A view from Dave Trott: You can't not have a brand
A view from Dave Trott

You can't not have a brand

Samuel Maverick was a Texan lawyer, a politician, and a landowner.

In 1856, a neighbour settled a $1,200 debt with him by giving him 400 cattle.

Maverick wasn’t interested in cattle-ranching, so he kept the herd on open range land, waiting to sell it.

The convention amongst cattle-ranchers was to burn their brand into their cows, to make them easily identifiable and prevent theft.

Samuel Maverick didn’t want his cows branded, he didn’t plan to own them that long.

But sometimes a cow would escape and, when ranchers came across one with no brand, it was assumed to be one of Maverick’s.

And an unbranded cow became known as a "maverick" for short.

Pretty soon "maverick" was shorthand for any cow that got away from the main herd.

And eventually, any cow that was awkward or tried to escape was known as a maverick.

Over the years this transferred to humans: someone who refused to belong to a group, or conform, was said to be a maverick.

Pretty soon any free thinker, any non-conformist was called a maverick.

Originally it meant troublesome, but it became a compliment.

Nowadays "maverick" is the name for a free thinker, a rebel.

All this began with a man who didn’t want a brand and refused to have one.

So that not wanting a brand has virtually become a brand.

Because brand is just another word for image and we can’t not have an image of something.

We have to have an image of things, that’s how the mind works.

Image (brand) is just the way the mind differentiates things from similar things.

Take a Japanese brand called Mujirushi Ryhonin, launched in 1979.

The name means "brandless quality goods" and its line of products was simply wrapped in plain cellophane, with plain brown labels.

The idea was to not have a brand because customers shouldn’t pay for image.

They should only pay a fair price for the actual product.

So stamped on their plain brown label was a shortened form of their name: Muji.

The first character "mu" standing for "without".

The second character "ji" being a shortened form of "jirushi" or "brand".

So "Muji" meant "no brand".

The goods were plain and simple, well designed but minimalist.

They became so popular they expanded across Japan, then the Muji concept of no-brand became such a success it now has 656 stores.

In the UK, the US, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Hong Kong. Singapore, China, Taiwan, Australia, India.

In New York they even sell Muji in the Museum of Modern Art shop.

They are sold at a premium up to 50% more than the marked price in Japanese yen.

So the concept of no-brand has become a premium brand.

Because you can’t not have a brand.

Any more than you can not have an image of something.

"Brand" isn’t complicated, brand is simply the mind’s way of differentiating one object from similar objects.

A brand is just another name for the mind’s filing system.

We can’t tell the public what our brand (image) is, the public don’t take dictation.

The public look at our product, what it is, how it behaves.

The public then decides what the brand is based on that behaviour.

The public isn’t stupid, whatever we may think

We can decide what brand we do or don’t want, but the public will decide what our brand is for themselves.

Products build brands, brands don’t build products.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three