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I don't think that that's contradictory. I think it hits the nail on the head - especially the bit about branding being like Scientology. Great analogy.

Marketing good, marketers bad?

I've been having similar thoughts. I call it Brand Disenfranchisement.

If the brand is defined in the mind of the consumer (or I would argue consumers), it seems lately that the brand-in-mind is wandering:
- tangible goods (brands?) not defining us (http://www.johnniemoore.com/blog/archives/001620.php)
- consumers ignore brands as cultural icons (http://www.psfk.com/2007/05/cultural_creati.html)

Ok, I admit, some large jumps in logic - but how is the consumer defining 'brand' these days?

Another way I've thought about this is - that if media fragmentation, consumer empowerment, technology, social connections, etc., has changed everything else in the marketing landscape why wouldn't 'brand' need to change as well?

It does seem like we are stuck in the change that is surrounding us. Part of me thinks that it is hard to understand change till change happens. Another part of me thinks that we need to start asking the right/better questions. Like what is 'brand' for todays consumer?

Design is something that I've completely geeked out on lately (well besides soccer). The reason I love design is that it solves problems aesthetically (once again an over generalization...but role with me). Design solves the problem of needing to sit down by creating a chair yet the chair enhances the environment it lives in as well.

I think branding has something to learn from design. So when I think about a brand I work on, I try to think about strategy with a design cap on. Solve the problem, functionally and aesthetically. Or something like that.

Still thinking about his...


Wow - I think you summed it up when you said "it was somewhere between a fake religion and a false science."

Both based on some degree of truth gone awry.

This rambling of yours makes a lot of sense. May be the reason why many companies are now realizing that they need to hire people who are 'hands on', not just strategists. For a while there, everyone who wanted to make more money labeled themselves a strategist, until the word became quite useless.

I think what businesses are trying to say is: 'we need something concrete, real.' YOu write "A logo should be repository of meaning, not a substitute for it. And you have to build that meaning, not borrow it."

Yet, few are ready to make the business decisions that will lead to the meaning -- as in better product, service, real innovation, etc. All they want is by and large a new coat of paint so they can sell what they've got. When I interview with companies, I always ask what kind of business decisions they are ready to make so that we can build that meaning into what we're selling first.

I say branding, u say communication, he says marketing, others say advertising... and so on.

It's not the word that defines branding, it's the existence of it (through one and all communication ways). And yes, branding itself shouldn't be an action, it should be a way of being. Don't do, be.

I say branding, u say communication, he says marketing, others say advertising... and so on.

It's not the word that defines branding, it's the existence of it (through one and all communication ways). And yes, branding itself shouldn't be an action, it should be a way of being. Don't do, be.

Great post, R. This should be a Campaign piece.

Thanks for the namecheck. A long time ago I suggested we all start using the word BNARD to discourage mis- or floppy-use of the other Bword.

Would that still be a good idea?

Nope that all pretty much makes sense. It's the designers that are making the running, and the stuff that matters, the stuff that is getting people excited now is not the big over-arching idea, but the small-scale and incremental. And it's web2.0 culture that's showing the way, in terms of openness, tinkering, community, being porous...

Russell, as always you push me to think and I appreciate that.
Branding, Image, and perception are all sort of the same thing. We just like to put new titles on old things to make them seem new. Viral Marketing is just buzz, which was just word-of-mouth, which was just popular.
Branding is not dead any more than image or perception. What is happening is just a shift in the catchphrase to try to differentiate your action/function as a marketer. Call it a new paradigm if you like but "A rose by any other name..."
The "new" idea of quality over image is not new at all. It is just one of the 5-Fold Way points I keep trying to show people. Maybe this is just what I need to get my concept more visibility.
Superior Quality only works if you can back it up. SO many people have tried to use Best Service to compensate for quality issues. The rise of the amateur journalist is a very good example of a Best Service trying to cover for lack of Quality. Brand building in the TV age was the same. Many companies tried to convince us they were our friend (service) and so we were taught to ignore quality differences. Now we have the Internet where the product experience of others is easier to find. Now quality issues are exposed in ways that are difficult to hide. So the herd moves to quality as the position to take. Soon they will all be touting the qualities of their products. The sad part of this is that service will begin to suffer since it is not the focus of the "brand" builders.

Look forward to your comments.

Holy crap what a post...

Great post indeed. To my mind, we are talking about moving From D├ęcor to Core. And in this new place, the currency of business value will be branded utilities - or to use their other names, Service and Experience Design.

The challenge for the branding and ad agencies will be around the people - who can do this stuff?

They'll need slightly different brains - more empathic, people-centred people, who, yes, can create big ideas but also play them out along customer journeys across multiple touchpoints (and I'm not talking TV, radio, outdoor etc.) and over time.

We also need to give users, consumers, people, the credibility they deserve and do much of this stuff with them.

Go service! Go experience! Bye Bye Brand?

Here's a related post from Nigel Hollis at Millward Brown.

He's discussing the 'death' of branding and the impact it may have on businesses.

I wonder if wider economic factors such as private equity involement in business could be accelerating the demise of branding? Where does this ambigious use of the word brand come from?

read: http://www.mb-blog.com/index.php/2007/05/31/the-doomsday-brand-scenario/

Please make sure this turns into a Campaign piece. Uncommon sense, truly.


Great comment!!

Interesting post. The zeitgeist now is surely for the real, the authentic, etc - hence the emphasis shifting from 'strategic' brand wankery to brands that actually mean something in terms of consumer experience (even if that something is being against the notion of a brand in the first place). But won't it be the same agencies offering this brave new world as the ones responsible for all the 'false science'?

you talk too much

First off, Interesting was WONDERFUL (note the caps) yesterday. Thank you for all you put into that.

Second, I completely agree. This is actually hitting home on something that I've gone on about for a while now. As I work in a branding agency, I have to be careful here, but I do think the future of the 'b' word is in giving people tangible and meaningful relationships with companies/products. 'Experience' is the big word usually inserted here, but for sake of argument, I think it's more about enjoyment and engagement. I think our conventional logo design and identity consultancies are going to have to evolve fairly quickly to address this need for better retail, event, cultural, etc really engaging and fun 'brand' experiences. There is a great potential here for a lot more cross-disciplinary design, too. Branding agencies working more with architects and interiors, film, etc. I think there is also a lot of potential for the way strategy is going to evolve.

At its core planning will be the same as it has been, but planners will have to learn how to communicate with these other disciplines. This is really exciting! Maybe it's not just about 'remembering our place', but about testing to possibilities of what we can do?

Excellent post. Some thought provoking ideas for sure, and expressed well.

Much of your post really hit home for me, as someone who has grown increasingly weary of the over/mis-use of the word "brand" (and its derivatives).

I would add that, while there does seem to be a growing backlash against this type of empty and/or misguided rhetoric, I find some aspects of that swell troubling as well. For example, the word "authentic" (or authenticity) seems to be thrown about far too carelessly these days. Moreover, some of this liberal usage is not careless at all. Rather, it is quite intentional, in an attempt to manufacture real from fake. It is this kind of disturbing trend that has recently given rise to terms such as "astroturfing", coined to describe efforts to create falsified grass-roots support.

Thanks again for the food for thought.

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