A View from Blue Grotto

Thursday, February 21, 2008

To brand or not to brand?

Is “branding” losing its relevance?

I love the whole concept of branding. As a consumer, I truly buy into it. I am brand conscious. Helping clients, I am acutely aware of their branding when producing materials that need to reflect that brand.

Most people understand a brand to be a promise. A promise of value.

I continue to argue that a brand is a reflection of, an extension of, a result of a company’s culture. And that promise is a promise of your values, not necessarily a valuation of worth. A brand promise is a statement that reflects the brand’s core values in a way that pays off for the customer.

So, how is branding changing? Umair Haque addressed the issue in his February 15 post -The Shrinking Advantage of Brands - for Harvard Business School’s Discussion Leader blog.

Haque pointed out that the most powerful brand in the world today is Google. Not surprising to me, a Google addict. But then he also pointed out that compared to other brand legends like Coca Cola and Procter & Gamble – Google spends nothing on advertising.

Branding of old, Haque says, just won’t work in today’s 24-hour information access environment…“Now, for the economics of an industrial era, branding made sense. Interaction was expensive – so information about the expected benefits of consumption had to be squeezed into slogans, characters, and logos, which were then compressed into thirty-second TV ads and radio spots. The complex promise of a Corvette, for example, was compressed into shots of cute girls, open roads, and lots of sunshine.”

More unorthodox strategies of what Haque calls “cheap interaction” are filling the advertising gap. And, when consumers have access to one another, “information about expected costs and benefits doesn’t have to be compressed into logos, slogans, ad-spots or column-inches.”

It’s challenging to sum up your company’s culture and values in that logo or slogan. I wrangle with clients all the time over silver bullet messaging. Not every company is suited to a Nike’s “Just Do It.” How can you communicate culture and values to multiple audiences? And through what meaningful medium?

My favorite line of Haque’s posting: “The cheaper interaction gets, the more connected consumers can talk to each other – and the less time they have to spend listening to the often empty promises of firms.” Yikes! An ad exec's worst nightmare.

Email me with examples of how you are combating, or embracing, the changing landscape of advertising.

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.