Leidy Klotz recently wrote a book titled Subtract which I heard about yesterday on NPR during a Mother’s Day drive.  The thesis of the book us that we over-encumber ideas and strategies and, yes, our lives by continuously adding extraneous things.  Think hoarding. Mr. Klotz quoted Lao Tzu to make his point:

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day.” Lao Tzu, Quotations, Wisdom.

Brand planning, at least for master brand endeavors, must follow the same advice. We begin by adding knowledge. And that requires lots of discovery. One takes in information, data, behavioral observation, culture and language and hoards it all up. Enough information to make one’s head spin. But then it’s wisdom time. Time to subtract. Time to create hierarchies of import.

Only after subtracting the less important, can powerful ideas and strategy emerge. This is the heavy lifting in brand planning. It’s the story of the sinking boat, when things must be thrown overboard to keep afloat. (Too dramatic?)

In my brand presentation I have a cautionary slide on the “Fruit Cocktail Effect.” When you have too many ingredients, you create a sugary mess.

Subtract is the essence of good brand planning.   As Robert Hunter wrote and Jerry Garcia sang “Hello baby, I’m gone good bye.”