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Wally Olins

The late Wally Olins "turned @WolffOlins into the command center of a brand revolution," reports the Economist (4/26/14). Wally’s idea was "that not just bars of soap but organizations, people and places can have brands." This may not sound revolutionary now, but "in the early 1960s," the notion of thinking "more seriously about the collective identity" of an organization "changed the focus of advertising and the relationship between the admen and their clients."

Brand-building, as Wally saw it, isn’t just something you buy when launching a new product, but rather "an integral part" of a "long-term strategy … He urged companies to apply brand thinking to every corner of the corporate world, from the sort of people they recruited to the look of their delivery vans. Everything had to be ‘on brand’. He also applied brand thinking to an ever-wider range of institutions, from individuals to NOGOs to museums to cities to countries." Even the Beatles hired him, for Apple Corps.

Wally "insisted that he never applied his prescriptions to himself," although he did cut "a highly recognizable figure, with his round glasses, bow ties and multicolored socks." (image) He also "once argued that the French Revolution was a perfect example of rebranding," complete with a logo, slogan and jingle. Ultimately, perhaps his greatest insights were that "the most precious resource … is people’s attention" and that people sought meaning, not just utility, in what they buy. Wally Olins was 83.