It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it

 12th August 2015
By johnwilliamson

Why should your brand describe HOW you do as opposed to WHAT you do? Clue: it gets results

Summary: Brands which are built on the way they do what they do (their Modus Operandi) rather than what they do (product and/or service) are unique, more relevant and more choosable. Ultimately, brands built this way are more flexible to change and will ultimately stand the test of time better.

Do you remember the song from the mid 80’s “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it” by Fun Boy Three with Bananarama? It got me thinking about Brand creation and the search for a Brand’s inner self.

Brand values, mission statements and visions are all very well, but what makes a Brand REALLY work well, stand out and be coherent is when it’s true to itself. “True to itself?” I hear you ask… this all sounds very philosophical… let me explain.

Companies change, they evolve, they move with the times, they have to be flexible and either add to their portfolio of products and services or change their business model in varying degrees. A Brand which is a description of a product and or service is somewhat inflexible and could end up stuck in a rut. This is where “Modus Operandi” as a Brand’s keystone can be its greatest asset. Think about it… Modus Operandi… in other words it’s HOW you do things as opposed to WHAT you do. A Brand based on its Modus Operandi will be stronger, more direct and coherent and possibly stand the test of time whichever way the business wind blows it. This is all very cool, but it gets even better. Modus Operandi’s, the ways in which we do things, are very close to our own emotions and sentiments. Values core to a Brand such as honesty, drive, perfection, fulfillment and care are much more amenable, understandable and engage-able as opposed to infrastructure, quality or being “simply the best” (possibly the lamest slogan/mission statement in the world).

OK, so how about some examples.
A couple of years ago we pitched for the re-design of the Ferrovial visual Brand. As Creative Director of the project I was obsessed to discover their Modus Operandi and express it visually as their new Brand. It would have been easy to base the new identity on what they were historically best known for, infrastructures and civil engineering, but ”Good enough is OK” isn’t in my Modus Operandi. After a few chats, workgroups and brainstormings we found that Ferrovial’s MO was how they developed and managed the connections of geographical points. Be it by Air, Road or Rail, Ferrovial have always done this in an efficient, professional and austere manner. We’d found it! for us the Ferrovial Brand had to express their austerity and efficiency as well as the connection and flow between geographical points. We now had a solid base with which to develop our visual Brand designs.

I think the best example of the point I’m trying to make, and one which everybody knows, is Apple. “Insanely great”… OK. “Cool”… for sure. “Desirable”… you bet. But these are just attributes and not what I would consider their MO. For me the Apple Brand (and their MO) is about designing and producing paradigm-shifting stuff. I say “stuff” and not just “digital gadgets and computers” because their Brand strength will allow Apple to not limit themselves to electronic consumer goods. A good example of this is the design of their Apple Stores. I want an iBike, iClothes and iTortellini. What I’m saying is that whatever Apple decide to hit us with in the future, it should be true to their paradigm-shifting Modus Operandi… in other words, true to their Brand.

So, a Modus Operandi-based Brand points the way forward, is true to its heritage and shows not WHAT a company will do in the future, but HOW it will do it.
Like the song says: “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it, and that’s what gets results”.

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