Brands outstanding in their field


A brand is like the tree a farmer leaves standing in a field. It just shows up one day, struggling upwards, trying to find its way out of the corn into the sun.

The farmer could have dug it under. But he liked how improbable it was: the poplar that doesn’t get that it’s out of place. Or maybe, the poplar that doesn’t know it isn’t corn. Or maybe, a poplar with so much self possession it just doesn’t care it isn’t corn.

He let the poplar stand. He let it grow. The farmer isn’t sure what it has cost him over the year. A lot, probably. It represents a real chunk of his tillable land. It got steadily more demanding, taking up more space, stealing water and sunshine. Happily, the farmer’s affection grew as the popular did. He let it stand, he let it grow.

Eventually, the accidental became the emblematic. The farmer couldn’t imagine his field without it. It was the place he ate his lunch. It was the place the kids came for adventure. It was the thing that identified his farm to others. “Levi’s place. You know, the big popular out on trunk road.” It was the first thing he and the kids saw coming home. Without the poplar, Levi’s place would have been just another field of corn.

Lately, Levi’s been thinking. If the poplar is his emblem, shouldn’t it keep pace with the times and his new prosperity? He put a ring of rocks around it. He started fertilizing it. He even got it trimmed. He planted smaller trees, to set it off and give it scale.

Then Levi thought, “what the hell,” took out the poplar and put in a giant blue spruce. Naturally, they flattened half the corn field, bringing it in. It created a certain amount of confusion for the locals. “The Levi place, the poplar, er, the blue spruce. Blue spruce, what is the matter with that guy?” The kids said, “Dad, how do you build a fort in an evergreen?”

So it wasn’t perfect. Now Levi is thinking about a bunch of trees, all different, all equally grand. Or, no, what about statues, a sort of Greek bower? Briefly, he wondered if a statue to Ernie Banks might not be a good way of honoring his childhood hero.

Levi’s field draws a crowd. Because there’s always something happened. Trucks coming and going. Trees give way to statues, statues give was to bowers. Levi’s field is more interesting than the country fair. Corn? No, he doesn’t grow corn there anymore.


Deutsch, Claudia. 2004. New Logo and Tagline for Xerox. New York Times, September 13, 2004.

[T]oday, Xerox is bidding “The Document Company” and the X a grateful goodbye. In their place will be a new, cleaner-looking logo, featuring the Xerox name over the signature “Technology/Document Management/Consulting Services.” Industry experts applaud the change.

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