AUTHOR Q&A: Wally Olins, Brand New

Wally Olins, the founder of one of the world's largest brand consultancies, has died aged 83. In March MT quizzed him about his new book and the shape of brands to come.

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 15 Apr 2014

Brand New
Wally Olins
Thames & Hudson, £16.95

What inspired you to write this book?

I've been talking to corporations about branding for donkey's years and wanted to get it all off my chest. I wanted to cover every aspect of branding, from globalisation to localisation, from digital technology to CSR. Let's face it, I'm too old to write another one (Wally is 83).

Who did you write the book for?

Marketing people and business school students. But I hope the book will also appeal to the public - particularly the young. There are huge opportunities for them to take an idea, explain it, promote it and launch it with very little money. Social media has helped to turn our youngsters into doers.

In the book, you say 'the more the world goes global, the more we prize the local'. Which will win: global or local brands?

Neither. On Thursdays, you'll buy from a global brand, on Fridays you'll buy local. There will just be more of each, more choice. The interesting thing is when companies fake authenticity. Just this morning, my wife and I were shopping and came across a bag of frozen mussels with pictures of Irish fishermen on the packaging. But on the back, I spotted the words 'Made in Chile'. Shoppers like small, charming brands with provenance and marketing people play to that.

What's been the biggest branding balls-up of the past few years?

Without a doubt, BP’s Deepwater Horizon saga – the worst oil spillage catastrophe within living memory. BP was trying to go "Beyond Petroleum" to find new sources of supply and, at the same time, it was desperately trying to cut costs and increase volume. When a company has two contradictory goals, when it speaks with two different voices, it tends to end in disaster.

Which are the coolest up-and-coming brands?

There are so many clever new brands out there: they're bursting out all over the internet. I'd point to Square, the electronic payment device that lets you make payments by credit card through a mobile phone; car rental service Zipcar; writing-paper brand Whitelines; and UK-based mobile phone operator GiffGaff, run by its members in exchange for customer support and brand promotion – it's just so much cheaper than other mobile networks. There are crazy, wonderful businesses being hatched all over the world. Some will do well, some will be gobbled up by competitors, some will fizzle out altogether and some will grow into big brands. And then the cycle starts again.

Sum up the future of branding in three points.

1. It will be more fun.

2. There will be even more big brands and a hell of a lot more smaller ones.

3. Brands from emerging markets will capitalise on their origins instead of hiding away from them.

- This interview appeared in MT's March 2014 issue

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