The truth is relative
Almost 2,000 years ago, the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in Alexandria codified a geocentric model for understanding the cosmos. According to the Ptolemaic system, celestial bodies (including the sun) revolve around the earth. For almost 1,500 years, every man, woman and child believed this to be true.
Then in 1543, along came a Polish mathematician, physician, artist, translator, Catholic cleric jurist, civil servant classical scholar, military leader, diplomat, economist and amateur astronomer called Nicholas Copernicus – and informed the world that Ptolemy got it wrong.
Badly wrong. About as wrong as it is possible to get.
Copernicus’ book, “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), presented a heliocentric model of the cosmos, with the sun at the centre of the universe.
Jonathan Salem Baskin as the Copernicus for branding?
In Branding Only Works On Cattle, Jonathan Salem Baskin draws a parallel between a belief in geocentricity and a belief in traditional branding. They both persevered for a long time. They were both proved wrong.
Baskin suggests three reasons why we clung to the Ptolemaic system.
- It worked. It was a fairly accurate overlay that imposed order on apparent chaos. Also, it was so complicated that most people did not have the tools to question it, even when it didn’t quite work.
- Nobody wanted to prove it wrong. Ptolemy’s system reinforced our belief in our centrality in the universe, with the earth right at the centre.
- There was no viable alternative. If there is no alternative to what is right, there is little incentive to prove it wrong.
Similarly with branding. For the most part, it worked. The established, entrenched creative media industry had a vested interest in not proving branding wrong. And no one seriously proposed an alternative.
The message is stark and simple. Just because everyone “knows” something to be true, it doesn’t mean it is. That includes branding.