To grow your brand, think like a bonsai tree

Admit it: you're probably not going to work with your current company from the rest of your life. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't think about the brand in the long term, writes Bohemia Group's Victor Condogeorges.

You work on a brand right now, but that brand will probably be around a lot longer than you’ll be working on it. Simple, right? The roots of this realisation are deeper than you might think, and what it means may change the way you appreciate your day-to-day.

You, right now.

Let’s be realistic for a moment here. If you’re working in any form of marketing, you’re in a transient role. You might get a promotion, a different scope of work, a different client set, a different agency, or you may leave the industry entirely. Don’t worry, I won’t tell your boss if you’re nodding.

You’re probably working on a brand that has been around a lot longer than you’ve been working altogether, and a brand that will (if you do your job well) be around a lot longer than you will be working on it.

The fact is, brands are delicate things. They have a reputation to uphold, one that they’ve spent years to develop, far longer than you’ve spent working on that campaign.

I’d like to share an analogy I’ve used a few times now, and when I bring it up people seem to resonate well with it so I figured I’d share it with more of you.

It starts with an anecdote of course.

Tokyo, 2013

A few years ago, I visited Tokyo. I loved it. If you haven’t been and you’re looking for a next holiday, I recommend you visit Japan.

When I was there, I visited a “museum” that had some incredible bonsai trees. It’s actually more meditative than you may think and quite a humbling stop over to include if you visit.

These bonsai trees were actually hundreds of years old.

This blew me away. Think about it for a moment. Hundreds of years old.

From the moment you’re born to the moment you die, that tree has been there. For generations. Imagine being the person responsible for making sure that bonsai tree is alive and well? This tree has been around a lot longer than you, and will continue to be around for a lot longer than you will be taking care of it.

If you were lucky enough to be the one maintaining it, your role as bonsai caretaker was so transient too, even if you took care of it for your entire life.

Does this sound familiar yet?

This is how delicate and history-rich brands are, and this is how we should treat brands in our jobs. Essentially, brands are bonsai trees.

Our jobs while we work on brands, is to maintain them. Make sure they stay alive and well. Do everything we can to leave them in a better state than we received them. We want them to thrive and be healthy for the generations to come.

How Stella Artois helped me realise this…

… And no, it wasn’t at the pub (this time).

A few years ago, I was working on a campaign for Stella Artois. I was reading about the brand and the history behind the beer to familiarise myself with their position in market. I was flabbergasted to find that the Artois brand was established in 1717 and the brewery was even older – from 1366.

The particular beer, Stella Artois actually came out in 1926 which is about only a few years off from hitting a century.

It dawned on me. I was working on a brand that had been around longer than my grandparents, let alone my career.

Even more tangential was the time I was lucky enough to work on a brand with such heritage. Cheers to you Stella and the epiphany you brought me. Drink responsibly.

Always remember kids, respect your elders

There is a tremendous amount of respect that is owed to established brands, and brands with a future ahead of them. We might be working on this campaign at this one point in time during our careers, but these brands will be, and have been, around a lot longer than our careers, or in some cases even our lifetimes.

I think it is a beautiful thing to be part of that journey, to be a part of the army of people dedicated to continuously pushing brands forward.

Philosophically, I am deeply grateful for having the opportunity to maintain that bonsai and accept that honour with the respect brands deserve because if we all are on the same page with this, they will be around a lot longer than we will be – and I think that is awesome.

Victor Condogeorges is digital investment director at Bohemia Group. This article first appeared on LinkedIn.


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