Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83

Wally Olins, the business legend credited with inventing the concept of brand identity, has died aged 83 after a short illness.

Wally Olins: father of brand identity has died aged 83
Wally Olins: father of brand identity has died aged 83

Olins, who founded the UK’s first brand consultancy in the 1960s and was famous for his trademark bowtie and round heavy-rimmed glasses, was responsible for rebranding British Telecom as BT and was also instrumental in the creation of the brand Orange.

Olins began his career in the early 1960s, running Ogilvy & Mather in Mumbai, before hooking up with Michael Wolff and starting Wolff Olins in 1965. He sold the business in 1997 and went on to set up Saffron Brand Consultants in 2001, of which he was chairman until his death.

Rufus Olins, one of Wally Olins’ four children, former managing director of Haymarket Brand Media and currently chief executive of newspaper marketing body Newsworks, paid tribute to his father.

He told Marketing: "I’d say on a professional level he was a pioneer who was fearlessly intellectual and prepared to say what he thought, regardless of the consequences. He legitimised an industry that didn’t really exist when he started – he found something that he felt was important and meaningful, about the identity of an organisation that manifests itself visually.

Olins added that his father was "incredibly curious" and a "great internationalist".

"He was a humanist more than a corporate administrator," he said. "A side less familiar to people is that he was a man of huge warmth, generosity and abundant love, who greatly adored his family and was adored by them in equal measure."

Ian Stephens, Saffron Brand Consultant’s managing director, posted a tribute to Olins on the firm’s website, in which he said: "A genuine pioneer, Wally was one of the leading individuals that helped carve out the business of branding – he would always say he did it ‘with colleagues’ but those of us that were lucky enough to have been his colleagues know that this is only partly true.

"Oddly for a man who was so defined by his prolific talent, he will perhaps be remembered most for his incredible generosity and optimism. Whether advising a young student looking for advice on getting ahead in branding or advising presidents on ways to enhance their nation’s brand, Wally was always willing to give more than he expected to receive."

As well as a businessman, Olins was a prolific author, with his latest book ‘Brand New: The Shape of Brands to Come’ only just published last week. Other titles penned by Olins include ‘On Brand’. He was made a CBE in 1999.

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