Marc Shillum of Method Design has set about approaching the field of branding from a whole new perspective. At PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO he began by introducing his concept of ‘brands as patterns’ whereby the most important feature of a successful brand is not just consistency, but rather the ability to continually reinvent the brand image according to what is most relevant at the time. In short, a successful brand must have a long term goal that is is working towards, but the short term strategy of how to get there must be continually reworked to remain coherent and relevant in a contemporary context.

Shillum sees this ebb and flow as a sort of frequency by which brand strategy is organized into a series of short term events, ultimately forming a long term pattern when viewed over the period of several years. In order to provide an example of this concept, he breaks down the product release cycle of the Apple iPhone in to different components on a linear timeline and assigns each component a distinct sound. With a new phone released once a year, this serves as a basic frequency to which he adds the concurrent software updates, marketing campaigns, and press releases. When played through as a piece of music, what emerges is a clear musical ‘beat’ demonstrating a long term pattern to Apple’s brand strategy.

To further clarify his point, Shillum uses the example of a surfer sitting and watching ocean waves as a representation of a brand planning its strategy based on the frequency, or ‘waves,’ of the market. From this metaphor, he extracts a list of rules. Just as a surfer, a brand must always be watching the waves and planning when to pounce, and know that timing and the ability to act quickly is everything. With this, a brand must be constantly preparing for the potential of change. Finally, a brand must actively look for and study these patterns in order to anticipate what will take place next, and be able to take action on them before any competitors.