Tim Girvin

The Seattle-based brand development guru knows a thing or two about discovering and telling brand stories. Here he tells his own.
Posted July 22, 2008



Your work is focused on brand development. In your opinion, which brand is doing it right?

Apple. There’s a story there and it starts with Steve Jobs. His leadership spreads throughout the organization.

Your keynote presentation at IRDC is all about brands. What can attendees expect?

Everyone has a spin on what’s good branding development these days. I think it’s the heart of the brand – the soul of it, the story, the characters, the driving legacy.

What’s the key to discovering a brand’s true story?

Listening. To find the story, you’ve got to be able to listen: What’s the story, who’s telling it, how is it told and, finally, who cares?

With consumers being cautious right now, what can a brand do to stay relevant and get consumers inside its stores?

Buying is about the relationship and the interface in a community of relationships. They might not buy now, but if there’s a connection, an emotive link, they’ll savor that relationship, even save money for the opportunity to link with a brand that they love.

What one expression would you never like to hear again?

“I’m not interested.”

You have only six hours to spend in a particular city. What do you do?

I head for the old part of the city. While I spend a lot of time in places that are newly created, there’s usually more character in the older parts.

What’s one of your favorite hidden spots in Seattle?

There are a series of pocket parks all over the city – downtown, Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Magnolia. I like walking these. Sitting in them. And any good espresso bar.

So how do you take your espresso?

Make it a triple con panna (with cream).

If I could change one thing in my life it would be…

More travel.

You do an enormous amount of travel already. Why more?

I’m an inveterate wanderer – I’m at home being somewhere else.

Who was your first celebrity crush?

Marilyn Monroe.

“The smartest thing I’ve ever done was…”

Quit a career in science and return to drawing and art.

The Seven Voyages of Tim Girvin

Girvin has journeyed to places all over the world, which is why he says he identifies most with Sinbad the Sailor. Here are some of his favorite spots:

  • Istiklal Street in Istanbul.
  • The Kraton palace and Borobudur temple in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.
  • The train to Kamakura, a city near Tokyo.
  • The old markets in Florence, Italy.