Episode 22 // Jeff Watson on How Brands Express Group Identity

Oct 2, 2018

Mike and Chris interview Jeff about how brands express group and organizational identity. Recorded at MAC6. www.mac6.com. AZ Brandcast is graciously sponsored by Conscious Capitalism Arizona.

Contact: Jeff jeff@resoundcreative.com, Mike mike@resoundcreative.com or Chris chris@resoundcreative.com

Discuss at https://www.facebook.com/azbrandcast/

AZ Brandcast is graciously sponsored by Conscious Capitalism Arizona – the global movement inspiring businesses to do good…because it’s just good business. Find out more about Conscious Capitalism and the many companies transforming our world for the better on their website: consciouscapitalismaz.com

And our show is produced by Phoenix Business RadioX and recorded at the enviable MAC6 coworking space in ever-sunny Tempe, Arizona (the 48th – and best state of them all). AZ Brandcast is a project of Resound – an Arizona brand agency.

Show Transcript

Speaker 1: Broadcasting live from the Business Radio X Studios in Phoenix Arizona. It’s time for Phoenix Business Radio. Spotlighting the city’s best businesses and the people who lead them.

Mike Jones: Welcome to AZ Brand Cast where we talk to all sorts of awesome people like Dr. Jeff Watson today.

Chris Stadler: Yes.

Mike Jones: About the power of brand and how to build great brands in our remarkable state of Arizona. I’m your co-host Mike Jones with my other co-host …

Chris Stadler: Chris Stadler.

Mike Jones: Yeah. Our guest today is, as I mentioned, Dr. Jeff Watson. You prefer Dr. Jeffrey Watson?

Jeff Watson: Dr. Watson, or just Jeff.

Mike Jones: Yeah, Dr. Watson. I like that. It’s very Sherlock Holmesy.

Jeff Watson: It’s very Sherlock Holmesy.

Chris Stadler: It is.

Mike Jones: Yeah. You teach at ASU.

Jeff Watson: That’s right.

Mike Jones: Arizona State University.

Jeff Watson: Yeah. I’m a lecturer in philosophy at ASU.

Mike Jones: Oh, man. I think today’s gonna get really deep. What do you think Chris?

Chris Stadler: Certainly the potential is there [crosstalk 00:00:53].

Mike Jones: I mean I looked at the questions I’m like oh, yeah, we’re gonna get deep. We’re gonna get philosophical, and then we’re gonna bring it back, right. We’re gonna make it intelligible.

Jeff Watson: One would hope.

Mike Jones: Yes, I would hope so. [inaudible 00:01:06] in our podcast. You’re also a part of Resound, actually.

Jeff Watson: That’s right. Yeah, so I was a co-founder of Resound back in 2009.

Mike Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: And you’re on our board.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: That’s awesome. So, we get to actually hang out quite a bit.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: Well, maybe not quite a bit.

Jeff Watson: Not as often as we used to.

Mike Jones: No, no we don’t, and I am sometimes sad about that.

Jeff Watson: It is sad.

Mike Jones: But I also still get to see you, so it’s awesome.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: In particular, we’re gonna be talking today about gaining clarity on what it means to be an entity that helps people, groups, and organizations understand themselves, right. We’re talking about basically what does it mean to be a brand, I think. I think that’s what we’re gonna be talking about. We’ll find out. But first before we get into a big, long philosophical discussion with Jeff, which I’m really eager for a word from our sponsor, Chris.

Chris Stadler: Yes, I have to mention our fantastic friends at Conscious Capitalism Arizona. This local association is on a mission to share with the whole world how doing business for good is just good business. This local chapter of Conscious Capitalism Incorporated hosts tons of local events, and provide resources for business leaders to instill a higher purpose in their company, and engage all their stakeholders. Be sure to check them out at consciouscapitalisim@az.com.

Mike Jones: That’s awesome. I say it every time. I love Conscious Capitalism Arizona.

Jeff Watson: Me too.

Mike Jones: They’re just an awesome supporter.

Chris Stadler: A great fit.

Mike Jones: … of so many organizations who are trying to do good things for their business. I think we’re just blessed to be able to have them as a part of our show, and just making sure this happens every month.

Chris Stadler: Totally agree. Did you hear that they just got … Was it recently they got chosen to host … Is it the international or the national?

Mike Jones: I think it’s technically the International Conference for Conscious Capitalism. It’s a yearly annual conference bringing in leaders from all over the world who believe in, or subscribe to conscious capitalism as a way of doing business. It’s really cool. I got to go this last year. It was in Dallas. It was an amazing event full of really talented, really talented people both from the speaking level some great business leaders, and thought leaders from across the world. Everyone from CEO’s of large companies like Whole Foods to smaller businesses, even local ones in Dallas that are really doing some interesting things, and even some public private partnerships. But this year it’s gonna be in Phoenix in 2019, so March 2019 mark your calendars. Check out online, just search for Conscious Capitalism Conference, and I’m sure you’ll find information about it. It’s definitely something you don’t want to miss, if you care about elevating humanity through business.

Chris Stadler: Yep.

Mike Jones: I think most people do.

Chris Stadler: [Senogen 00:03:50], do you care about that? He’s saying yes, and got the …

Mike Jones: Thumbs up.

Chris Stadler: Yes, okay.

Mike Jones: Yeah cool.

Chris Stadler: Everybody around here cares about that.

Mike Jones: I think you have an icebreaker, Chris. Let’s do that.

Chris Stadler: Jeff, best, best pizza you’ve ever had, and city?

Jeff Watson: And the city where I had that pizza?

Chris Stadler: And the city where you had it, yes, and [inaudible 00:04:09].

Jeff Watson: Yeah, best pizza or weirdest pizza?

Chris Stadler: Oh,

Jeff Watson: Just best pizza? The best pizza was in Chicago.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Jeff Watson: So, there’s not much else to say about that.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Jeff Watson: Just it was in Chicago.

Chris Stadler: And then what kind of pizza was it, or do you remember?

Jeff Watson: I think it was some kind of deep dish pan pizza with the pepperoni things. It was good. I don’t remember. It was really good.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Jeff Watson: It went down as a list of good pizzas. Weirdest pizza though, that’s a little more interesting. That was in St. Petersburg.

Chris Stadler: Russia, or Florida?

Jeff Watson: Russia, Russian,

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Jeff Watson: It was pickles and corn.

Chris Stadler: Oh, okay. Was that Soviet era where they didn’t really have pepperoni?

Jeff Watson: I don’t know, yeah.

Chris Stadler: They just had pickles and corn?

Jeff Watson: Things that you could actually store for long periods time. That’s what you can put on a pizza.

Chris Stadler: Nice.

Jeff Watson: I don’t know if it’s very …

Mike Jones: From a can probably?

Chris Stadler: Right.

Jeff Watson: I’m not gonna judge the [crosstalk 00:04:58].

Mike Jones: No.

Chris Stadler: But was it good though?

Jeff Watson: No, it was weird.

Mike Jones: It was not.

Jeff Watson: I ate it because I was hungry, but it was weird.

Mike Jones: I expected a little more politically correct answer, but thank you. That was way better.

Chris Stadler: I have to ask one more clarifying question.

Jeff Watson: Yeah, sure.

Chris Stadler: We’re on the pizza, before we move on, was there cheese on it?

Jeff Watson: Yes.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Jeff Watson: There was actual cheese on it.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Jeff Watson: It was cow cheese, and it was legitimate cheese.

Chris Stadler: It was cow cheese.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Chris Stadler: Probably not true mozzarella.

Jeff Watson: Let’s not make assumptions.

Chris Stadler: No.

Jeff Watson: It might have been true mozzarella.

Chris Stadler: It could’ve, okay.

Jeff Watson: It was fine.

Chris Stadler: But it was fine though?

Jeff Watson: The cheese was not the problem.

Chris Stadler: That was not the weird part.

Jeff Watson: It was the pickles.

Chris Stadler: The pickles, I’ve heard of this though. I’ve heard of pickles on pizza.

Jeff Watson: Well, I’ve experienced it, but I hadn’t heard of it before I experienced it.

Chris Stadler: I don’t know why.

Mike Jones: Okay. Papa Murphy’s had a cheeseburger pizza for a while and I loved it.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Mike Jones: I mean when I tried it I was like, this is really a pizza? Someone who likes pizza in general, could possibly just hate this, but it was a cheeseburger pizza.

Chris Stadler: Yep. That’s awesome.

Mike Jones: It tasted like cheeseburger, ketchup and everything.

Chris Stadler: That’s weird.

Jeff Watson: I don’t know.

Chris Stadler: At some point it’s like a …

Jeff Watson: Meat pie?

Chris Stadler: Meat pie.

Mike Jones: Yeah, at some point it’s just a circle of dough with random stuff on it at some point.

Chris Stadler: Isn’t that like a cottage pie, or a shepherd’s … It’s not a shepherd’s pie because that has lamb, but cottage pie I think has ground beef. Anyway, we’re getting way in the weeds on the pizza.

Mike Jones: But, that’s what we do.

Chris Stadler: It is what we do. Okay, but Mike do you want to introduce the first real question?

Mike Jones: The real question? We’re moving on from pizza?

Chris Stadler: I think so.

Mike Jones: I just want to make sure.

Chris Stadler: Yeah, let’s move it. Let’s move it on.

Mike Jones: You know I don’t.

Chris Stadler: Unless you have something to add?

Mike Jones: Well, only in that I would fight anybody about New York style being way better than Chicago, but.

Chris Stadler: Okay, so you’d fight anybody because you think New York is better?

Mike Jones: Oh, by far. I mean there’s just not even a question about it. I mean it’s pizza. What is pizza? Pizza is dough with things on it.

Chris Stadler: Yes.

Mike Jones: Lightly sprinkled, right.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Mike Jones: That you can fold in your hand and eat while on the go.

Jeff Watson: It’s very convenient food.

Mike Jones: Yeah, but Chicago’s doing something else.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Mike Jones: They’re doing something else. It’s good, but it’s something else.

Jeff Watson: It was very good.

Chris Stadler: So, Mike votes-

Mike Jones: Chicagoans everywhere are riling their hands in the air, shaking fists at me going, you, I hate you.

Chris Stadler: Okay, so Mike likes New York. Jeff likes Chicago. Is that a rule, or is that just …

Jeff Watson: No, that’s just a …

Chris Stadler: Just an anecdote.

Jeff Watson: An anecdote, yeah.

Chris Stadler: Okay, so I guess I’ll just go Chicago just to-

Jeff Watson: Balance things out?

Chris Stadler: … be different. And then anybody who wants to comment on that can go to the Easy Brand Cast Facebook page and …

Mike Jones: Yeah, Let’s do a poll,

Chris Stadler: Duke it out.

Mike Jones: Let’s do a poll. Which brand is better New York pizza or Chicago pizza?

Chris Stadler: All right. Fight it out, fight it out amongst yourselves everybody.

Mike Jones: Boom. Done it. Yeah, so we want to get into this first one. Jeff, we’re really excited having you on this show.

Jeff Watson: Thanks.

Mike Jones: For a lot of different reasons. I’m really excited because we’ve had a lot of conversations in the last nine years about what is intrinsically a brand, right? And you being a philosopher I think you bring this awesome perspective to that conversation just in how you thought through a lot of things around identity. What kinds of things have or are brands in your opinion?

Jeff Watson: Yeah, sure. When we talk about a brand we could talk about an individual having a brand and sometimes that’s true, so a speaker, or a celebrity, or someone like that could actually have a brand associated with that person. But more typically when we talked about a brand we’re talking about a group of people, an organization, or something that people do together whether that’s one time, or long term, or ongoing, or persisting, or not. And so, I guess there’s an assumption when we talk about having a brand, a thing that has a brand, we’re talking about some kind of organized system, organized group of people. We don’t brand in animate objects so much. I mean I guess there’s a sense in which a mountain could have or develop a brand, or a national park, but even there that’s tied with some organization, right. And so, I guess there’s an assumption that when most often we’re talking about the identity of a group of people. What it is that they use to identify themselves to others, but also internally to identify themselves to one another, so that they know that they’re a thing?

Mike Jones: That’s really interesting. I’ve heard that there’s this idea that your body’s cells constantly get replaced.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: Right, Including the human brain, which is crazy, right. The brain you were born with you don’t have now.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: Then you’re a physically a totally different person after one of those complete cycles of cellular regeneration.

Chris Stadler: So what is that? Like seven years you’re completely a new person with no …

Mike Jones: Which is incidentally the time it takes for gum to be digested. Is that …

Jeff Watson: Yep, I don’t know about the gum story. But I mean even the words we just choose here are probably not accurate to be a person. Well you’re still the same person, right. It’s something else that switched out. We might even say you’re the same body in a literal sense. Your body persists over time, but you’re not the same composition. You don’t have the same parts. So even though something’s parts can change, right, that whole can continue over time. Even the complete change of all of its parts, and yeah that’s true of your body. It’s true of you as a person that even if there’s a complete gradual, as long as it’s gradual enough, change in parts you can remain the same thing.

Jeff Watson: That’s obviously true of organizations too, right. The people who are at a certain company now were not there 100 years ago. All the people there 100 years ago are dead. But yet we can still talk about persistence over time. You still have the same entity, so why? It’s obviously not the component parts that make it the same thing over time, so what makes it the same thing over time? The same with you. Why are you the same person now as you were seven years ago, if you are? I think you are, but if you are, then why are you the same person if it’s not the same cells?

Chris Stadler: I’ve done a little reading on this, and this seems like you … This idea of essential properties, and I’m wondering essential properties, and I think there’s another word to-

Jeff Watson: Accidental properties.

Chris Stadler: Accidental properties. Explain that.

Jeff Watson: Sure.

Chris Stadler: What is that?

Jeff Watson: The distinction between accidental and essential properties. Accidental properties are contingent to you. That is you could exist without them. You could have existed without them even if those things hadn’t had been there you still would’ve been you. It’s not that you would’ve changed identity, or have been a different entity, or a different person without them. Some obvious examples, my hair color. My hair’s brown right now. It won’t last. I’m confident that’s not gonna last.

Chris Stadler: Your hair will last. Your color won’t last.

Jeff Watson: I’m sure the color’s not gonna last. I’m not even sure about the hair anymore. I’m hoping the hair will last, but I know the color’s not gonna last.

Mike Jones: As do we all.

Jeff Watson: Yeah. But, that’s an accidental property I have, having brown hair, right. My eye color now even though I don’t think my eye color’s gonna change I could have been the same person even if I had blue eyes. I don’t have blue eyes. I have some kind of weird … I’m color blind, so I don’t know. I’m told they’re hazel. But I would be the same person even if I had blue eyes. It’s not that my blue eyes are part of what makes me who I am, so those are accidental properties. The fact that I live in a certain place. The fact that I have had certain experiences I might have not had. Those might be important. They might be valuable when I’m telling the story of my life. Well hey, I was born in Tuscan. That might be useful when I’m telling the story of my life, but that’s not essential to who I am. It’s not as though I couldn’t have existed if I were born in Phoenix.

Jeff Watson: Essential properties of a thing are things that it wouldn’t be it without. It just wouldn’t be that thing. It’s essential to being a dog that something’s a mammal. It wouldn’t be a dog if it was a fish, right.

Chris Stadler: Right.

Jeff Watson: It’s essential to being an animal that I guess you’re an animate object, so fish can’t be a rock.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Jeff Watson: It’s essential to being a person that you have mind. That you have some kind of experience. You could have less experience than you have. You could have a sharper or weaker mind than you have. Your mind can change, but having a mind that’s essential to being a person. If you don’t have a mind, if you are an inanimate mindless rock you wouldn’t be you. There’s certain changes we can undergo, or things that we might not have had, and those are our accidental properties, but the essential properties are something, or what it couldn’t be itself without.

Chris Stadler: I ran across an analogy. A boat takes off [crosstalk 00:13:39]. Hey, are you familiar with this one.

Jeff Watson: Ship of Theseus.

Chris Stadler: Okay, yeah, yeah. And so, as soon as it leaves port some people are like, oh okay, so as soon as you replace a board that’s defective it’s now not the same shape.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Chris Stadler: As soon as the crew gets a new experience it’s not the same ship. But what we’re talking about with brands, right, in order for this philosophy to be useful, to be applied, we have to choose a way to define that. What you’re saying is because of what we’re using it for you need to define that ship and its crew as the same things as it leaves as when it comes back?

Jeff Watson: As when it comes back, yes.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Jeff Watson: At the very least I mean we could put aside the deep philosophical question about the ship of Theseus, right.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Jeff Watson: If we’re gonna let this be an analogy to the kinds of things that have brands, right, then we’re gonna need them to persist through time despite change. And so, by analogy the ship even though you replace one board, you replace another maybe on the course of its vast journey all the boards get replaced, and by the time it comes into port it doesn’t have a single board that it had when it began it’s still one, and the same ship. There’s this common thread, this common story that ties it together over time.

Jeff Watson: And in the same way an organization over the course of three years might have a complete switch out of them, hopefully not three years, but I guess that even could happen. But over a course of time it could have a complete switch out of the people involved, the place it’s located in, the particular things that it does, and despite that radical it could still be one and, the same thing, if, if there’s that kind of story that ties it all together, right.

Jeff Watson: We wouldn’t say if you just had Theseus takes off in a ship and it gets shipwrecked and they put the pieces of the ship together to make something else, you wouldn’t say that’s the same ship. Or he gets in a shipwreck and he buys a new ship, same crew, you wouldn’t say that’s the same ship. So, it’s not a guarantee that something will survive over time. The same is also true of brands. It’s not guaranteed that they’re gonna survive just because they want to call themselves the same thing that might not be accurate anymore. But if there’s some common thread of a story, there’s some common narrative that ties together that brand over time then you have a reason to think that it’s persistent.

Mike Jones: Okay. The real thing that keeps it the same thing is having that story that …

Jeff Watson: No.

Mike Jones: In other words, we interpret it as being the same thing. We recognize this identity …

Jeff Watson: The story itself probably isn’t what makes it the same thing. That’s enough evidence that it’s the same thing that we could tell a common story about it, right.

Mike Jones: There’s something deeper than the story itself.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: There’s essential properties.

Jeff Watson: Right.

Mike Jones: If we want to go back to that question. Is that right?

Jeff Watson: Yeah, so there’s some essence to the thing, right.

Mike Jones: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff Watson: But, good evidence that something has persisted is that you can tell a continuing story about it. Again, it’s not our ability to tell a story about Theseus’s ship that makes it the same ship. The story’s not part of the ship. It’s nothing. It’s not essential to the ship. That’s in us.

Mike Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Watson: But the fact that we’re able to tell a meaningful narrative, or a meaningful story about the ship as it continues over time, and that, that seems accurate, and that seems authentic as opposed to pasted on. That’s evidence that there’s still something still that’s an essential part of the ship that’s still there.

Mike Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Watson: Now how do you say what the essential part of the ship is? That’s a good question. How do you say what the essential part of a brand is? That’s a good question. But, the ability to tell a narrative is evidence that the brand is continued.

Chris Stadler: That’s good. I think that’s helpful.

Mike Jones: You have an interesting idea. Does it matter-

Jeff Watson: Yeah sure, go ahead.

Mike Jones: … so, switching gears slightly? Does it matter if a brand is accurate or inaccurate? Truthful or honest? My real curiosity is by what standard do we look at brands, and say … Because there are a lot of people who have different points of view on a brand and what it does, and it’s actions and it’s words.

Jeff Watson: Yeah, yeah. I mean you might start out with the view that there is nothing it is to be accurate as a brand. I don’t hold that view, but let’s just think about that for a second. So, if you thought that organizations weren’t really real, they don’t really exist as anything more than a collection of people doing something at one time then there would be nothing to compare the brand to, and say well yeah, that accurately reflects the identity, or essence of the thing it is because there’s nothing there, right. I think that is a view of branding that many people do have.

Mike Jones: So, the ship leaves port.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: And then it comes back and they’re like if they follow their point of view through to its logical conclusions they would say I know nothing about that ship. That means nothing to me.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: It’s just a collection of boards.

Jeff Watson: Yeah. Whether we call it the same ship or not the same ship is a matter of convention, and there’s nothing else to say about it, right. And so, similarly whether we say this is part of the brand or not part of the brand it’s maybe just a choice that we’re making, and that’s it, right. There’s no standard to hold that up against. And so, to call a brand inauthentic, or fake doesn’t make any sense by that standard, right. It can’t be inauthentic or fake, it’s just what it is, right. It’s what we make it to be. But the difficulty with that is in fact we do experience certain brands as being fake, or inauthentic, or we experience certain marketing tactics as being off brand, or inconsistent with a brand. And that sense that we experience something in that way is off. It means we think there’s something it is for it to be accurate or on. And if there’s something for it is to be accurate or on there’s got to be something there that we’re comparing it to.

Jeff Watson: Now, that brings us to the question if there is such a thing as a brand being honest, or authentic, or accurate what are we comparing it to? Philosophically that’s the essence of the organization. What’s that, though? I think that’s maybe the question we’d have to delve into.

Mike Jones: Yeah, that’s absolutely the question that we should delve into. [crosstalk 00:19:28] I’m gonna bring it back. Are there essential properties?

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: And are there perhaps categories? Maybe we can’t name the specific essential properties of a brand because …

Jeff Watson: Yeah, yeah.

Mike Jones: I’m gonna ask a question.

Jeff Watson: Go ahead.

Mike Jones: I’m gonna pose a thought process as I’m thinking through this as we’re talking.

Jeff Watson: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mike Jones: Is it that those essential properties are unique to each brand, right? They are the boards, right, in which ones matter and which ones don’t, maybe, if we’re gonna use the ship analogy, although that analogy like all will break down.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: Or are there maybe categories of essential properties that help us to at least get closer?

Jeff Watson: Yeah. I like the idea of there being certain things that help us get at the brand even if we can’t fully express that brand, and it would be anything we try to do is gonna be misleading, so a good analogy is people. It is impossible I think to fully capture the identity of a person.

Mike Jones: Yeah.

Jeff Watson: Any attempt you make to do that you’re gonna end up throwing in a bunch of accidental properties there.

Mike Jones: Right.

Jeff Watson: That are not really part of them. But what we do with people is we have tools we use to try to identify them to get at who they are, right. Accurately point to them even if we can’t fully capture all there is to that person. And so, we can give a few of those, right. One of those is a narrative, a life story, so sometimes a certain biography. That’s what we ask for people when they sign up to do something. What’s your bio, right? We know the bio is not the totality of the person. It would be crazy to think it was, but that’s one kind of way we identify people. I think that’s also true.

Jeff Watson: … but that’s one kind of way we identify people. I think that’s also true with brands. So one aspect that can get at something’s brand accurately, it can help us point to it and say it’s that, not that, is a story, a narrative.

Jeff Watson: You know, a lot of philosophical accounts of personal identity that allow a narrative to play a large role. Another thing are choices that you’re responsible for as a person. So one thing, when we’re getting at who a person is, is we start asking about them as an agent, as someone who makes choices and is responsible for certain things and not other things, and similarly with brands. You can ask about, well, what decisions or choices do they make? What do they do? Not what do they happen to do or what happens to be done to them, but what did they actually do, deliberately do?

Mike Jones: Intentional choice.

Jeff Watson: Intentional choices, right. Just like with a person. So you don’t want to sum up a person as all the things that ever happened to them. What really helps you get at a person is telling us what they’ve done, what they’ve intended, what they cared about, what mattered to them, what was important to them. And that’s gonna get you a little closer, pointing at the person.

Jeff Watson: Another thing, or some things, goals. It’s purposes. So, as individuals, we have goals and purposes. Organizations can have goals and purposes. I don just mean like a very tacky mission statement-

Mike Jones: Mission statement.

Jeff Watson: Right. Because something like that can be inauthentic or fake. But something that kinda gets at what this thing is there for … and that’s not just … obviously it has to do with the intentions of people there, but it’s not just about the intent because you can intend or think your purpose is such and such or think you’re aiming at such and such and you’re totally overlooking the larger role that you play in a certain part of society, a certain industry, a certain economy, a certain segment of people’s lives. So really, often, when you’re trying to ask yourself, well what is my goal or purpose? What do we do? Not what do we happen to do, but what do we essentially do? What you need to look at is what role do you actually play? What’s your function in a larger picture?

Jeff Watson: Again, I don’t think any of these things exhaust the essence of a brand-

Mike Jones: For sure.

Jeff Watson: But thinking, help us point at that thing. The actual brand and not something else, something that would slip away easily or change easily.

Mike Jones: So claims and aspirations don’t necessarily make a brand.

Jeff Watson: No. Definitely not. Just like they don’t make a person. So I could imagine myself as whatever you like, whatever I wanna imagine myself as-

Chris Stadler: Deep sea diver.

Jeff Watson: Yeah, so that’s a good example of something I will never be very effective at. I’ve gone scuba diving once and it was horrific. Oh, well I shouldn’t say that. I valued being under the sea and seeing the animals and my wife was there and it was a good experience for the two of us, we have some great photos. But that’s not something I would find fun. But I could imagine myself as, oh I’m a great deep sea diver. That’s what I’ve always wanted to be, I aspired for that. And then find, through experience, that’s not me. And I think that’s also true of organizations, especially early on in an early phase. They might be trying out all sorts of identities or trying out all sorts of roles they wanna play or purposes they wanna have and finding, oh that was an interesting aspiration.

Chris Stadler: You know what we call that? I call that the teenage years.

Jeff Watson: The teenage years.

Chris Stadler: We do that as individuals and I feel like, in the scheme of the business lifespan, if you treat your business like a person, there’s this moment where you find yourself unsure of where your place is in the world and so you wear a funky pants and you wear the crazy hat and you listen to the music that you would never have listened to before. And we do that as individuals and it’s usually those, roughly, teenage to early adult years as we’re trying to find our place.

Mike Jones: It’s like the band’s first or second album.

Chris Stadler: Yeah. And it’s funny ’cause if you relate that back to people, who are the people that often times surprise us in life? They’re often the people that kinda figure those things out a little bit faster than anyone else. They go, hey I’m 18 and I already kinda know where I’m going in life. I kinda know who I am and I’m not just trying to fake it until I make it, but I kinda have a trajectory. Not that they’re fully there, but they maybe have a better sense of their assets. I don’t know. Am I stretching an analogy? I don’t know I like to think of businesses almost like a person and a lifespan of a business has some similarities to a person, different stages we go through.

Mike Jones: And I think that’s a good metaphor.

Chris Stadler: Can we get technical again?

Mike Jones: Sure.

Chris Stadler: Alright.

Mike Jones: Always, Chris. I know you wanna get technical.

Chris Stadler: Well, I do. Getting technical.

Mike Jones: This is like getting a free college class from someone who [crosstalk 00:26:07]-

Chris Stadler: It is.

Mike Jones: … university.

Chris Stadler: So, I guess … and here’s something I’m just gonna ad lib a little bit here because I wanna be thinking about how this affects Arizona. How this kinda helps Arizona. And I think I kinda have an idea and I’d love to see that come to fruit if anybody around the table has any ideas.

Chris Stadler: In the meantime, this idea of externalism, you talk about externalism and I’m curious, could you explain the term and then maybe what it means for brands/companies.

Jeff Watson: So let me start with something that’s totally unrelated but it will get us the right concept.

Mike Jones: That’s how we roll.

Jeff Watson: So when you have a concept of something, there are two ways that we could identify your concept or say your concept gets defined. And one is that you have full understanding of what your own concept is. So if you have a certain concept, the way you understand your concept, that’s your concept. So let’s say, for instance, you have a concept of … well, let’s start with one you make up. That’s a good example. Just make up a concept. The concept of having funny hair on a Tuesday. So you fully understand that concept, there couldn’t be something that concept applies to and you wouldn’t know.

Mike Jones: ’cause we’re defining it as something I own-

Jeff Watson: It’s something you own. But most of our concepts, obviously, do not work that way because most of our concepts we get from other people and we get them socially and we kinds rust them and trust who they got it from and trust where they got it from for the ultimate definition of that concept and so we accept that many of our concepts can be completely wrong. And we can misunderstand our own concepts. They’re in our head, but they’re kinda not.

Jeff Watson: And so for instance, suppose I have a concept of what it is to have arthritis. And I think arthritis is pain in your thigh. And I could go around saying things like, yeah I have arthritis today, and by that I mean I have pain in my thigh. And I hear someone who has pain in their thigh and I’m like, oh you should get that checked out, it’s probably arthritis. Well, I have the concept. It’s our concept of arthritis. They’ve got it completely wrong. ‘Cause the definition of arthritis doesn’t come from me and how I conceive the arthritis, the definition of arthritis comes from us, how we can see the arthritis. And ultimately, we kinda defer to some medical expert who says, no no. Arthritis has nothing to do with thigh pain, it’s really more like joint pain and here’s the specific thing it is. And so you can understand some part of a concept but not fully understand all there is about it.

Jeff Watson: And similarly, you can have an idea that’s really similar to something, but it’s not the same concept. So the whole point of that exercise is that our concept, most of them, except for the ones we make up for ourselves, are defined outside of our own heads. They are in our heads, but part of the meaning is not in our heads. It’s social.

Jeff Watson: and so I think that’s also true then when we’re thinking about brands and how brands get defined. So one easy and instant temptation for a brand is to think that we’re going to be what we conceive ourselves to be. We have a clear concept of our own brand. Obviously ’cause we’re it, it’s us so we know what it is. And that’s very tempting, but you could find yourself in the same position as the person who thought arthritis is thigh pain. You think your brand is something, but actually, you go around and actually ask people who have interacted with you outside of you, who you are, and they’ll give you-

Mike Jones: Like your customers.

Jeff Watson: Like your customers and they’ll give you a much clearer, much more accurate answer. And so there’s no guarantee just because it seems to you, this is who we are. That’s really who you are. Of course, that’s true of people too. You might have one conception of who you are and you start asking people around you and you learn something about yourself you didn’t know.

Chris Stadler: So now, would you then say that you should allow yourself to be interpreted by other people? Would you go that far?

Jeff Watson: Well so, allow yourself to be interpreted-

Chris Stadler: So if you’re a brand, is it kinda like-

Mike Jones: Purely an external perception.

Jeff Watson: Yeah, so that’s not true either, in the same way that I wouldn’t say arthritis is just what people call it, arthritis.

Mike Jones: So if everybody decides it’s thigh pain, then now it’s thigh pain-

Jeff Watson: [crosstalk 00:30:19] now it’s thigh pain. No, it doesn’t quite work that way. Well, in fact, there could be for some terms we have like being … this is a sad one, I know it’s a pain point for Arizona, but being a planet. So the concept of being a planet-

Mike Jones: It’s a good point for Pluto.

Chris Stadler: It’s a pain point for Arizona.

Mike Jones: Well my claim to fame is-

Chris Stadler: Planet?

Jeff Watson: Yup, we discovered Pluto.

Mike Jones: What’s his face? Lowell.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Mike Jones: There’s an observatory-

Chris Stadler: Oh, yeah. So it is Pluto related.

Jeff Watson: Yeah.

Chris Stadler: Oh. Gotcha.

Mike Jones: Well it’s … yeah.

Jeff Watson: So our … sorry, but our claim to fame was having discovering the planet Pluto, even though it was true that nearly all people, for a certain period of time, thought Pluto was a planet. The concept of planet, as it was understood by astronomers, and we get to defer to them, they get to decide what is and isn’t a planet.

Chris Stadler: Quote fingers. Experts. Just like the doctors.

Jeff Watson: Just like the doctors. They’re the experts. And so they got to decide, well hey, here was our criteria for a planet, sorry Pluto, you’ve been demoted. It doesn’t matter that the majority of people thought that’s what it was. So I don’t want to go so far as saying, well your brand is just whatever people around you say your brand is. Well that could be horribly inaccurate. It could be inaccurate for any number of reasons. It could be they don’t know you very well, it could be you’ve not revealed yourself to them, it could be that they haven’t had very good interactions with you or they have things that have skewed the recognition of a brand, so it’s very important that you not just say, I’m gonna defer to the people around me and-

Chris Stadler: The reality is, if you defer to the people around you, most brands wouldn’t be anything.

Jeff Watson: Right. Yeah.

Chris Stadler: That’s kinda what I was wondering, too. What impact does this have on … and it’s probably a different discussion, but deciding, hey we stand for this and it’s right and we’re gonna allow it to develop and to heck with what everybody thinks, we need to kinda do what’s right first and then worry about how people are seeing it, maybe our message changes, but maybe our essence kinda stays-

Jeff Watson: So think of it as, these are two good sources of information about a brand.

Chris Stadler: Gotcha.

Jeff Watson: One is our own internal perceptions of it and the other is people’s external perceptions of it, so good sources of information. What makes the brand what it is, well that’s its essence. That doesn’t depend on how it’s perceived.

Chris Stadler: Gotcha.

Jeff Watson: But these are two sources of information we can consult. And so, just like we can’t be confident that, hey the way we internally perceive it, that’s what it is, because it’s just how we perceive it. Similarly, the way we perceived, that’s who we are. Well, surely we hope that’s not the case. So it is true that, sometimes, internally, we can take ownership of a brand or we can try to make it more of what it is. Just like as an individual, you can sorta say, hey I’m gonna exercise some agency here, I’m gonna try to-

Chris Stadler: Intentionality.

Jeff Watson: Intentionally do certain things. And that’s an expression of who I am. I wanna make sure that that’s how I’m seen. And I think that’s okay. But, yeah, neither the internal nor the external perception is enough to give you the brand.

Chris Stadler: ‘Cause the essence is beyond the perception.

Jeff Watson: Right.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Jeff Watson: That’s what it’s trying to get at. This is true of physical perceptions. The essence of this glass that I’m staring at is distinct from my perception of it, right? I think. U could … there’s a guy named-

Chris Stadler: [crosstalk 00:33:40].

Jeff Watson: Back in the 1800s or 1700s that would disagree with me, but no. You go ahead.

Chris Stadler: So he would say your perception is-

Jeff Watson: Barkley’s view was that there is nothing here except a bundle of perceptions. To me, it seems like I’m looking at a glass, and by glass, I mean a physical object that is not just my perception of it. But his view would be that, no. A glass is just a bundle of perceptions and besides perceptions, experiences, that’s all that exists.

Chris Stadler: It’s interesting. I think there is a strain of that in the business world. That perceives brands as pure perception. They are malleable in as much as you can change someone’s mind about them. That’s interesting. It’s interesting how that parallels, I think, like many things in life, the ideas born in philosophy carry through into real practice. So it’s that business world follows that pretty closely.

Mike Jones: It’s not like that post-modern thing where you go into a university classroom, literature classroom, and instead of asking what the author meant, they want you to say what you think it means ’cause that’s really what matters [crosstalk 00:34:49]-

Chris Stadler: Whatever the reader perceives it.

Jeff Watson: Well-

Chris Stadler: Maybe we’re over simplifying things [crosstalk 00:34:55].

Mike Jones: That confused the heck out of me in college. I’m like, who cares what I think. I wanna know what the author meant.

Jeff Watson: Hold on. Let’s clarify slightly. So it’s good to ask, what do I think something means. But that question is a realist question, that is, there is something it means and now you’re asking me what I think it means.

Mike Jones: You’re implying there’s a meaning outside of myself-

Jeff Watson: There’s a meaning outside of there and I’m trying to get at what it is. But an idealist, which is Barkley’s old view, would say, well there’s nothing there beside experiences. And so, there’s nothing to the meanings except the meaning that I give it and the meaning you give it and the meaning you give it and that’s it. And, of course, with artistic works, that is a hard question. How do you get at the meaning of an artistic work? And maybe that’s a reason why people would want to import that to a brand.

Jeff Watson: Hey, a brand is kinda like an artistic work, it’s something we construct, we put together, like a work of art. So maybe it has the same kinda of quandaries. But it also seems to me that brands represent the identity of a very concrete, very real, very important thing and that’s an organized group of people. And I think I’m like asking what the meaning of a certain interpretive dance is, I think asking what the identity of an organization is, that’s asking about something very real that impacts someone’s life, many people’s lives.

Jeff Watson: And so it would be going to far to say the brand … well that’s kinda of like, pure work of art … I don’t know if this is true about works of art, by the way, but if someone holds this about works of art, works of art are just [crosstalk 00:36:26]-

Chris Stadler: Pure. External perception.

Jeff Watson: … the meaning is pure in the eye of the beholder. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but imagine it was. It would definitely be going to far to say brands are like that ’cause brands are representations of something real. Something that we have to show up and interact with sometimes.

Jeff Watson: I could go to the motor vehicle division and I could say, I’m gonna conceive with the brand of the motor vehicle division is like this beautiful, happy, wonderful place to be-

Mike Jones: Place where you don’t wait very long-

Jeff Watson: Yeah, I don’t wait very long. I’m still gonna wait there and I’m still gonna have to sign the form for three times and … so-

Chris Stadler: Yeah. I’ve always struggled with the view that says a brand is pure perception. I’ve always liked how you’ve described it, Jeff because I think it allows us to use perception to understand the essence, but we’re still saying the essence is something even external to perception. And I think what is helpful to that is it provides some guide rails to your strategy of, okay, we internally have a perception of our brand. And we’ve found that as we looked at the external perception, there’s a misalignment. So somewhere in between is the essence, but we can’t then go 180 degrees and change the perceptions both internally and externally 180 degrees because that would be so far away from the true essence that we’re starting to kinda feel out because that essence wouldn’t allow it. Versus the view that says … and I think this is probably why this view exists, which is kinda … it’s Barkley, right?

Jeff Watson: Yeah. George Barkley. Reverend George Barkley.

Chris Stadler: And I might be putting an interpretation into his words, it may not be there, so correct me if I’m wrong. And maybe it’s not him, but I’ve seen this from people who subscribe to brands of pure perception, is it provides an opportunity to idealistically think that that brand can be anything. It can be whatever I want it to be as long as I then use those tools that we already talked about, your decisions, your behaviors and your actions to guide it to that point. It’s interesting how many people live out their lives that way too. I know several people in my life who are challenged by the idea that there’s an essence that is you. And not that you can be whoever you want to be [crosstalk 00:38:56] gets into a whole nother philosophical issue.

Jeff Watson: I think we can recognize something here that’s right, very dialectical, right. So let’s … it’s thesis into physio-synthesis.

Jeff Watson: Let’s recognize something that’s right and that’s that both as people and as organizations made up of people, we have this ability to make choices and be held responsible for those choices and that means that we can, in some sense, shape what we do. And so, in so far as we are defined … or maybe not fully defined, but part of that who we are is in terms of choices we make and intentions we form and intentions we execute. We have that role in defining ourselves and we’re not quite like defining a rock or defining a frog. There’s something different a bout people and groups of people and that’s very creative. And so we have the ability, as an organization to … you are really creating yourself, right?

Chris Stadler: Yup.

Jeff Watson: Let’s not go so far as saying, how you intend it to be, that’s the reality of it. How you want it to be, that’s the … no. There’s still structural limitations on me as a person. There’s still the place in which the brain finds itself, the situation in which it finds itself, the actual people who actually are there.

Mike Jones: SWOT analysis.

Chris Stadler: Oh, believe me.

Mike Jones: Sorry. One of Chris’ favorite things [crosstalk 00:40:18].

Chris Stadler: … going all the way to the science of it.

Mike Jones: I know.

Chris Stadler: My head is spinning.

Jeff Watson: So, and those limitations are gonna make sure that whatever choices you end up making are gonna conform to that if you want to persist and you want to continue overtime. And so, yeah, I think it would be going too far then, too idealistic in the old sense of idealism to say that you’re simply how you perceive yourself as being.

Chris Stadler: So my seven year old, when he goes out and plays flag football, he says he’s super fast and the coach is like, “hey show me some of that speed you’re always talking about.” Overheard at practice because my son is not super fast. He’s the next Deon Sanders. [crosstalk 00:41:00]. Yeah, no, he’s Deon Sanders, slower, whiter grandchild at this point.

Chris Stadler: But yeah so there’s … well and something you said, Mike, that kinda struck me because I was thinking about … a lot of times we think of a logo as being something, oh we just make a logo. You can just get anybody to make a logo. But, in this conversation, a logo would be … so there’s an old philosopher you might’ve heard of who talks about how God has made us his poem. Each one of us his poem, and by extension, it’s possible that if something like that were true, that a brand might actually be a poem authored by the actions and thoughts and ideals of the people who make up the brand. Am I on to something or is this totally just kinda like divorced from what you’re saying?

Jeff Watson: Yeah, I like the creative analogy, but just like we were saying earlier, whereas with a work of art, there’s sort of the ideal, you have very few limitations ’cause you always have to have some limitations in art-

Jeff Watson: You have very few limitations, because you have to always have some limitations in art, that’s true that you’re always working within. But I sense that a brand has got somewhat more structural limitations than a pure work of art-

Chris Stadler: Because it has to communicate rather than just, its more of an explicit communication-

Jeff Watson: It has to represent. So there’s a debate about whether artistic works represent anything. Maybe they do, but if they do it’s really weird to think about what they represent- And what’s a piece of music represent.

Mike Jones: Maybe the better metaphor with art and maybe we’re just stuck on art and we can move to some other analogy. I’ve found that instead of talking about specific pieces of art, because the specific pieces, I think I’m going to use the analogy to a brand, right? So what is the counter, or what’s the like thing in the brand, for the brand to the piece of art? Well it’s not the piece of art. It’s the artist. Right?

Jeff Watson: Okay.

Mike Jones: And the artist, the representation is not so much at the art piece level, it’s at the body of work level.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Mike Jones: We identify Beethoven, now because of a singular piece of artwork. That does happen, right? There are artists that we can think of, usually not maybe great ones, who we know because of one piece of art. Right? But it’s a very shallow definition, right? It’s a shallow essence that we perceive of them, versus someone like a Beethoven or a Bach, or the Beatles, right?

Jeff Watson: So those names have brands associated with them, right?

Mike Jones: Exactly, right? So the piece of work-

Jeff Watson: [crosstalk 00:43:35] oh that’s a Bach.

Mike Jones: I like that, because I think in the branding world, there’s this, and this has been perpetuated for about 75, 80 years. We confuse product and brand. Product is the artwork. It’s the expression of the group of individuals working together for a common purpose, right? Who then have kind of a brand essence. So when we say, Cheerios, does Cheerios really have a brand? Or is it General Mills over the expression of all of their products who begins to form this more robust essence and identity. Because the group of individuals is not Cheerios.

Mike Jones: There’s nowhere on the planet, are there a bunch of people wearing Cheerios uniforms. They’re not, they’re all General Mills. Right, they identify at the group level, and now maybe you could spin it off, right, you could say, “Alright we’re going to be the Cheerios group and we do everything about Cheerios.” But I think that’s where we get a lot of confusion. I know when we work with clients, I know Chris has seen this and our director, Eric’s definitely seen it, where we walk into a workshop and that’s the first thing we have to really pull apart in their minds, is that we’re not talking about their products. We’re talking about them.

Chris Stadler: We’re not talking about the board on the deck of the Ship of Theseus, right? We’re talking about the whole ship in the way it’s-

Mike Jones: We’re talking about the essence of the ship.

Chris Stadler: And the prowl, the thing that-

Mike Jones: Well those are all still

Chris Stadler: [crosstalk 00:45:10] the configuration.

Jeff Watson: Those are all still things that can be replaced.

Mike Jones: You could replace all of those and the essence is still there.

Chris Stadler: But if the ship came back and it were totally shaped differently-

Mike Jones: I think you would have a harder time justifying the essence still being the same-

Jeff Watson: If you could tell me a story about how you changed each part of the ship differently-

Chris Stadler: Got you.

Mike Jones: It’s harder.

Jeff Watson: Things-

Mike Jones: It’s harder.

Jeff Watson: It’s harder.

Chris Stadler: But it would be coherent.

Mike Jones: Yeah. Now see, here’s the other, if we’re going to use that analogy, the ship analogy. So let’s forget the artist analogy, we’re moving onto the ship, we’re moving back to the ship.

Chris Stadler: Back to the ship.

Mike Jones: I love that analogy by the way. I think it works really well. If you were replacing all of the parts of the ship, and they all look different, right? Different colors, different shapes and by the time you got back, it was totally different, you would have to work really, really hard with the people back on shore who saw you three years ago and then saw you again today, three years later, but never saw you in between. But the crew, the crew would identify that this is still our ship. It’s the USS Odysseus, I don’t know or Theseus. It would be the Theseus, right? Because they would identify, because they’ve been there, they’ve experienced the story the whole time that the changes are happening. And maybe they’ve got a good captain. Was it Odysseus?

Jeff Watson: Theseus was [crosstalk 00:46:31].

Mike Jones: Theseus is the character.

Jeff Watson: Theseus is on the ship.

Mike Jones: And then the ship is named something.

Jeff Watson: It’s part of the larger myth. Does he have the black sail or the white sail, and if he has the wrong sail and something like that.

Mike Jones: For some reason I thought it was Odysseus so I’m getting confused.

Jeff Watson: It’s part of the same [crosstalk 00:46:48].

Mike Jones: Because it’s all Theseus.

Chris Stadler: [crosstalk 00:46:49] It’s all Greek to me.

Mike Jones: But yeah, if he was communicating that whole time really well, these decisions and why we’re making them and the direction we’re going.

Chris Stadler: So if he had regular email updates coming out of the ship like a monthly newsletter, email newsletter-

Mike Jones: If he published publicly his ship log-

Chris Stadler: Or a podcast, or a blog.

Mike Jones: Or podcast.

Jeff Watson: Carrier pigeons.

Mike Jones: He had a ship podcast. I like this.

Chris Stadler: Pigeon cast.

Mike Jones: Let’s say he was publishing that back to the people on shore the whole time, would they then have a much easier time going, “Oh yeah, it looks different but it’s the same.”

Chris Stadler: Right.

Mike Jones: Right? Because the ship is more than its parts.

Jeff Watson: Yeah, so I think you’re right. So that when there’s a radical change, right? If you’ve not been letting people in on that change at each step and why each step happened, then you’re going to have a lot of work to do, whether it’s walking them through step by step the changes, or something else, to convince them that you’re the same thing, or else you might just have to say, “Well, let’s call it something different now so that we’re not in the same.”-

Chris Stadler: Follow up question I had. Can brands then intrinsically change? Like could I tomorrow, it’s not Resound anymore, it’s ABC Company and it’s a different brand? Or can the essence change I guess. I guess that’s the question.

Jeff Watson: So an essence can’t change, but a thing can-

Chris Stadler: Have a new essence?

Jeff Watson: Well nothing can have a new essence, but the thing that existed can cease to exist.

Mike Jones: There we go.

Jeff Watson: And a new thing with the same parts can come into being.

Chris Stadler: Okay.

Jeff Watson: While that’s extremely difficult with people and I hope it never happens to any of us. We have this conversation before.

Chris Stadler: Would it be like winter soldier, where they just took his problem and he became evil?

Mike Jones: This gets into when someone has severe head trauma-

Jeff Watson: Right.

Mike Jones: Right, and they come out of it, maybe they were in a coma for a year and they come out and they don’t seem to be the same person.

Jeff Watson: No connection. No memories whatsoever, no connection whatsoever to the past and no psychology similarities that you can trace. Right, then you ask questions, like is this the same person anymore? I don’t know. But with brands, that’s very easy for that to really happen. So the thing that was there before is no longer there and we have a new thing, and we’ve got some of the old parts and it may have the same legal entity, right? That may be one of the things the new brand gets from the old one. But it’s a successor. It’s an inherited, it’s the heir maybe to the old brand, but it’s a new brand.

Chris Stadler: It’s the child.

Jeff Watson: Yeah, a child.

Chris Stadler: Birthed out of.

Jeff Watson: Well that’s a beautiful way to say it, but it might be some weird nephew.

Mike Jones: We could be a Frankenstein child.

Jeff Watson: The heir could be anybody.

Mike Jones: Frankencompany.

Chris Stadler: Frankencompany. That probably exists. Sorry Mr Franken wherever you are.

Jeff Watson: Yeah, I’d say at a certain point, the brand is inheriting as an heir something of a former brand. So I think that can really happen and that is a time when you need a new brand, because you’re not them.

Chris Stadler: So time check. We have just a couple minutes left. I want to ask, have we covered most of the stuff that we need? Our claim was that we’re going to talk about how brands express group identity. I think we’ve definitely touched on that. Is there anything we need to clarify that we want to add at this point?

Jeff Watson: I don’t know. Is there?

Chris Stadler: He’s like, “I just showed up.”

Mike Jones: We’ll defer to you, Doctor Watson.

Chris Stadler: I’m sure you’re like-

Mike Jones: I have 18 more hours worth of content that we could cover.

Chris Stadler: I have five more full questions that represent their own [crosstalk 00:50:39].

Jeff Watson: How about I say just one more thing that I would want to say on this topic.

Chris Stadler: Please.

Jeff Watson: This maybe reveals that some of my philosophical interests are in Aristotle and that view, not just in terms of his metaphysics, but in terms of his ethics. There was a view in ethics Aristotle held that’s known as virtue ethics. The idea in virtue ethics is that rather than talking about right actions or wrong action, or good actions or bad actions, because those are so very difficult to figure out, we should be talking about the persisting character or virtue of a person over time.

Jeff Watson: Someone’s character is ultimately shaped by virtue and virtue involves acting in accordance with the thing’s purpose or function, or function as a rational being to reason. So that has one story for people as reasoners and what it is to live a reasonable life. But in terms of brands, I think we can get something out of that, that if we have accurately identified something’s brand and its essence, then we know what, not just what it is to be that thing, but what that thing is for. What it’s purpose or goal or role is.

Jeff Watson: Once we understand that, then we can say for that brand, given what it is, what would be virtuous for that or what would be advice for that. We would know how to evaluate whether that thing is good or not. Not whether it’s doing some good stuff. Doing some admirable or praiseworthy things. Whether that is acting in accordance with what its function is and fulfilling it excellently. So virtue is excellence in fulfilling something’s function. A good can opener is a can opener that opens cans well. A good car is a car that drives well. A good can opener is not one that does other things well. It’s the one that opens cans well.

Jeff Watson: People are more complex than can openers. Brands are more complex than can openers, but the idea is the same. A good organization, an organization that’s doing good, right, for itself for what it is, is one that fulfills its function or purpose well.

Chris Stadler: So now if a brand then gets on the air, or makes a claim and it’s in accordance with how we see their natural function, now all of a sudden they have to do much less explaining about why you should trust them, because we already know that we can trust them. Or we know that we can’t, because they’ve taken a stand and we know-

Jeff Watson: Well, we can at least trust them to be that thing they are. Right, so brands are funny. They’re not people. So you can have a brand that’s just intrinsically bad.

Chris Stadler: Right.

Jeff Watson: I hope you don’t have that. But it would be, well I guess you do get that with people. You can have a good thief. Someone who’s really good at stealing. A good serial killer is someone who was really good at killing.

Jeff Watson: So you can have a brand that’s good at being bad if it’s a bad brand, right? But the key thing is we can trust it to be consistent in doing that kind of thing when it does things in accord with that function, with that role, with what it is.

Jeff Watson: It’s when it tries to act outside of that, that we have a lot harder time explaining why we should trust it now. Because now it’s not as consistent. Now it’s not in accordance with that intrinsic function it has. Just like with people, when a person starts to act out of character, you have much less trust in that character.

Chris Stadler: So when someone says, “Do you trust me?” And I want to say, “Trust you to do what? Trust you for what?”

Jeff Watson: That’s a good question, yeah.

Chris Stadler: Because I trust someone’s intentions maybe, but I don’t trust their ability to do something, right?

Jeff Watson: That may be true of some people. You have a lot of trust that they’re well intentioned. There may be people you have a lot of trust that they’re not well intentioned.

Chris Stadler: Right.

Jeff Watson: So yeah trust is a good word, because we want to be trusted and we want to trust, but we need to be clear on what it is just like you said that we’re trusting someone or something to do.

Chris Stadler: But may I suggest that’s perhaps one of the critical measurements for a brand. How well that brand is living to their essence, is the level at which people trust them to act a certain way?

Jeff Watson: Yeah, I would say that’s a good measure of brands, how well it is achieving its function as a brand. So a function is just a part of who they are. It’s not the totality of who they are. A good measure of that is do people generally say, “I can trust them to do this. This thing that they claim to do.” Right. If they can’t be trusted to do that, then that’s a sign that either that’s not really part of who they are, and they need to rethink that. Or that is part of who they are, but they’re doing a terrible job at executing on it, and so why? Right.

Chris Stadler: I trust them to be mediocre. What’s a brand we can test this theory on?

Chris Stadler: I started just saying Nike, but then I was like, no. We don’t have time for a Nike.

Mike Jones: Toyota.

Chris Stadler: Toyota?

Mike Jones: I don’t know. It just popped into my head.

Chris Stadler: Toyota. What do we trust Toyota to do?

Jeff Watson: Make it to 250,000 miles.

Chris Stadler: Yeah.

Mike Jones: Yeah. Yeah, fairly reliable. I typically trust them to catch when they know their mistakes, to fix them. That’s actually what my mechanic told me the other day. I was talking about what brands do you like? He’s like, “Well I really like Toyota.” I’m like, “Well why?” He’s like, “Well they’re reliable, but also they consistently own the mistakes they make and make them right.”

Chris Stadler: They’re boring kind of.

Mike Jones: Yeah.

Chris Stadler: Like the Camry. Nobody is like, “Camry.”

Mike Jones: No, they’re not stylish. They’re not going to knock your socks off, but they’re consistently going to not do that.

Chris Stadler: Right. Yes, consistently. Right, you can trust them to be boring and reliable, right?

Jeff Watson: Yeah, well here’s an interesting point. So suppose Toyota comes out with the thing that’s not boring, right? Psychologically, what impact does that have on you as a consumer when it comes to trusting them to still be those other things you trusted them to be, which is reliable and making it a lot time and admitting their mistakes.

Mike Jones: They tried this. Yes, Scion. They made a different brand.

Jeff Watson: They made a different brand.

Mike Jones: They attempted to make a different brand. What was interesting is, everyone bought them based on the trust that it was a Toyota sub-brand. Interesting, yeah. Then it didn’t prove to be as trustworthy as a Toyota.

Jeff Watson: Interesting.

Chris Stadler: Right.

Mike Jones: THey’ve now reabsorbed them back-

Jeff Watson: Reabsorbed Scion.

Mike Jones: And they’ve knocked out I think some of the models. Yeah, it’s interesting.

Jeff Watson: That, even if you’re doing something that would seem really good on its own. Hey, you’re going to be more exciting. Let’s rev up Toyota, right? This makes us wonder. Are you still the same character you were before, right?

Chris Stadler: Right. So it costs trust and if I identify almost [inaudible 00:57:09] with Toyota, and I say I want to go out and buy a Toyota and then I see these ads about Toyota and Doritos going in, or Mountain Dew doing some kind of extreme sport whatever sponsorship.

Mike Jones: Red Bull.

Chris Stadler: Then it’s like, what’s going on? I’m almost confused now. Now I have to be sold a little more on the-

Jeff Watson: We all know there’s no logical connection between extreme sports and do the brakes work?

Chris Stadler: In fact there’s an opposite correlation between the importance.

Jeff Watson: Right, but just like with people we have a certain trust in their character just because it’s consistent, right? It can even be a little oppressive on us as individuals. People start assuming you’re going to act a certain way and you worry if I break too much out of that, what will they think of me?

Chris Stadler: What if Trump stopped tweeting. What? My world is upside down.

Jeff Watson: So that would be off brand, right? So same thing with Toyota. You start sponsoring something on this end of things and we ask, are you the same people, same brand I trusted before?

Chris Stadler: That I thought I knew.

Mike Jones: Think about restaurants whose management changes and the name stays the same and we all have this moment after a couple times and we’re like-

Chris Stadler: It’s not them anymore.

Mike Jones: This just doesn’t feel right anymore. This isn’t the same thing, even though it has the same name.

Chris Stadler: The same ship and everything. Just different crew.

Mike Jones: Different crew, or at least a different captain.

Chris Stadler: Yeah. That’s interesting.

Mike Jones: Wow, we’ve covered a lot today.

Chris Stadler: We have. I just feel like this is just the beginning.

Mike Jones: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Stadler: Yeah we might need to do a follow up.

Mike Jones: That would be fun.

Chris Stadler: Yeah. First we need to go to the department and enhance sponsorship.

Mike Jones: Not department- No, it’s the yard.

Chris Stadler: The yard.

Mike Jones: The yard.

Chris Stadler: We need the yard. We can get the department too.

Mike Jones: The yard [inaudible 00:59:01] sponsorship can continue.

Chris Stadler: Yeah.

Mike Jones: We need the yard, and we need to have cigars and really get into this meatiness and then-

Chris Stadler: Yeah, I see a traveling podcast in the near future.

Mike Jones: Interesting.

Chris Stadler: You know, when the weather turns colder.

Mike Jones: Very interesting.

Chris Stadler: Yeah, because nobody wants to sweat on a podcast. It just doesn’t sound good.

Mike Jones: It’s kind of gross.

Chris Stadler: No, you can hear the sweat dripping. Anyway, we’re going to wrap this up on a really high note. Is that it? I think we’re done, right? With the questions that we had.

Mike Jones: No, but we don’t have time for anymore.

Chris Stadler: We don’t have time for any more.

Mike Jones: So cliff hanger. This is a cliff hanger episode.

Chris Stadler: Yes.

Mike Jones: Come back in the future. I don’t know if it will be next time. But come back in the future and there will be another episode with Doctor Jeff Watson.

Chris Stadler: Part one of the series.

Mike Jones: Yes.

Chris Stadler: Brand philosophy-

Mike Jones: Yeah, brand and philosophy 101.

Chris Stadler: Workshop.

Mike Jones: We’ll have to do 102 next time.

Chris Stadler: There we go.

Mike Jones: Jeff, thank you so much for coming on.

Chris Stadler: Yeah, thanks Jeff.

Mike Jones: This was super awesome and time flew.

Chris Stadler: Yeah.

Mike Jones: I can’t believe how fast it went. Hopefully we get some more time next time. This is Mike Jones and-

Chris Stadler: And Chris Stadler and if you want to contact Jeff, you will find his information in on the podcast, on the part below the podcast. All the words.

Mike Jones: Yeah [crosstalk 01:00:26].

Chris Stadler: [crosstalk 01:00:26].

Mike Jones: So if you want to hit him up and ask great philosophical questions, he may email you back, he may not. You know what? You can just sign up for on of his classes at ASU.

Chris Stadler: That’s right.

Mike Jones: That sounds even better.

Chris Stadler: Yeah.

Mike Jones: For Chris and I, thank you so much for joining us today.

Chris Stadler: Yes.

Mike Jones: You can find us always at AZbrandcast.com.

Chris Stadler: Yeah.

Mike Jones: Obviously if you’re listening right now, you’re on business radio X on the Phoenix website and so you can continue to check us out there. You can find our podcasts on all the places that you will find podcasts, like iTunes and Google Play. Just search for AZBrandCast.

Chris Stadler: And you can go to remarkablecast.com.

Mike Jones: Yes, you can go back to our website and definitely, if you’re on there, I highly recommend checking out other episodes and also signing up for our newsletter.

Chris Stadler: Yes.

Mike Jones: Yeah.

Chris Stadler: It would be awesome.

Mike Jones: We like to drip out fun little things every once in a while.

Chris Stadler: Totally.

Mike Jones: I think that’s it.

Chris Stadler: That’s it. Thanks everybody, this has been awesome.

Mike Jones: Thank you.

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