How running shirtless makes me a better branding guy

8 Aug
Charlton Heston shirtless in Planet of the Apes

See you soon ape girl, I’m off for a more authentic run.

I prefer running to every other form of summer exercise because I don’t need much in the way of gear to get going.

Shoes and shorts. A shirt to prevent mass hysteria. Sunglasses to reduce the glare, and a cap on my head. Tunes and podcasts seem to make the miles fly by, so I take my iPod along. And I keep an eye on the time with my trusty old Timex sport watch.

With these, I’m ready to go.

This week as I was cruising along through Esquimalt, fully kitted with the gear I’ve mentioned, I was struck by a thought: How much was all this gear removing me from the essence of what I was doing?

I wondered how much more authentic my experience would be if I peeled away the superfluous.

This is a principle marketing philosophy of mine, which I might summarize as reductio ad absurdum. It was taught to me by legendary adman Neil French. To get to the heart of anything, you reduce elements to the point where further reduction renders the thought or the action, incomprehensible or absurd.

So yesterday I went for a very different run: one without audio distractions, visual barriers, time-keepers or unnecessary gear.

I took it one step further by going shirtless. All I had left was a pair of shoes and shorts.

Honestly, I felt naked as hell for the first few minutes. But then I relaxed and connected to the experience.

It was probably the first authentic run I have had in 20 years. I was fully present in the essence of the activity, not distancing myself from it by add-ons. To remove any one of the remaining elements would have created absurdity or injury. Or a police chase!

Reductio ad absurdum is the perfect criteria to measure against any brand definition, idea or ad, because it strips away the unnecessary and gets to the heart of the thing.

Running virtually naked is an excellent reminder of the principle.

No, you can’t see a photo.



6 Responses to “How running shirtless makes me a better branding guy”

  1. David August 8, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    What’s next? Zola Budd’ing it on Wreck Beach?

    • Doug Brown August 8, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      I have to work up the courage to be barefoot in public like that David.

  2. Bare Thomas August 9, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Welcome to the shirtless running community. Great post! Swing by the blog and leave us more wisdom.

    • Doug Brown August 9, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

      Thanks for popping by BareThomas – I’ve already enjoyed the 3-part series on your blog.

      I’ve run shirtless 3 times this week, but I’m keeping it on the down-low: My daughter would be mortified to know I was running around town without a shirt and I can’t do that to her.

      • hitgirl August 14, 2013 at 10:48 am #

        Picture or it didn’t happen.

      • Doug Brown August 14, 2013 at 11:27 am #

        Rrgh….arft…grrgh….(struggling with the selfie here Sandy!)

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