Marketing Tips: What Is the Real Purpose of Branding?


The identity of hydra

Do you know creatures called hydra? Even if being cut in pieces (three, for example), they completely re-produces the three fragments to become three organisms, three hydras. If we acquire the super ability, we wouldn’t need to be afraid of injury and disease anymore because we could survive only by removing damaged parts. When I first knew hydra, I was so excited but soon noticed a problem. That would leave another whole body affected by injury or disease. At the same time, a question also came up: In that case, which would be me?

Blue pond in Biei, Hokkaido, Japan. It is a very popular sightseeing spot.

The ship of Theseus

This is totally an excuse, but I was very young at that time. From ignorance and arrogance peculiar to teenagers, I thought there had been no one ever having such a profound philosophical question. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to realize my own foolishness. It was just a few months later that I happened to know “Ship of Theseus.” I completely understood I was NOT a genius. It took long to get to the point. Today’s topic is the Ship of Theseus for branding.

Our craftsperson is re-upholstering a dining chair with a special tool. It's a chair returned from a customer for restoration.

The core value of a brand

There are many definitions for branding, and one of the well-known is “It’s a guarantee provided from a company to customers.” That’s not quite wrong, but I strongly recommend to put this definition aside for now, because it basically applies to super brands, like Apple, Disney, Toyota, etc. For us, ordinary companies, it’s still too early. We should focus more on who we are. In other words, it’s a ground on which we can say “It’s still the ship of Theseus!”

As for our brand, I believe it’d be a place. Even if all the current staff leaves, even if all the current products are discontinued, I believe the core of our brand can be left in furniture as long as it is made of wood cut from the local forest here in Hokkaido.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.