Aristotle: The original brand guru

A couple of thousand years before the first television commercial, the first brand guru held sway.  His name was Aristotle.  

Like Madonna, Cher and Homer (the poet, not Homer Simpson), Aristotle is another of those one name celebrities.  

Aristotle developed a form of logic that is the foundation of analytical thinking.  This deductive method has been widely used in many different fields.  It is certainly the dominant form of analysis in branding.  While it may not be the only or best form of analysis in branding, we’ll leave that question aside for this post and return to it at a future date.

Using his analytical technique, Aristotle set about to understand why plays and other spectacles were such superior forms of education and entertainment than poetry or music alone.  With a ready supply of Greek tragedies and comedies as his database, Aristotle was able to identify six elements that are necessary for all drama.  He collected these elements in “Poetics” a treatise that is used to this very day.  

It is amusing to consider that his treatise was named Poetics but the subject was about the superiority of drama over poetry (epic poetry in particular).  But I digress.

So why do I nominate Aristotle as the original brand guru?

Because Aristotle was the first person to identify the principles that are necessary to define and create a brand today.  Everything that he had to say about drama can be applied to the most successful brands.  Everything.

The first step is to understand what are those principles or elements.  In a later post I will give specific examples of how they apply to branding.  No doubt many will occur to you as you read through this.

The six elements are translated in slightly different ways in my three different translations of Poetics.  I will phrase or paraphrase in a way that makes sense and is true to the meaning — at least as best I can.  To all scholars of ancient Greek, please forgive my trespass and liberties.  And by all means contribute to the dialog!

Plot: what happens during the play

Characters: who are the characters in the play, their roles and relationships

Thought or Message: what is the underlying moral or political message of the drama

Spectacle or staging: the scenery, sets, props and stagecraft 

Diction or poetic language:  the verbal style, the spoken words of the characters.  Aristotle addresses the importance of metaphor and metaphorical language in particular.

Song or music:  how the harmonies, rhythm, instruments and voice all appeal to our emotions through our ears

Aristotle went on to explain and explore each of these six areas, although not in equal depth.  Much he had to say about plot and relatively little does he spend on spectacle since much of that is the ingenuity and artistry of the stage manager and designers who are of secondary importance to him.

These same six elements have stood the test of time fairly well.  While others have added on and deepened the theories of Aristotle, none have surpassed its fundamental soundness and usefulness.  

As we were developing our own Narrative Branding (R) method, we immediately recognized how our framework and understanding of how to define and create a brilliant brand has much in common with Aristotle’s.  Finally, my MFA in creative writing has been put to good use!  

So, to answer the question above more directly, Aristotle is the original brand guru because he invented analytics and because he was the first to define the elements necessary for a brand to be great.  

Not bad for a man who never saw a TV ad.

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