Get Shouty

Character and chaos
June 24, 2007, 5:20 am
Filed under: Digital Strategy


A post I wrote a while ago explored that over used term “relationship” in relation to brands:

Take Aristotle’s concept of friendship. He proposed three models: friendship based on utility (a friend who provides something useful to us); friendship based on pleasure (we enjoy a friend’s company); and friendship based on virtue or mutual admiration (we find a friend who shares our values).

At the time I was constructing my thoughts on brand utility, and so much of what I could see was about a ‘five minute fling’ philosophy- sometimes with out even a ‘thank you ma’am’.

I’ve never been a fan of romantic love being used as a metaphor to describe the attraction between people and brand stories. I’m not a believer that ‘brand engagement’ should be a passive thing, a spectacle, and I agree with Gavin that at it’s best engagement is a mile stone, a stepping stone to something deeper.

 I’m loving Matt Moore’s thoughts (and this is my response to Sean’s question Is anyone giving birth anymore?  ) about brands being attractors in chaotic systems  :

an attractor is where a system tends to end up. The attractor does not exist independently but as an aspect and an actor within the system.

I believe that what’s being said here is that an organisation can input energy and behaviour into a system (‘the brand’) – but that input is only one element. For the system/ brand to be alive (chaotic) control must be given up. 

Like Sean I’m pretty captivated by Matt’s thinking :
1. I don’t want brands to transform by experiences, I want them to allow me to transform my own.
2. I want brands in the background not the foreground of the conversation I have with or about an organisation.
3. I don’t want their spectacle, I want my own

If this whole notion of chaotic systems holds then the brand is not in the foreground, rather it is a map of the center of gravity of the attraction. Matt might say this is the character of the brand.

Be a champion of consumer journeys and aware that a brand is only a reflection of the behaviour of all of the actors within it’s system. Celebrate both the chaotic and the development of great character. Build brands with insights, bravery and smarts. People will build experiences themselves.


5 Comments so far
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Katie – I suppose one route to all this is recognising that co-creation is not an option but the default to most of corporate existence (unless you are omnipotent – God basically).

The paradox of control seems to be cropping up all over the place for me in two versions:
1. We are only ever in partial control of our projects/products/lives no matter what comforting lies we tell ourselves.
2. To exercise maximum influence in a complex system, we have to give up our pretentions to control every part of it. Dave Snowden’s birthday party example explains this quite well:

Comment by Matt Moore

Anyone who wants to understand a lot more about complex systems can go see Matt tomorrow:
WHERE: Ernst & Young, The Ernst & Young Centre, 680 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000.
WHEN: 5.30pm for 6pm Tuesday 26th June.
HOW MUCH: Gold coin donation.
Different perspectives on organisational change
The skills required of Knowledge Managment practitioners
Issues such as incentives & measurement

Comment by katiechatfield

Matt- you really are very clever!

Comment by katiechatfield

Katie – Aw, ta, but I’m mostly good at nicking other people’s ideas – and thanks for the plug for tonight…

Comment by Matt Moore


I am a first-timer here, referred by Sean. I can readily see his fascination with your blog. Briefly, great brands provide the opportunities for us to create experiences. When I was a travel write, we called it ambiance. In Theology, we call it finding our balance within the tension. It never is about control; it is about possibilities.

Comment by Lewis Green

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