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Failure is just like uncertainty.

A stranger and an enemy until you embrace it as a friend.

Failureand mistakes breeds patient success!

It all about your timeframe!

I mean no one tells a child to give up learning to walk when it falls over all the time.

Knew I should have gone to the texan creationist site. Preaching again?! :)

I really enjoyed your talk. Some of the conferences can be very dry. What I found particularly interesting was the sense that big brands don't really have a choice - they either get involved and guide the voice, material themselves(and get used to making some compromises) or consumers will do it.
You have also convinced me to blog- was doing it sporadically on myspace but your blog is very inspiring!


smashing stuff. were your audience challenged by this or was it tapping into their "conventional wisdom"?

and, i notice with the illustration you use now and your writing style etc that your developing a whole set of referents for the russell davies 'brand'. how would you describe your brand? and what do you think people expect from this brand at conferences etc.? do you embody your brand well ;-) ?

Great even via play-by-play.

My thoughts (yours first):

"Brands are not that important. They're not that exciting to people. Just because we've decided to engage, and entertain and participate doesn't mean anyone wants us to. While not many brands are behaving like this, it's quite effective, it's new, it's interesting, when everyone's doing it, it's less so."

I don't agree that they're not that important. They've been important (kids got killed over Nike Air Jordans) and I think they'll continue to be. I'd argue that as brands get to be more "human-like", they'll be even more important than they are now. Brands, even in the 1.0/2.0 world where they're not that communicative, have a part in how we define ourselves. Brands and their icons represent social associations that we want and choose to make.

The "best" 2.0 brands are allowing people to shape/mold them how they see fit. Why? So they fit better into their lives and into their personal identity. In the future, at 3.1 (or, as you say, whatever we'll call it when we get there), brands are not just going to service us, but help us define ourselves. Like a friend might...

thanks Clay,

Good points.

My concern in reminding people that brands are not that important. Is because I think inflating their importance makes them less effective.

The sneaker example is interesting but I think it's a red herring - people have been killed over some pretty unimportant stuff.

I did a video about this once - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DqKkWM60lk

- I guess it's a reminder to keep our metaphors in check when we talk about brands. We call them friends, we talk about them as village elders or whatever. They're not that. They're just stuff, products, things. That doesn't make them meaningless, they can be some of the most potent, moving, useful, funny bits of pop culture. But they're not life and death, love or family.

I guess I stuck that bit in after the 20:20 lot had presented. They'd done a really clever, web2.0y promotion for CSI which clearly scared some innocent people out of their wits. And they kind of laughed it off as collatoral damage. This is the hubris we should avoid, no clever brand engagement thing is worth harming, scaring, pestering people.

That's not to minimise the fun or power of brands, they're what I do, but it's worth remembering that they're just, you know, brands.

It's late. I'm making no sense. More another time.

I think what you said at the top, "inflating their importance makes them less effective" just about sums it up.

But... I still think that brands are really, really important culturally (and as I said, important to individual identity). So much so that we need to be careful. You know, "Tread Lightly." The CSI example is a great one. Hubris always begets disaster.

Here's another example. The World Trade Center, Pentagon and White House - all icons, pieces or manifestations of the American brand. These pillars help define the American identity, both in the hearts/minds of US citizens and in the rest of the world. Indeed, one could say that the American brand helped the Islamic Fundamentalist, Anti-American brand by way of opposition.

And what about the man that slaves away at a thankless job, just so he can park a Jag outside his home, when a Kia Optima (well-reviewed, actually!) would do the job just fine. His associations with Jaguar have just become part of who he is, how he wants to be seen, and how his neighbors see him. He's compelled by some force (brand? social pressure based on associations of luxury and success? internal desire to prove his doubting father wrong? maybe he just likes pretty things?) to "trade up".

Both of these are somewhat negative examples of how brands affect society and identity. But they're examples of the power behind what we do with the brands we create. I agree that we shouldn't inflate their importance, but I'm not sure we (being insiders) define how important they are. As brands are accepted by society and become part of social/individual identity, we lose control of their relative importance.

Whew. Back to work.

clay -

Have to disagree on one point a little.

Brands don’t start out important, rather, they only become that way as consumers assign importance to them.

Timberland started out as what, boots for people in Maine or loggers basically, then hip-hop ‘discovers’ them and takes over the brand.

As it was with Hummer, with the recent Cristal, etc.

Kids were also killed over jackets with 8-balls on them.

Cops have killed kids accidently who had toy guns too, both young and older ones who used toys to committ a crime.

In both cases, a tragedy, but not the respective brand’s fault. (Although the brand takes a hit.)

The bigger factor here is that most of those incidents occurring in urban areas where economics had more impact on forcing someone to steal.

I can’t recall kids in the 'burbs with disposable income from their rents killing each other over their new kicks.

(They may kill each other in those nice new schools because they feel neglected by same, but perhaps a topic for another time.)

What I don’t think many brands know how to do yet on a regular basis is deal with what happens when a demo other than who they targeted hijacks or ‘finds’ their brand and assigns it a new importance.

The typical response seems to be one a kneejerk one as they shift focus away from their core and try and appeal to the new influx.

In my mind all that does is alienate and anger the core who feel neglected.

Happens with line extensions all the time or product expansions. (I think this trend has taken over the fast-food industry as more and more chains are now offering everything under the sun in addition to their base products.)

For example, Dunkin’ Donuts seems to have become Dairy Queen with all the frozen stuff they now offer. Does anyone think of them first as a coffee place? You probably think Starbucks first, if nothing else than their proliferation and single focus on coffee, something DD once could claim.)

I think this ‘all things to all people’ strategy dilutes the voice of a brand. Then the danger becomes nobody thinks it’s important anymore when it comes off like every other brand out there.

I’ve ranted enough. Just sayin’


You're quite right. Brands don't start off being important.

As in Seinfeld, where Jerry & George are making the pitch to NBC about the show about nothing:

NBC Exec: Well why am I watching it?
George: Because it's on TV!
Exec: Not yet.

Just because something exists, of course, doesn't make it important. I think I might have misspoke in my earlier comment. When I said that "brands are important" I should have been more clear. Brands arent necessarily important, not just because they're there.

I guess what I wanted saying is that brands become important because they become part of people's lives, part of their identity. And I think that phenomenon will grow with improved connectivity between people and brands. We'll see less Roederer/Cristal missteps, if only because companies will start understanding why people want to connect with them.

And because we can't resist, a thought-starter about the "kids killing other kids because of X": regarding the downtrodden suburbian kids--especially in the Columbine example--I can't think of a stranger branding example than what goes on with cliques in High School. It's as if each little social group has a brand of its own...

If anyone wants more conference recap, I've posted some assorted ramblings on our office's blog at http://lbtoronto.typepad.com

thanks Jason, check Jason's ramblings out everyone. v. good.

Hi - I really like some of the images you have put up here, and I've posted one in my blog at http://kenny.aitchison.typepad.com/kenny_aitchison/2006/07/blogging_for_bu.html

I would very much like your formal permission to have done that! You get the credit, and there's a link back to your page.



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