THURSDAY 17 APR 2014 9:09 AM


Wally Olins, the king of branding, passed away on Monday 14 April at the age of 83. At the time of his death Olins was chairman of Saffron Brand Consultants, and had just released his latest book, ‘Brand New: the shape of brands to come’.

Olins, a history student at Oxford, started out in advertising with Ogilvy and Mather in Mumbai, but he said he found the business to be somewhat shallow and left in 1965 to co-found, Wolff Olins, arguably the first ever dedicated brand consultancy, with Michael Wolff. Wolff Olins soon became a major player with clients that included British Telecom, Renault and the Metropolitan police.

Olins was appointed chairman in 1999, and in 2001 he sold Wolff Olins to Omnicom, and went on to join Spanish-based international brand consultancy Saffron. In his 70s and 80s Olins continued to be the spokesperson for branding.

Olins not only believed that branding is essential for corporations, he believed that it is a vital concept that can be applied to anything, from companies, to people, to governments, and even countries. He would often say that culture was at the heart of branding.

Rufus Olins, one of Wally Olins’ four children, former managing director of Haymarket Brand Media and currently chief executive of newspaper marketing body Newsworks, paid tribute to his father, "I’d say on a professional level he was a pioneer who was fearlessly intellectual and prepared to say what he thought, regardless of the consequences. He legitimised an industry that didn’t really exist when he started – he found something that he felt was important and meaningful, about the identity of an organisation that manifests itself visually.”

Olins was responsible for creating branding as a business discipline distinct from marketing, advertising and design. He encouraged businesses to build all these aspects out of a clearly defined brand personality and a set of core values.

Ironically Olins himself became a brand of sorts, with his round glasses and bow ties. He wrote several books, selling more than 250,000 copies in 18 languages, including the seminal works ‘Corporate Identity, Wally Olins On B®and’ and ‘The Brand Handbook’. Olins most recent book, ‘Brand New’, examines the future of branding in the context of globalisation.

Brand is now accepted as an essential aspect of corporate communications, and in this digital age of super-fast and wide reaching communication it could be more important than ever for corporations to own a consistent identity.


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