The Accidental Brand

The world is full of accidental brands.

Burt’s Bees. Amazon. Trader Joe's. Google. None of these brands started out as a brand. They started out as a product that fulfilled a function. In many cases, they invented a whole category. Only when competitors smelled gold, and poured into the space, did the original founders decide they needed a way to promote their brand, and re-establish their dominance.

Most brands do not have stewards. They drift, along the current of customer perception and business tides, and stand for a product benefit.

Some people come along and half-heartedly try to steer the ship in the right direction, but don’t know how to rig the mainsail. Others try to ignore the brand and promote the product benefit until they’re blue in the face. But the brand lumbers on, forming connections and inspiring and disappointing and drifting while a whole team of MBAs argue over the color palette.

An accidental brand is an answer and a question. You have to know what to do with an accidental brand, to find the emotional connections that no one was aware they had.

Accidental brands are surprising and dangerous. If you don’t know what your brand is, and you let consumers create it for you, it’s only a matter of time before a competitor comes along and defines you in terms you may not appreciate.

Deskey is the patron saint of accidental brands.

We love engaging with products ostensibly without emotions, but that still inspire them. We are incredibly gifted at finding, salvaging, and showcasing the emotional connections between an accidental brand and its people. We don’t create the brand. It already exists. We just give its stewardship the tools to steer it in the right direction.

An accidental brand is a tin man in need of a heart. All we do, through exhaustive research and daring acts of design, strategy, and copy, is reveal to them that they had one, all along, and all they need to do is trust it and let it guide them.

Accidental brands already come to us, shipwrecked sailors, finding our lighthouse from miles away. Our job is to give them a story and a map.

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