Let’s do a quick exercise: close your eyes and think of your top three brands. Now, imagine that they’re walking down the street. As they pass you, observe: what do they look like? How are they dressed? How would they speak and act? What would they say, and how would they sound like?
Every day, while being bombarded with information and advertisements, we subconsciously filter through hundreds of brands and their messages. Gone are the days where businesses solely exist to sell products. Today, good companies sell an idea – an idea for a better life and future – and we as consumers pledge our allegiance to their ideas with our wallets.
Here at AKÏN, we asked ourselves this question: if some of the world’s top brands were people, who would they be? And off the top of our heads, we have a few suggestions. After this, you’d might want to rethink ‘who’ you’re actually buying…
1. Think Different: Apple and Bob Dylan
Imagine a world without technology. What would it be like? Then, imagine a world where music does not have the power it holds today. What would that be like?
Generations of digital natives gone. Decades of passion lost. The future – unclear. And all of us – robots.
That, would be a world without Apple and Bob Dylan. On one hand, we have a multinational technology company; on the other, a legendary singer and songwriter. While they may seem worlds apart, one thing bridges them both: they have shaped our world with their own take on two simple words - Think Different.
Where Apple spawned an entire industry devoted to addictive, hugely profitable mobile games, Dylan invented the singer/songwriter job title, and singlehandedly overhauled the way music is recorded, produced and published. Where one integrated our lives with streamlined and simplified processes that extend beyond our factories, the other’s witty way with words has melded both music and literature. One built a whole new existence for us as the epitome of futuristic living, while the other elevated music to the universal language it is today.
Between the fluid and fuss free user interfaces of your iPhone, and the poetic lyricism of Dylan, no other revolution has had such an impact on our present lives. The two might make bizarre bedfellows, but they are both true authors of the world we live in.
2. Threading the line between fashion and function: UNIQLO and Mark Zuckerberg
What does this Japanese fast-fashion retail giant have in common with the founder of Facebook? Well, at first glance of the latter’s sartorial choices, it always seems like he had just stepped out of a UNIQLO store.
Beyond that, they both espouse a grounded and down to earth philosophy of simplicity. Practical, exacting, and unpretentious, the tech mogul also once very famously said, “The most successful entrepreneurs have a specific vision. They pinpoint the exact problem they are trying to solve.”
It is almost as if UNIQLO lives by this adage too. With a very clear vision of its brand – to provide high quality, performance enhanced, basic casual wear at affordable prices – they not only meet the needs of consumers, but simultaneously surpass their expectations as well.
Their apparel aside, this ethos of practicality is also infused throughout their operational strategy, through managing their own product planning, design, manufacturing and distribution. By building a direct bridge from store to supplier, they cut cost and time in the manufacturing process.
In our world where bigger is better, these two industry thought leaders teach us that less truly is more.
3. Rippling throughout your world: H&M and Taylor Swift
The fashion retail behemoth has proven time and again to be a modern and trendy appeal to the masses. From its standard basics that are oh-so-easy to pair, to its more embellished ensembles, it caters to the varied tastes of consumers. It has even upheld its ability to lure sartorially minded shoppers with occasional high profile collaborations alongside the likes of David Beckham and Balmain.
Mirroring this influence is pop princess Taylor Swift, who’s been on the radars of one millennial too many. Throughout the years, her songs have formed the soundtrack of our memories, like the wardrobe staples of H&M. We've even debated the controversial relationships she’s had at some point in our lives (read: Jake Gyllenhaal, Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston, just to name a few). Time Magazine even named the Shake it Off singer as one of the top 100 most influential people today.
Just like how our wardrobes are peppered with H&M apparel, there is no denying that the 27-year-old’s catchy tunes and relatable lyrics has marked many of our playlists, Forever & Always.
4. On Authenticity: Scoot and Jennifer Lawrence
Money may make people talk, but these days, one’s attitude speaks even louder than dollar bills - at least in the Scoot world, that is. The budget airline has even taken this a step further by developing a term for its fun, friendly, and spontaneous demeanour: Scootitude. Eschewing luxury, it values genuine connection, spontaneity and fun, and emanates warmth to its travelers, young and old alike.
Doesn’t that sound like someone we know? Try Jennifer Lawrence, the beloved Katniss Everdeen, considered one of the realest celebrities around today.
From being vocal about her thoughts on feminism to indulging in candid banter both on screen and off, she does not hold back on shedding light on the topics we usually skirt around – making her authenticity greatly admirable today. We’ve seen her myriad of facial expressions, and she readily admits to regular human flaws that we forget celebrities possess as well.
She is one of refreshing candor, quick wit, and lack of guile ‘off’ screen; and in our honest opinion, this would fit perfectly into the young and fun Scoot brand image.
5. Of Superior Quality: Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Michelle Obama
Singapore Airlines has steadily maintained its reputation as a world-class airline, with its reliability, class and attention to detail. Equally reminiscent of such confidence and reliability is a role model of women far and wide: Michelle Obama.
While we don't mean to fit Mrs Obama into a box, we do see the same commitment to excellence in both former First Lady of America and our national airline. First, where branding usually takes a backseat in meetings, the SIA boardroom instead goes above and beyond, taking dedicated leadership of the brand strategy. This dedication trickles down to the crew’s attention to detail and professionalism. It even launched FUS3ION, a team building training initiative designed to enhance and promote integrated safety, security and service excellence. Its reputation as an iconic Asian global brand was not built overnight, but through dedication and commitment to the brand’s values of excellence throughout the company.
Similarly, the former First Lady demonstrated class, and elegance in both thought and deed. From standing by her husband throughout his tumultuous presidential career, to calling out bullies during her speech at the 2016 National Democratic Convention, Mrs Obama has always held herself (and others) to being the best she can possibly be, and demonstrated dedication to the many causes she champions.
Whether you’re a fan of Mrs Obama, or a frequent flyer with SIA, one thing’s for sure: supporting them is a show of support for dedication and excellence.
6. The Real Things: Coca-Cola and Ellen Degeneres
Beverage giant Coca-Cola has been bringing happiness - both literally and metaphorically - to generations of consumers. From being known as 'The Real Thing' to encouraging people to 'Enjoy Coca-Cola', the brand has constantly evolved with the times, while keeping its presence at mealtimes indispensable. Beyond allowing consumers to personalise their own bottles, it has also reinvented the vending machine. It is a breath of fresh air (almost literally!) as it continues adopting novel ways of holding our attention.
American talk show host Ellen Degeneres is known for her philanthropy, exuberant personality, and ability to engage her audience on all levels. From her favourite dance-offs to exclusive animations of her pets, her show brims with life and vibrancy. Much like how Coca-Cola puts a smile on the face of a child, Ellen constantly makes our day with her dry wit and novel sense of humour. Along with her many campaigns, she continues to make waves throughout history today.
We may now be in the age of the Internet (goodbye to the good ol’ days of TV), and sometimes we might trade that bottle of soda for a beer, but one thing’s for sure: Coca-Cola and Ellen make the world just that little bit brighter and happier - and they're here to stay!
Brands can be much more than just business and money making entities. True brands appeal to people and communicate an idea, a belief and a conviction. Start by thinking about who your brand appeals to – it is the first step to building a human brand.
Main illustration designed by Kelly Setiawan.