How I generated value from the imperfection of brands

Growing up, I always thought that brands had it all figured out. Then I got a job as a Conference Producer…

Growing up, I always thought that brands had it all figured out. Then I got a job as a Conference Producer…

It was the summer of 2014, and I was experiencing post-university blues after graduating with a degree in Physics and Astronomy. Although I am incredibly thankful for my university education, it became quickly apparent that a career in Physics was not for me. One afternoon whilst frantically browsing graduate vacancies on the Guardian website, I came across a role titled, Conference Producer”. Upon reading the job description, my interest immediately piqued, and in that moment, I decided that this would be the position to save me from my seemingly inevitable fate as a Physicist! A couple of months passed and I finally landed a role as a Conference Producer after numerous soul-destroying assessment days, umpteen interviews and countless rejections.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with conference production, it essentially involves the curation of content and speakers for industry events; generating economic value by bringing people together who share common values, interests or challenges. A keen understanding of the market you are operating in is a prerequisite to developing a highly engaging programme. This requires research; research which gave me unprecedented access to business executives who would share with me their honest feelings regarding their challenges, concerns and ideas.

This was pivotal in breaking down a number of misconceptions I had about brands. Firstly, the fact they were made up of people; and secondly, people are imperfect.

This was pivotal in breaking down a number of misconceptions I had about brands. Firstly, the fact they were made up of people; and secondly, people are imperfect.

This epiphany was hardly earth-shattering, but it did allow me to dramatically shift the course of my career and the perception I held of myself within the wider business ecosystem. 

Now when I talk about brands I’m referring to the Googles, Walmart’s, Disney’s, Nike’s, Coca Cola’s, The Amazon’s and Apple’s of the world. Ashley Friedlein defines a brand as “the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organisation. Branding is about shaping that perception”. Many of these organisations have successfully taken control of their narrative and sustained a positive legacy through a combination of brand association, product/service development and meticulous PR. There are many parallels with how we as individuals navigate our presence on social media. We typically only post our successes rather than our failures, leading others to believe we are in the words of Beyoncé, “flawless”. However, as we all know, this is certainly not the case!

But if there is one piece of advice I could share with my younger self, it would be the knowledge that brands do not have it all figured out. By understanding this fact, I was able to find my power and establish how I as an individual could generate value.

One must commend these brands on their ability to portray a sense of perfection and otherworldliness. But if there is one piece of advice I could share with my younger self, it would be the knowledge that brands do not have it all figured out. By understanding this fact, I was able to find my power and establish how I as an individual could generate value. This is by all means not to say that I have all the answers, but nor does anyone else. We are all simply making decisions the best way we know how; some of which lead to wins and others, result in us taking an “L“.

The idea is not to always be right, but to recognise your value in the conversation; identifying weaknesses, exploiting opportunities and constantly striving to bring something new and fresh to the table. In this way, you can stand and be heard, influence brands and through them shape the world around us.

As Vince Lombardi stated, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

Written by Andrew Odong, Founder & Production Director, Pesa Productions

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