Dissolving when in use ©2009, Haydn Sweterlitsch2
OK. Begin with the kind of vague, academic andnon-threatening proclamation about branding thatwon’t alienate anyone or force them to choose sidestoo early on. Something like: The development anddeployment of a brand can take many forms.Sweet.Now follow up with some “brands need depth” and“dimensionalizing a brand” stuff. How about: Creatingan identity system and characteristics for brand
management means dening the persona a brand
embodies and portrays. And furthermore, to makegood on the promise of the brand requires it to have acertain amount of vitality, because healthy brands existas entities with the ability to transcend the functional
features/benets of a product. And the more relevantand uniquely dened the characteristics and persona
of a brand, the more effective, valued, preferred andsought after it will be.Nice. That ought to be enough to keep the corpse of David Ogilvy from reanimating, chasing me down andeating my brain. And thus, we may continue to our point of departure. MUJI: A brand that is not a brand.
What denes a brand that refuses to have characteristics? A brand that embraces
a state of aesthetic nonpermanence and pure functionality with all identity stripped
away? What if a brand not only existed—but thrived—without even so much asa logo? And what if this brand expanded to offer over 7,500 distinct products thatembodied its brand characteristics—when the lack of discernable characteristics wasits only identifying mark? What if this brand (without branding) became so enmeshed
in the daily lives of its most loyal customers that it was wholly indicative of their
lifestyle and a symbol of their ethical stance?To dene without denition. To have character without unique characteristics. To play
a role without having a name. To reverse all popular wisdom, instinct, strategy andpractice to attain a goal others have successfully reached before you. To reach your destination by directing yourself in the polar opposite direction of that destination.This is the story of MUJI. The anti-brand that has achieved a level of brandingunachievable by established branding methods and systems. A brand that hassuccessfully collapsed the very idea of branding and left nothing in its place. Nothing.
MUJI is the brand that has made nothing into something by embracing nothingness—and making that nothingness its unique identier/characteristic.
Dissolving when in use
MUJI, brand and nothingness
by Haydn Sweterlitsch
next>a brief history of nothing