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The Newsletter | Edition 086
In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.


Many of our most-loved celebrities, institutions, and brands have perfected the balance of timelessness and timeliness. Yet, we exist in a time where culture is so fleeting, making it harder and harder to strike that balance. How can leaders ensure they’re staying true to their origins while also being molded by new societal needs? Is it even possible to achieve eternal relevance? Or is there something that’s become more important to strive for?
  1. To be a timeless brand takes time, from Rory Kolkman
  2. Forever building another good day, from Sofia Caraza
  3. What does an enduring brand smell like? from Barry Shafrin


From Rory Kolkman


To build a timeless brand is a complex affair. But who better to look to than an individual who has applied their own advice and seen enduring success. An HBR article from 2001 details Bernard Arnault’s views on building a “star brand,” and one of the key components is designing for timelessness. Fast forward to 2023, through this application, he is now the world's richest man and a veritable king of an industry built on timeless brands.


Arnault acknowledges that building for timelessness is paradoxical, but he reminds us that one thing above all else can accelerate the process, whilst guaranteeing general success: quality.

Arnault says, “The problem is that timelessness takes years to develop, even decades. You cannot just decree it. A brand has to pay its dues—it has to come to stand for something in the eyes of the world. But you can, as a manager, enhance timelessness—that is, create the impression of timelessness sooner rather than later. And you do that with uncompromising quality.”

However he does go on to say that in order to attain timelessness through quality, you must be prepared to do three things:
  • Be at the cutting edge, always seeking new understanding of something you may think you already know:“you have to be a fanatic about it.”
  • Implement beyond-rigorous testing. As he describes, put your products “through a torture machine.”
  • Adopt an heirloom mindset. Look at your products or services as something to be passed down either as knowledge or in tangible form.


With Arnault’s advice in mind, focus deeply on how you can build for timelessness through quality.


  • Deep dive into topics you think you have covered previously, and build a journal on your findings. How can you apply the new things you learn?
  • Look at a product or service you offer, then “torture” it, break it down, and find ways to finetune. How will it transform and bring new life to your brand?
  • Build an heirloom; corner the innately unique thing about your product or service, and capture that lightning in a bottle. How will you preserve and pass down this powerful totem to those to come after you?


From Sofia Caraza


Not every day is a good day, but every day could be a good day if we knew how to build a lightsaber. Adam Savage does this and much more with his one-day builds on his “Tested” YouTube channel, where he offers an insider look into the mind of a maker. The show gives us all a lesson in how to transform the act of timely creation into a timeless ongoing practice.


Staying relevant is a byproduct, not an end in itself. Eternal relevance comes from an intentional attunement with what happens around us and finding how we can influence it in positive ways. Adam Savage’s channel is not just about making physical objects but also about an intentional reconnection of his maker classics to his current state. The output spans learnings in navigating human relationships, demystifying lead balloons in pop culture, contributing to his local community by sharing his favorite food spots, and answering end-of-life-related questions. This careful threading of our everyday creations with the bigger picture is incredibly more powerful than simply showing an observable technical process. To be relevant is to contribute in a timely manner and a memorable way. So don’t just stay relevant, renew your classics and relevance will follow.


Go on a one-day adventure to renew your classics.


For individuals:
  • Locate your classics. Think go-to meals, shows, phrases, sayings, songs. Can’t find them? Consider scouring your memos, chats, grocery lists, old music gadgets, or playlists, or asking your family or friends.
  • Sample your reinvention style. What does renewal mean and look like to you? How would you change these classics? Do you gravitate towards adding new ingredients, swapping the beat, imagining a future state, or bringing back vintage elements?
For brands:
  • Experiment within. Assemble a mosaic team with backgrounds in different industries who possess transferable skills and know-how that could lead to surprising innovations in your brand strategy.
  • Get inspired. Find partnerships that could bolster the brand's classic brand values in new ways or with new audiences.
  • Share the pride. Engage with the brand's audiences to showcase what people are already doing in their day-to-day lives that aligns with the brand purpose.


From Barry Shafrin


In the world of creative agencies, we often hear the same request from clients—make it trend, make it buzz, make it pop. But in the race to “meme-ify” your brand identity with what’s hot at the moment, are you really just distancing yourself from what makes you enduring?


The past few years have demonstrated a startling amount of brand convergence. Why does every luxury fashion logo suddenly look the same? Why must every tech website feature a technicolor character with rubber limbs? When did every company suddenly become committed to “innovation” and “customer-centricity”?

Obviously there are functional reasons behind these trends. Simpler, sans-serif wordmarks translate better in small, digital formats. Cute characters make multinational behemoths less intimidating. Globalism pushes companies to become everything for everybody.

But building eternal relevance requires transcending trends and committing to your unique, authentic DNA. One way to do this is to look inwards to what defines your company’s story and heritage. Burberry announced last week they are doing just that, launching a new “modern serif” wordmark drawn from previous brand incarnations and a reimagining of their 1901 equestrian logo.

Companies should additionally think beyond the obvious pillars of visual branding and consider what nontraditional brand attributes are uniquely true to their story:
  • Values. (Think Patagonia’s commitment to “use business to protect nature” or Pfizer’s narrowed focus on “breakthrough technologies”) What unique, shared traits or beliefs define the character of your workforce and can differentiate you from others in your industry?
  • Color. (Think Tiffany Blue, Barbie Pink, Louboutins’ red soles) How might you commit to a unique, ownable color which can weave through your brand story over time?
  • Scent and sound. (Think Play-Doh and Crayola crayon scents, or Netflix’s sonic “bong”) How might you be more intentional about owning all the sensory experiences of your brand or product?
  • Shape. (Think Coca-Cola bottle curves, Toblerone triangles) For physical products, how might subtle variations in form become distinctive brand attributes?


Perform a multi-sensory brand audit to clarify your brand’s unique DNA and identify potential opportunities.


  • Gather. Collect stimuli vital to your brand and to competitors in your orbit. Don’t limit to only visual stimuli, but consider including the nontraditional, multi-sensory brand attributes and values above.
  • Categorize and organize. Cluster and organize stimuli, identifying and labeling trends.
  • Identify white space. Align on gaps in your competitive orbit and highlight your differentiated brand attributes that could potentially fill it.
  • Clarify and commit. Unify and elevate those differentiated attributes. These should not be merely invented to fill gaps, but should be authentic and ownable based on your company’s heritage. Consider which of these could potentially be protectable and copyrightable.

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