Brand's what they do to cows in Texas

Five years of an ever increasing amount of 'brand'-based linguistic paraphernalia, and as both a writer and a reader, I'm utterly exhausted by the complete meaningless inanity of it all. And if I sit in one more meeting where some marketing dodo hits me with crap like 'brand architecture', 'brand custodian' and 'brand promise', I'll brand them in original branding style with a hot poker on the rear.

I cannot begin to tell you just how many problems I have with the notion of 'brands' - but I will :-)

My biggest, most fundamental critique of branding as it has become, is that it focuses more on the window-dressing than on the window - more on the image than the reality behind it - more on the paint than the wall - more on warm and fuzzy nonsense in a commercial than on the actual service being provided - more on colouring book bollocks than actual truth. It has become about what you think you should project, instead of who you really are - essentially just a bunch of hot air. Do you think Coco Chanel sat in her first studio and muttered to herself 'I want to be the most progressive fashion brand in the world'? No. She was passionate about creating great fashion; just as Henry Ford was passionate about creating great people's cars, or Enzo Ferrari was about creating fantastic sports automobiles. Brilliant products create great brands. But currently it feels like everyone with three minutes of experience and a day's worth of insight into marketing, thinks differently. 

What makes me sad is that what I'm saying is not new. It's not even particularly clever. It's the classic 'emperor has no clothes' fairytale, and I'm completely ashamed for the people of the industry that I've been part of for 13 years that I have to even point this out to them.

What makes me deliriously happy however, is that I know that brand-based thinking is on its way out. And it's my three years in high fashion that tell me so. In the three years that I was part of of the Socrati footwear team, I'd watch as we'd launch a new wave of style and design, which was immediately tried out by our early adopters - those who liked being at the vanguard of fashion. Then, within two seasons, when those styles had been copied and proliferated into department stores - when everyone was wearing them - we'd already moved on to the great fashion of that day, while the rest had caught up with our yesterday. The irony of it all, was that while the fashion craze we'd been part of starting now seemed like it was at its zenith, it was essentially already dying - replaced by where we'd already moved onto. And just like back then I used to find those cheap imitations of our original styles so grotesque, today I find brand discourse - if it's even worth being called a discourse anymore -cheap and tasteless - the plastic leatherette version of what once was a noble ideal of being a name that people could actually trust for good reasons.  

It's ok though, cos as I look out at an entire industry still flinging banal brand expressions around like they're meant to mean something; all I can see is that dude from Brakpan who right now thinks that tight jeans, pointy shoes, thick silver chains and a mini-mohican just above his forehead are the new big thing. Shame.


Views: 116

Comment by Socratis Avgitidis on July 29, 2011 at 14:52
Ah! you bring back such memories..remember the unpacking late at nights, for new seasonal launches:)
Comment by Strato Copteros on July 29, 2011 at 15:05
Or busting big-store buyers photographing our windows :-)
Comment by Louise Brauteseth on July 29, 2011 at 15:58
Integrity.......? What happened to it?  Thanks for the very interesting and honest article. Brakpan dudes are bad for the eyesight.
Comment by Socratis Avgitidis on July 29, 2011 at 16:06
I believe that soon social media will allow us to fully filter the 'brand'-based linguistic paraphernalia, as you put it. Unless it is too late and we are already sheep :)
Comment by Louise Brauteseth on July 29, 2011 at 16:43
Not sure Socs. Brands have become like living entities, what "needs it should fulfill", what "promises it should make" (to consumers) and then the consumers mind painting it's picture of the brand. And then the responsibility of the custodian/ brand/marketing manager that every consumer feels special because of the brand, sadly, I think it looks woolly.
Comment by Socratis Avgitidis on July 29, 2011 at 17:03

I  have tremendous respect for brand managers, the role they play in shaping our society. My problem is when brands 'buy' the influence and 'buy' the market share.

Comment by Louise Brauteseth on July 29, 2011 at 17:09

Oh I agree, there is a problem there.


Comment by Strato Copteros on July 29, 2011 at 18:32

Great repartee Louise and Socrati! Not sheep at all - in fact you're bang on the money. Social media now truly allows for the rapid proliferation of feedback on actual brand and product experiences - and if those experiences digress badly from the brand promise, it'll bring the brand architecture into question :-) With social media, if what you're doing is not the same as what you're proclaiming, it'll come out. At the same time, if you're a great new lil brand without the mondey to buy your publicity, your good name will also spread. And that's the whole point - do the right thing and they will come! The rest's just bla bla!

Comment by Shaamila Cassim on August 5, 2011 at 11:56

Baa baa

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