Businesses often kid themselves, I think, that their brands are perfectly isolated creations, that their brands can be whatever they want them to be. But the reality is different: they’re prisoners of the organisations that created them, and inevitably reflect that. That’s the subject of this week’s article: how the brilliantly simple Conway’s law applies to brands.
Brands inevitably end up reflecting the organisational structures of the businesses that create them. What does that mean, and how do you fix it?
Jerry Seinfeld being interviewed in HBR (a very strange sentence) produces this gem:
You and Larry David wrote Seinfeld together, without a traditional writers’ room, and burnout was one reason you stopped. Was there a more sustainable way to do it? Could McKinsey or someone have helped you find a better model?
It’s a consulting firm.
Are they funny?
Then I don’t need them. If you’re efficient, you’re doing it the wrong way. The right way is the hard way. The show was successful because I micromanaged it – every word, every line, every take, every edit, every casting. That’s my way of life.
I can only imagine the beat between “Are they funny?” and “No”. #
Amy Kean on the samey language of modern advertising:
“The word ‘reimagine’ has crept into the advertising space in tandem with the growing number of brands hiring management consultants to manage their journeys into the future. We’re being sold shoes, reimagined. Laptops, reimagined. Teabags, reimagined. Cars, reimagined. And every single one of them is only slightly different.
“The word ‘reimagine’ is a tactic. It’s grandiose waffle (which is why management consultants love it). A meaningless word. Style over substance. A preference for what sounds good, versus what actually says something. So why is everyone doing it?”
Even a brief jaunt through TikTok will reveal countless videos in which people speak in the same uncanny, unnatural way. Olivia Yallop, author of Break the Internet: in Pursuit of Influence, explores why:
“And so over time, thanks to the conditioning effects of the algorithm and the prerogative to self-optimise towards virality, TikTok users all end up sounding the same. ‘The way you speak is how you fit in, how you become part of the crowd,’ says Kate. ‘And nowadays, of course, we’re part of the crowd anywhere in the world.’ If everyone is now a broadcaster, everyone now has ‘broadcast voice’. Audrey agrees: ‘Just like I’m getting fillers to emulate [Instagram influencers’] cheekbones, they are altering their pitch so that they can sound similar to me.’ Perhaps, she muses, ‘people have been scrolling for so long, they don’t even realise they’re starting to talk like that.’”