a strategist, something like that. If you're not, go ahead and remove yourself from the stage here, but I'm going to keep moving on. Okay. So let's do this. And Drigo is going to help me. He's going to basically look at your bio and if it doesn't say brand branding, brand strategists, strategic thinker, systems designer, we're going to just say just another time we'll bring you up, but not right now. Okay. So I believe, for whatever reason, let's see here. [Tumulo 00:52:45], do you have a question about brand, brand strategy, systems thinking, that kind of stuff?

Tumulo:
How are you doing, Chris? By the way, good job for bringing Christine on. She's amazing. I just thought maybe we could throw a couple of more buzzwords in the fold. I'm from South Africa. And a lot of what Christine is talking about is sort of in its early infancy, in terms of the thinking around branding. And one of the first decisions that we made as an organization was we hired a psychologist as our director of research and development. And what that brought into our structure was we really started to understand what the different cultural nuances in a country where we have 11 official languages and a plethora of cultures.
Really started to understand what's happening within the different niche sort of nuances within cultures. And it really helped our clients refine their structures. A question that I have for Christine, well, I have two, Christine, can we connect offline, because we'd definitely love to have you on our podcast?

Christine:
Easy. Yes.

Tumulo:
And then the second question is, if you could just go into the neuroscience a little bit, in terms of the absolute and the differential threshold within an anthropological structure, how would you say that cultural differences affect how those two elements within our neuroscience works? Yeah. Amazing conversation. I'm really, really enjoying this.

Christine:
Thank you for the question. That had way more buzzwords than I was ready to introduce. I think I can very quickly say, and maybe we can continue this conversation offline. I come from a social psych background, and so we think that context is deeply important. And so what you're saying about anthropology and culture is really, really going to shape how I receive anything. My background is going to deeply influence. It's like I'm wearing cultural glasses, and so everything is reflected through that. That's going to be so important when you're thinking about how a particular audience will receive a message. I think that's a reasonable place to stop because if I went into the neuroscience, one, I would have to undercut it and say, I actually don't believe we know that much about the brain. But two, I think we would get lost in the weeds. So I'm going to defer to the next question and hopefully we can keep the conversation going.

Chris:
Beautiful.

Tumulo:
Thank you very much.

Chris:
Yes. I think that's the first time on the Clubhouse where my guests was poached live on the Clubhouse call. Let's just keep going here.

Drigo:
I have a question based on that. The context part, is that why every time somebody comes up on Clubhouse, they have to give us the context first? Is that something that's just been embedded in us?

Christine:
I think it's because we're trying to do impression management. This app is weird. We show up with a little picture and this little weird ring around or faces to say that we're speaking. And I think people want to give you some information about them, before they think you can make sense of their question. But I do think it's a prediction. I don't think I have to tell you my life story for you to think that my question is interesting.

Chris:
Okay. Is it [Atsel 00:55:56]? Do you have a question around brand, branding, brand strategy?

Atsel:
Hi Chris, thank you for bring me up. I just want to ask you, can we say brand is the outcome of a relationship because brand is never static, right? It can be termed good or bad, depends on the situation and the process. So Chris, let's say, if you're a brand, how do you want people to see you as a person or as a brand? That's my question. Thank you.

Chris:
Yeah, I'm going to direct this question to Christine. So is it the outcome of a relationship?

Christine:
I don't think it's an outcome per se, but I do think it is the impression you have of what you expect from this organization. And a brand broadly construed as like, what you have as the perceiver in your head about what you think that organization is going to do. But context is important, so I'm bringing my whole history to that perception and what the organization does is important
So Atsel, your point's dead on, brands are not static. They're dynamic and they change over time. I just wouldn't necessarily say that it's an outcome. I would say that it's a gut feeling or impression that evolves as people bring new experiences to their perception. And as organizations make different moves in the world that impress upon their audience in different ways. Does that help?

Atsel:
Yeah. Thank you.

Chris:
All right. Beautiful.

Christine:
Thank you.

Chris:
Okay. So now let's move on to Nora. Nora, what's your question around brand?

Nora:
Yo, this is deep right here guys today. So my question is, when you started branding from the scratch, what are the techniques to build a brand ecosystem where all the components interact with each other in harmony? And then how to integrate that in social media branding?

Christine:
Yeah. Social media branding is a really interesting topic because you have so many more touchpoints. Where you're kind of constantly posting. You're constantly letting people comment. So you're actually giving up quite a bit of control by putting it in the hands of your audience. But if you're building a brand from scratch, you want to be super intentional about how you want to be seen. And I think this ties quite a bit to purpose. What is the reason your organization exists? And it's not to make money, it's always something beyond that. You make money so you can accomplish the purpose.
And if you have a clear idea about that, and you have a clear idea about who you're talking to, you take that purpose and you bake it into your culture so that all of the people who are in your organization, interact with your customers in a similar way, that reflects that purpose. You make design choices that help reflect that purpose. And you understand what people are going to think about you because you understand your customers. You understand how you're going to be seeing relative to the competition because you understand the competitive landscape. Those are the three components that I would really push on is, how do you want to be seen? Let purpose drive that and then let that make your decisions for you.

Chris:
Great.

Nora:
Can I do another question?

Chris:
Hold on. I'll get you in a second. My friend [Dotlang 00:59:13] is, how did you find Christine? She is fire. My secrets will never be revealed. Okay.

Christine:
What is that?

Chris:
My friend, Dot, who's the mother of social media dragons, she said, how did you find Christine? She is fire.

Christine:
Oh, I love that. I appreciate it.

Chris:
Yeah. Okay. Go ahead. Ask your follow up question, Nora.

Nora:
So thank you. So the followup question is, when it comes to how you want to be seen or how to be compared with your competitors, should you go with the fact how they look and based on that to create your look or you want to go totally the opposite way and not to follow up what the main competitors are doing in terms of branding?

Christine:
That's actually a much harder question than it sounds. I think it's really deep because you're getting at the sense of, oh, my competitors are doing this. So this is something that's working and that's resonating with my audience for some reason. But if you just do what they do, people aren't going to appreciate that. So it's almost like looking at what's out there, realizing what people want from that, and then putting your own spin on it. You're not probably in a market, whatever market you're in, just to copy what somebody else is doing and maybe under cut the price. You're trying to sell something that's a little bit deeper than that. And so without knowing specifics about what you're trying to organize, I think it's hard to give you advice, but I wouldn't say you should copy what competitors are doing. I would say, look at what they're doing, analyze why that's successful and figure out a new way to do what they're doing.

Nora:
Amazing. Thank you so much.

Christine:
Yeah, of course.

Chris:
All right. You're doing awesome job, Christine, because you're knocking these things out. This is fantastic.

Christine:
I try to be really concise. In class, I'm not supposed to talk for more than five minutes at a time, so the beginning of this felt really lecturing.

Chris:
So good. So good. Okay. So Steven, you're up next. And Drigo, go ahead and bring up a couple of more people that have branding, brand strategy, marketing, something in their title. Otherwise we're going to just save you for later. Okay. So Steven, what's on your mind?

Stephan:
Hi there. It's actually pronounced Stephan.

Chris:
Thanks, Stephan.

Stephan:
I'm loving this conversation. I'm glad that I can nerd out at the end of the week. This is amazing. I appreciate the level of thinking. I'm about 15 years into my career and I'm just starting and breaking off and going into the branding space and all the things that you're talking about Christina are really resonating with me in terms of really personifying a potential client and what our organization represents. And part of that branding exercise is building out these personas and talking about who their audience is. Do you think it's a good approach to engage in conversation with like how to humanize and really create an organization as if they're a real person that they can interact with? Is that something that might be a good approach to doing the exercise? And I'm done speaking.

Christine:
Yes. I think this goes back to this idea of why we perceive brands in this way. And it's because our evolutionarily old machinery was just doing person perception. So if you can say this is how I want to develop the personality of the organization and really ground that in a persona, people usually use the word persona for customers, which is what I thought you were asking about. But if you have a persona for how your organization would be as a person, that's a great place to start because that's probably the gut feeling that people are going to have.
Okay. Blob Nike into one person, they're super athletic. That's what the computation that's going on in customers' heads is. So if you have a clear vision of how you would want your organization to be seen as a person, how you might anthropomorphize it, I think that's word three, Chris, what kind of personality they would have, then you have a really clear starting point for what kind of voice you want to develop and what kind of design choices you would make.

Stephan:
Thank you for validating that. Yeah, my pitch has been, people want to buy from people. That's my approach in terms of getting to that starting point. So, thank you.

Christine:
It's a great intuition.

Chris:
Okay. Thank you very much, Stephan. Sana, you're up next.

Sana:
Hi. Thanks so much for taking my question. I tweeted about this because I wasn't sure if I was going to get onstage. Christina, thank you for having this conversation. I don't really get to have these kinds of conversations. So I'm a brand experience consultant and I study perception independently. My first question is why not talk about it as perception management instead of impression management? From what I understand, perception management has more studies behind it versus impression management. Impression management also seems to be a little bit more superficial, although it's sociological and it seems to capitalize on the marketing terminology. So I'm curious from your perspective, why not perception management?

Christine:
Ooh, wasn't because I've never heard the phrase perception management. But that could just be a blind spot in my training. So from the social site perspective, there's a big literature on impression management, but my guess is that they mean the same thing. Perception management is just, I can have a perception of anything. Impression is typically used for interpersonal context, but since you're telling me there's a big literature on there, it sounds like I have some homework to do, and I appreciate the point towards it.

Sana:
Yeah, no problem. I was really curious about the way that you were explaining it. It seemed to be more usable in marketing activities, but there's a side of branding where it's a little bit more propaganda related, where you're trying to get to change the perception ongoingly. I guess this relates to my second question, which would be, have you thought about the implications that systemize branding might have on increasingly globalized culture or politics? Because I think that there's a lot of stretching that it could happen in that way. When you do more globalized branding, you start getting into different agendas versus like national agendas or just like localized ones because it's consumer related. These are thoughts I've been having. I haven't really been able to get to the research behind it or study it. I'm just wondering if you've ever thought about it.

Christine:
No, they're good thoughts. And I think it goes back to what Drigo is asking about is context. Why is context so important? And I think it's because if you conceptualize a brand, is the gut feeling that an individual has, it's not the global gut feeling. It's just, it's on one person. That person's environment is going to play such a role in how they interpret that message that your organization is sending out. And that's why when you try to have a global brand, you have such a diverse audience that you have to be really, really crystal clear about the messaging and figure out, do I change the strategy in these different areas? Do I customize, but keep certain things the same? I think you're down the right track with thinking about these things, because they're so important, but like you, I'm only just kind of getting into this. So if you want to talk offline, that would be awesome. We can nerd out some more.

Sana:
I would love that. Thank you so much. I'll definitely email you. Thanks for taking my question.

Christine:
Yeah. Thanks for the thoughts.

Chris:
Yeah. Next up is Caro. I hope I said that okay.

Caro:
Yes, that's right. Hi Chris. Hi Christine. Thank you so much for this conversation. I'm fully present, just taking notes because a lot of value you are putting here. For me, what resonated a lot was the concept of doing branding bottom down up, because it sounds like we're getting away from the marketing side and getting into service design. So my question is, how far as a brand designer or as brander, should I go into the discovery of the brand? Because I see that we're touching very specific points as values, culture that it's product based on what a usual one day or two day workshop gets to. And it really involves the owner, the founder, the CEO, and it has to take decisions from really high up.
So yeah, I would love to know your thoughts about it and also the value and importance of a strong concept. Even if we don't say the concept all the time, it's amazing how people pick a brand that has a concept versus a brand that doesn't has one. So I would love to know your thoughts about it. Thank you.

Christine:
Yeah. I love this idea of a brand that has a concept, a strong concept, versus one that doesn't, because I think people think that if they don't do branding, they don't do this top-down branding, and this also gets to your first question, then they don't have a brand. But if we take this definition that brand is the gut feeling, it's the impression you're making on your consumers, you don't have to spend a dime on branding. People are going to have an impression of you.
And what's nice about actually investing and building the brand and understanding the culture of the organization and how that impacts what people think of you, you get to tell the narrative. You get to be intentional about that narrative and you get to really shape people's perceptions in a way you can't, if you're not doing that intentionally. And, I think to tie it into the first thing you said, it's really hard. And it feels like it's going to get me back into trouble. And Chris, as the brand strategist, it's a fake job. But it's because there are so many different components, and you can't necessarily do all of them, but you can get the people inside of an organization to realize that they have to be thinking about all these things.
Maybe what you're doing is helping them come up with a concept, come up with a messaging campaign, do the sort of checkbox design logo, top-down branding things, but really trying to get your client to see that all of the ways that they have touch points with customers is really what's going to create the brand in those people's minds. That's what's going to, I think, make you a really attractive strategists that they want to bring back in because you see that big picture. Did that help?

Caro:
That it helps a lot. Thank you very much. And one last small question-

Chris:
Wait, wait, wait, hold on, I've still to get to three more people. You were to ask two questions.

Caro:
Okay. I just want to thank you. And I'll keep on taking notes. Thank you so much.

Chris:
Thank you. Thank you. Okay.

Christine:
Thank you.

Chris:
It's like a buffet, you can't just eat it all. Okay, let's do this. So Ian, you're up next. Go ahead.

Ian:
Hi. Can you hear me?

Christine:
Yep, we're good.

Chris:
Yes, we can. Loud and clear.

Ian:
Great. Thanks. Yeah, I'm outside. So if you have to mute me for air, do that. Thank you. What an amazing discussion. I'm a brand strategist and a filmmaker. On a macro sense, just to sort of nerd out about branding, I think where the path leads is that brands, in my opinion, help define who we are and also define the tribes we're part of. And ultimately it's also about creating trust. And so what I'm interested in is the relationship between words, images, and sounds, in terms of building trust. I have some thoughts in terms of that words help us create like a bucket in our mind. It help us organize what meaning, and also enable us to basically memorize what a brand stands for.
And that words that are more open-ended and are more emotive, for example, like Christina is fire, creates a picture in one's head and creates a feeling that everybody else can be part of that story and create their own image. And it's the same way that video versus TV works. Where when people can create their own images, then they take ownership in that story.
And then the other end is in terms of imagery and filmmaking, eyeline is really critical in terms of building trust and body language. And you'll see a fair amount of manipulation in advertising. For example, in a McDonald's commercial, they'll hire like a clown to get the right expression of a kid and link that to like a bite of a hamburger. I mean, the way they can get away with that is that kids authentically have those experiences in real life, and they've just magnified it, but I'm just wondering what your thoughts on, in terms of words versus imagery versus sounds in terms of creating brand meaning.

Christine:
Yeah, I think this all goes back to this idea of the semantic networks. Where there's some concept that's linked to a bunch of other concepts. And those concepts don't have to be words. They're easiest to describe on clubhouse because we're talking and I'm using words, but we can imagine that there's images that are connected there. That there are sounds, and all of these are connected to emotions and feelings. And what you're trying to do is really get people to have that network be consistent in their heads. And I think having a consistent network that is positive, it's where you get trust. Trust is really about that consistency. And so I love this idea of using those tools, words, images and sounds to build trust. It's just about doing it in a way that makes sense together and speaks to a certain audience.

Chris:
All right. So I muted Ian because he has so much wind noise there.

Christine:
Oh, got it. I was like, oh.

Chris:
Leave me hanging.

Christine:
We're going to pretend that made sense.

Ian:
Okay. Thank you.

Christine:
Awesome.

Ian:
Okay. Bye.

Christine:
Thank you.

Chris:
Okay. Ashwin, you're up next.

Ashwin:
Hey, Chris and Christine. Thanks for having this discussion. This deep dive is really insightful. I wanted to ask, what are some key considerations on impression management when looking at say a commercial artist or an actor versus a business which has several components or people behind it? Is it approached differently? Is the commercial artists the brand itself? Or am I misunderstanding the concept of personality or personability of brand?

Christine:
I don't think you're misunderstanding. I think it's just hella complicated. This is an excellent question. So we started out having brands that understood other people, and then we kind of abstract brand for an organization on top of that. And then there's this whole idea of personal branding, which people think is different for some ways. It's actually going back to what your brain wanted to do in the first place. And so when you talk about a personal brand or an artist brand or something like that, where a person is so deeply tied to whatever it is that is the organization, I think it really is just impression management of that person and what they're putting out there and what they stand for.
That could just be me and my music, whatever it is as an artist, or I could start to build products into that. So now I have a line of guitars or something. I'm using these examples, I'm the least musical person ever. Say I have a line of bread baking equipment. So I have something that now I'm taking what people think of me and putting that halo on products, which is why we like celebrity endorsements, which is why we buy pans that were definitely not made by the TV cooking star, but has their name on it.
And so it gets slightly complicated, but you're on exactly the right track, thinking about an individual versus a group. An individual is so much easier than a group because they have one single personality and it's kind of what your brain wants to do anyway. When you put it in this strange organization, you have so many different components working, even if it's just three people, if they all behave differently. That's going to kind of muddy the image. Does that help get at some of the things you were trying to disentangle?

Ashwin:
Yes, it definitely adds clarity on the thinking or the direction of thoughts that I was considering. So are there any implications with that? Like on impression management would that be very then on how you go about impression management? Is it just making sure that the individual presents themselves a certain manner consistently just like they would anytime they interact with anybody versus there's obviously a lot more considerations when there's multiple people? Is that right?

Christine:
Yes. Yes. There's way more considerations when there's multiple people. I think you're trying to get at this sensibly. Do I have to not be myself? Do I have to be this brand personality? And I think in some sense when your audience is big enough, you do. But what we see with personal brands is that people who are really authentic, they don't have to try, so they engage in less self-monitoring. And that I think is where you don't have the sense like, oh, you have this one public face, but you're totally different when you're not on a stage or something like that. So people who are really consistent and authentic and know how to connect with their audience, their branding is so much easier, because they're just being themselves.

Chris:
You're talking about me?

Christine:
Yeah.

Chris:
I'm just kidding.

Christine:
Ruthless moderator.

Chris:
Yes. Yes. Ruthless moderator. Okay.

Christine:
Oh, he's consistent.

Chris:
Yes. Ashwin, I'm going to move you down. And then we're the finished off, is it [Toph 01:17:10] or is it Toph?

Toph:
Toph.

Chris:
Toph?

Toph:
Toph. Yeah.

Chris:
Beautiful.

Toph:
Thank you. Chris, huge fan. Thank you for bringing me up. Christine, also loving this discussion. I'm a group creative director. And my question has to do, building off of the last comment a little bit about authenticity and behavior when we're having conversations about brand. Actions speak louder than words. People don't remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel. These are the things that we've always heard. And yet typically when we have branding work, most people immediately go to the visual identity. Maybe they make it to voice and tone. And if they're very sophisticated, they'll think about mission and vision, those sorts of things. I'm curious about your thoughts, whether you think it's more useful to have conversations at the level of behavior and authenticity and let everything else cascade down from that, as opposed to just focusing on messaging and what you've tried to present?

Christine:
I think people focus on this ... Simple sounds dismissive. The stuff that I can say, yes, we did that. We made this design. It's very, very hard to say, yes, we established this culture. So I think it is more effective, but it is much more difficult. And I think you really need both. If you could create a culture that everybody understood how we wanted this organization to be seen, it was going to show through in their behavior, you might not need to do as much top-down branding, but it is a push and pull. You're going to have to message your audience at some point. You don't have a culture of people who never interact with customers. So you need both of them. I think the problem is that we see so much of the top-down and not enough of the bottom-up. And I think we don't see enough of the bottom-up because it is not top of mind. And it's not top of mind because it's difficult.
And that's why I really liked this systemic thinking where we say, okay, well, what is really a brand? Where does it come from? It's this emergent property from the things that we put out there, the way that we message, but also the stuff that we do internally and understanding that our audience is going to perceive that a certain way. It's going to be perceived relative to the competition in a certain way. That's where you're going to get real traction in building a brand that feels authentic, because, as you said, actions speak louder than words. It goes back to Chris's example, if we're built Ford tough, but we put out shitty cars, no one's going to believe us.

Toph:
Right on. Appreciate that. Thank you.

Christine:
Thanks for your question.

Chris:
All right. All right. Look at this. We made it with a few minutes to spare. I want to do something real quick. I want to prompt you all, if you've enjoyed this conversation to give Christine a follow. I think her followers has increased a little bit during this call, but it should be everybody in this room for bringing this kind of perspective. I guess just kind of making us think about this in a much more holistic way. And I love the conversation thus far, and I can tell everybody is really mindful of the language they're using because they don't want to seem stupid. And they're just using much $6 words, if you will. I really enjoyed this conversation.

Christine:
I like plain language.

Chris:
You do?

Christine:
I really do. I try. You shouldn't use $6 words when you can use a $1 word that means the same thing.

Chris:
Yeah. I have a question for you. Are you on LinkedIn, Christine?

Christine:
I'm not.

Chris:
You're not?

Christine:
I've gotten in so much trouble for not being on LinkedIn. I have a website. It has contact information.

Chris:
Yes, you do.

Christine:
Should I make one?

Chris:
I think you should after today. Because my friend Milka who's in the audience, she's like, she doesn't have a LinkedIn profile? And I could have swore, because I found so much information about you that it was on LinkedIn and then lo and behold, it's not.

Christine:
It's one of those obnoxious academic things. We don't live there.

Chris:
That's fine. That's fine. You don't have to. Okay. So for people who don't know who the heck you are, can you tell us what you do in your day job?

Christine:
Oh sure. Okay. I'm the head of the business college at a new startup university called Minerva. And there I teach marketing and branding. It's a pretty neat institution. Students come and they spend their first year in San Francisco and then they move to a new global city every semester after that. So they have this residential experience. They live together in dorms, but they take all of their classes in this online kind of Skype platform that we built, which was much more unusual a year ago. But we were online on purpose, before it was cool. And I basically help undergrads and sometimes executive clients really try to use scientific thinking to help grow ideas and communities.

Chris:
And if you guys want to hear a conversation about that, we did not one but two episodes on the Minerva school. And it was really fascinating to me because I'm obviously very interested in education and people who are doing things differently. This hybrid environment where people actually share physical space together, live in dorms, live on an campus, but then also do their learning online. So the teachers can teach from anywhere. I was introduced to Christine via the Minerva Project, the Minerva school. Definitely check out those two episodes if you really want to learn more about it. We got really geeky about lots of different things and I'm hopeful, Christine-

Christine:
You know I've never listened to that? We talked for like four hours and I was told that I was just filling in some holes for your interview with IL.

Chris:
Well, it started out that way.

Christine:
My phone died twice. It was awesome.

Chris:
Yes. And then I didn't record it. And just there was this complicated thing.

Christine:
It was great.

Chris:
Yeah. It was a calamity. Just everything that could go wrong, went wrong. It was true, it was supposed to be like, I wanted to find out a little bit more about how the school work from somebody that was actually involved in the program. But then it turned into this whole thing is that we release a separate episode just with you.

Christine:
I'm so flattered and really, really, really enjoyed having that conversation. So I'm so glad we got to follow it up with this one.

Chris:
Yeah. So I'm pretty sure your DMs are going to get flooded with a whole bunch of people who want to do something with you. And I'm hopeful that after you do all that stuff, you'll still have some time for us to come back on another Clubhouse chat.

Christine:
That would be awesome. I would love to continue the conversation.

Chris:
Yes, don't forget about us, okay?

Christine:
I'll try.

Greg:
Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app, and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The Futur podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony Barro for editing and mixing this episode and thank you to Adam Sanborne for our intro music.


If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor by rating and reviewing our show on Apple podcasts. It'll help us grow the show and make future episodes that much better. Have a question for Chris or me, head over to thefutur.com/heychris, and ask away. We read every submission and we just might answer yours in a later episode. If you'd like to support the show and invest in yourself while you're at it, visit thefutur.com. You'll find video courses, digital products, and a bunch of helpful resources about design and creative business. Thanks again for listening. And we'll see you next time.

More episodes like this