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07 July 2015

Keith Lucas, branding consultant

Keith Lucas, branding consultant

Keith is a brand strategy consultant. He advises international firms on how best to understand, manage and promote their brands. His clients include luxury Swiss watch companies, Icelandic banks, American broadcasters, British car manufacturers, airports, law firms and schools. He used to work in advertising with Ogilvy and was head of marketing for Samsung and Citroën. Two of his brothers are vicars, he is married to a classical musician and has four children and one grandchild. 

How did you come to be doing what you are doing?
I grew-up loving, or hating, TV commercials with a passion. Early in my career I enjoyed creating TV advertising for boys’ toys at Hasbro, then moved to the same task for grown-up boys with Citroën. I’ve since developed campaigns for clients including Ford, BP and Goldman Sachs.

Is advertising good?
The advertising industry is, often unfairly, accused of persuading people to buy things they don't really want or need. If that were the case they would only get away with it once. If the product failed to live up to its promise we wouldn’t be fooled a second time. Yet great advertising can run for years, building affection and loyalty for brands that deliver against their promises. Successful brands are authentic to the essence of the product or service and never pretend to be what they are not, or they will not survive.

How does being a Christian change your view?
The more I learn about the way people engage with brands and what they want from them, the more evident it becomes that they are looking for true meaning and value in life. People want to identify with brands that signify how they want to seen by the world. Some of us will pay a hefty premium for the right brand of shirt, trainers – even luggage, because we’re keen to assert a particular identity and be accepted. Being a Christian enables us to see beyond society’s felt needs for identity, status and belonging and appreciate the ultimate solution. It won’t stop you wanting the latest iPhone or Louis Vuitton bag, but it will certainly help you keep it in context.

What do you think the image of the UK Church is today?
The Church has changed over recent decades. I think it’s due to secularism, intellectual elitism and disunity – that cycle needs to be broken. Consider the ‘Alpha’ brand. It has a much wider appeal, greater relevance and has little or none of the negative baggage associated with the Church at large. The Church, like any successful brand, must be distinctive, consistent and relevant if it is to do justice to its promise. 

What car brand best represents your personality?
Alfa Romeo because they find clever solutions to get better performance, are memorable to see and hear and are within reach of most of us. I hope I have a better reputation for reliability though.  

The cross and fish are Christian symbols. Would you come up with another?
We developed a new brand identity for a church a few years ago and, although we offered various alternatives, the one that worked best was actually fish arranged in the shape of a cross. They have become such famous and recognisable symbols that trying to create something new would be like telling Nike to come up with an alternative to the swoosh… it could be done, but why would you?

What’s the ad you wished you’d come up with?
I’ve always admired the UK ads for the VW Golf. They have cleverly found fresh and relevant ways to deliver a message that tell us that not everything in life is as reliable as a Volkswagen, and you get what you pay for.

Are Google and Apple idols of our digital age?
I’m a self-confessed Apple fan-boy, but it’s extraordinary to see how people hang on every word spoken by Tim Cooke when he delivers his prophesies on the next product launch. We queue, in our millions, to be first to buy the next iPhone. We marvel as we enter the Apple store before waiting patiently for a consultation with the Apple Genius. Isn’t it strange how our society seems ready to adore false gods while ruling out the possibility of there being a real one? Let’s not forget, all brands are merely filling a void by satisfying peoples’ craving for meaning, identity, hope, purpose and joy. How well it succeeds is another matter.

What’s next for branding?
Brands will always be with us. Each of us has a set of values that defines our own personal brand and every transaction we make involves the unconscious processing of these. We are, however, becoming increasingly savvy about the ways brands are marketed to us. Brand owners will respond by becoming more subtle and skilful in earning our advocacy – perhaps by associating a brand with a cause we care about?

Who inspires you?
CS Lewis has been one of the greatest inspirations on my spiritual journey. He seems to have anticipated and disentangled so many of the theological challenges I have grappled with. A quote I particularly love is: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else”.