What is good, justice, beauty or… brand image. Since time immemorial, abstract notions have always been in the centre of philosophers’ attention. To better understand these concepts, John Locke decided to focus on the very basics.


Imagine yourself entering a bar you have never been to. You take a look around. Then you see the chairs your grandfather would sit on with your grandma on their first dates. You try to get further in but you have a problem getting your feet off the dirty floor. Then comes the smell… It seems they might have an interesting menu but in the circumstances… No wonder you do what you do – turn around and, yes, your adventure with this eatery has just come to a premature end. Even before you have eaten a thing!


Whether you will judge a place ‘attractive’ or not depends on the sum of your most basic experiences so far, which you then use as building blocks for creating more general concepts.


“An attractive pub”, “efficient service”, “tasty food” are all abstract concepts, which we are not able to acquire directly. Since what we can conceive are only simple ideas which are formed through individual experiences, we do not actually see “bad service” – what we can see is just one, rude and seemingly dumb waiter. It is easy to imagine the consequences: you can spend millions on advertising your business but it is enough for a prospective customer to get in contact with your company through its one weak spot and… he ends up being your former prospective customer!


People are born into this world with empty minds, which are later filled through experience. Not always and not exactly how we would like them to!


Locke saw human mind as a ‘clean slate’ which gets filled as we live and experience. At the moment of first contact between a customer and your brand you are in a neutral position. However, right after this initial exposure the subject forms an opinion about you, which can be favourable or – quite the opposite! This is why it matters so much to pay attention to all these trivial things like your emails being properly formatted, your website being well designed or the proper choice of your Facebook photo.

According to Locke, our minds like to walk their own paths. While we can be certain of simple ideas, the abstract ones are created… in an abstract way, a great example of which are our first impressions: we tend to use singular experiences to build complex mental structures which, however, have little in common with the real world. This is why Locke supported the idea that we should verify our abstract views every now and then and put them to empirical tests.


First impressions can be changed for the better or… for the worse! Our knowledge is not just a disordered heap of experiences but it gets constantly verified through our everyday life.


If by making a minor mistake you have got off to a bad start with your customer, it still can be fixed. However, other consequences could be a lot graver: if based on their first impression and rather superficial knowledge of your company your customer develops a positive opinion of you and your business, they are likely to expect the same standards to follow. Therefore it is so important to exercise moderation. If you run a car dealership you should know better than invest in ultra-chic designer interiors unless you sell supercars. Making your customer crave for a Rolls Royce will not go a long way if you sell Dacias.


It is vital to understand and accept the fact that various customers have various expectations and that some of them might even dislike you. Tolerance and understanding towards others are the essence of Locke’s thought.


John Locke is first and foremost known for his political philosophy, in which he calls for more respect for basic human rights and religious tolerance. It is closely related to his thoughts on cognition – since different people create their individual views of the world relying on different experiences, how can you establish whose is ‘the true one’, that should serve as a benchmark?

You must be very clear about what customers you want to reach and who are those you are not targeting. If you analyse the big brands you will notice that they have their die-hard fans who worship them like idols as well as… sworn enemies. It is all absolutely normal and not much can be done about it, apart from accepting it.