Brands: the last flat earth theory

Brian Millar

Whenever an agency offers its services as a 'brand steward' I start to feel a bit uneasy. In my mind the word 'steward' conjures up the Steward of Gondor, that sinister old guy in the last Lord of the Rings movie, who presides over the gradual collapse of the kingdom in the absence of any real leaders. He is so obsessed with the traditions of the place that he fails to notice that millions of crazed and savage Orcs are gnawing at his city walls, baying for his people's blood.

So what is wrong with stewarding brands? Well, for a start, I think you're stewarding the wrong thing.

'Essentially all models are wrong,' said George Pelham-Box, one of the most influential statisticians of the 20th century, 'but some of them are useful.' Let us remember that brands are only a model of the way that consumers buy products and services. I think that the model is wrong. But that does not mean it is not useful – so long as we don't get carried away by imagining it's the truth.