Great cultures leave behind artifacts of all sorts – art, architecture, pottery, literature, tools, etc. – that are often admired or studied centuries later by the builders of entirely new and different cultures. The great designer Kit Hinrichs, for example, collects all kinds of American Flags, and even though they are at their most basic different forms of the same thing, the stories they tell about America at the time they were made are remarkable and unique.
I recently coined the term “Brand Artifacts” in a webinar Chromium gave on Branding from the Inside Out, and that prompted a question from one of our attendees as to exactly what kinds of artifacts a modern-day brand might leave behind, and what they might tell a future scholar about what kind of brand and culture that company had.
Brands leave behind all sorts of things, and the best brands leave behind things that are cherished long after they’ve ceased to be useful. Some are products: I have a collection of Apple devices, from my first laptop (a PowerBook 160) and first iPhone, as well as a host of more esoteric devices such as mice (mouses? meeces?) and Airport wireless devices. They’re beautiful, and they represent not only an exciting time in my life, but they’re also the pinnacle of technological achievement for their time and so can be springboards for teaching and learning.
Others are literature: Zappos publishes their annual Culture Book, essentially a yearbook where every employee gets a page to say whatever they want. It’s interesting reading now, and I can imagine it will be tremendously insightful to anthropologists in a hundred years as they study the rise of the techies at the turn of the millennium.
Oscar Mayer gave us a song. Disney gave us classic movies and astonishing theme parks.
Then there are the more esoteric artifacts of strong brands: Ford Motor Company not only gave us some fine automobiles, but also created modern assembly line manufacturing and helped build a prosperous working class America. Even Enron left behind valuable case studies in the wake of all the destruction that brand caused, which business ethicists can study and cite for generations to come.
So, what artifacts is your brand going to leave behind? Will you and others be proud of them? Will they help mankind advance society in some way, however big or small? Would they, were they to be lost and then rediscovered centuries later, tell a compelling and positive story about your brand?
That should be your intention, if you’re intent on building a truly great brand.
Featured Image Attribution: Mahmood Salam/Flickr/Creative Commons