Doc and Hugh said branding was dead nearly two years ago....
Maybe so, but Robert isn't so sure.
There seems to be enough left of branding to "irritate" Johnnie Moore, agitate Alan Mitchell and ignite Neil Boorman's earthly branded goods.
I've met a few business leaders who wished branding were dead. "It's confusing. Everyone tells me it's important but can't tell me what I should do. I'm spending money and getting what in return?" Most would love to "put out a contract" on branding and be done with it once and for all.
I'd like to keep branding around, but agree, things have got to change. Here's how I am learning to keep branding alive:
First, recognize the term "branding" is not the problem. Our broadcast world and mass-market mindset has often connected this term with manipulation, lying and trickery. Abuse of a term does not argue for non-use - it argues for correct use.
Second, realize branding isn't about branding, branding is about ownership. Branding represents the fascinating human instinct to mark what we own. Change the question from "How do we brand?" to "How do we mark our work, our organizations, and the things we create?"
Third, consider "brand ownership" as a framework for applying branding to the very real and new marketplace we all face. Do so by using the five brand ownership forces along with the question they raise:
- Difference: What is the creative difference we offer? Scion xB designers said, "We'd rather be interesting than beautiful" and marked their brand as different, ugly/cute, and successful.
- Invitation: How do we invite people to be a part of this? Saturn said, "We'll sell our cars at one price nationwide" and marked their brand inviting to a segment of car buyers that dreaded the process.
- Relevance: What practical usefulness are we creating? Starbucks said, "People need a place that isn't work and isn't home" and marked their brand as a relevant "third place" for today's lifestyle.
- Truthfulness: What happens when the truth is told here? CEO Darwin Smith said, "We can't stay in the paper manufacturing business and succeed." So Kimberly-Clark marked their brand with truthfulness, sold the mills, and went full force into the consumer market.
- Engagement: Who here really believes in what we are doing? Even Hugh Macleod said, "I don't like branding. I don't like brand theory." So, he marks his career brand with what fully-engages his considerable talents– and I'm glad he did.
To paraphrase a quote from Mark Twain: "The rumors of the death of branding have been greatly exaggerated."