I just had a great conversation with Mark Sears, former Director of Group Brand Strategy at Virgin. Mark has recently left Virgin to follow his own path, and apply his skills as a brand strategist to make a real and positive impact on the world. He is calling his new business Them Big Oak Trees, inspired by the idea that oak trees – so seemingly independent – actually share resources with each other through their root systems. When one oak tree is suffering, the others contribute needed resources to ensure that the whole group survives.
We discussed what brand means to conventional business, his visions of what brand could mean and do, and what a brand inspired by nature might look like. Time will tell what Mark gleaned from the conversation (keep your eyes open for his website – twitter @searsio) but I began to see new steps on the journey from conventional business to business inspired by nature – especially for those who are not quite ‘ready for radical’.
Mark said that a conventional business thinks of brand as a mechanism to speak to consumers. More cynically, it is just a marketing tool, often with the goal of getting consumers and potential customers to buy things they don’t really need and/or for reasons that don’t really make sense for them.
Mark’s vision is to for brand and brand strategy to represent the DNA of a company, encompassing the vision, values, and purpose of a business, from which everything else flows. He finds that this is often still the case with new and small companies, but it becomes fragmented as companies grow.
I wondered if, in a business inspired by nature, the conventional definition of brand actually achieves exactly what Mark is envisioning. A business inspired by nature has a unique R10 vision, full of positive virtuous cycles that are fully aligned with nature; it follows nature’s principles thus is values-based and life-supporting; it fosters creativity and diversity, empowering employees; it brings real and relevant value to customers so they can thrive, and can expect the same in return.
I wondered if that means we can apply all the knowledge skills, and understanding developed for conventional branding directly to business to a business inspired by nature. If so, perhaps this is true of many other skills, knowledge, and understanding developed in conventional business. One of many things that Mark has inspired me with today is that perhaps more of us are ‘ready for radical’ than we think.
Thanks Mark! We’re looking forward to Them Big Oak Trees driving brands inspired by nature very soon!