Wally Olins was an excellent brand consultant and for about fifty years advised numerous leading brands as well as countries and cities across the globe. He was also a teacher, the author of several best-sellers, winner of many awards internationally. In short – he was a branding guru. To be honest that’s the only book of his that I read, but it seems it is, if not a summary, then a kind of ‘thoughts on branding in a nutshell’. Olins shares his amazing experience and intuitions.

For me branding isn’t just an important tool in the communication business. It is a fundamental manifestation of the human condition. It is about knowing who you are, having a sense of your own individuality and of where you belong, and showing it. Whether this relates to a person or a nation or a product, it makes no difference. 

One of the main questions Wally Olins tries to answer is about the future of branding in our globalized and more and more homogenous world. The changing spirit of the times is challenging. Also we, customers, raise our expectations. Especially when the world goes global, we long for something original or really local, artisan or homemade (the list is obviously much longer). Have you noticed when travelling that practically every bigger city’s high street offers shops of the same brands? We can buy the same products anywhere we wish (not to mention e-shopping). The big corporations try to adjust and look for new solutions. Fighting with the competition, they do what they can to meet our expectations, including warming their reputation through CRS activities going as far as charitable organizations. ‘In the 21st century the world is changing again and the corporation is painfully learning that it has to change with it. The corporation’s relationship with society today is much more complex and interlinked than ever before: they are not only about buying and selling, but about acceptance, mutual respect and empathy.’

Olins in his insightful analysis gives examples of companies and cities that get it right and deal with the New Zeitgeist successfully or ingeniously, also in the arts. One of these is Bilbao, which thanks to the Guggenheim became the destination for all art lovers (btw my impressions from Bilbao here). Whatever we may think about turning museums into entertainment attractions (many interesting remarks on the subject in the book!), it works being also a kind of branding. There is a whole chapter devoted to branding the place and many interesting cities that were ingeniously invented. Fascinating insight! 

The author co-created branding and therefore has extensive knowledge what shows when you read the following chapters. Wally Olins recognises all traps of the present but in the same time he is enthusiastic about the future. ‘The opportunity to create something new, different and exciting embraces ideas around products and services, as well as the arts. The entrepreneurial spirit has never been more potent. If you’re a young person with a creative idea in music, art or theatre – there has never been a better time. Individuals with talent have more opportunity than ever before.’ You definitely cannot lack intuition or creative (and gut) instinct but how optimistic is that.

Brand New. The Shape of Brands to Come, Wally Olins, Thames & Hudson