November 16, 2004

seth on "branding is dead"


Yep, this made my day: Seth Godin, one of my favorite writers (online and off) joins in the "Branding Is Dead" debate. Gapingvoid gets a wee mention (Thanks, Seth!):

3. There's a difference between brands and branding. Brands exist whether you want them to or not. Brands aren't going to go away any time soon. Brands are a useful shorthand for a complicated asset within an organization. Branding, on the other hand, is a thing you do. And as an activity, branding is problematic. Branding is ill-defined, usually vacuous, often expensive and totally unpredictable. I'm happy to say that you shouldn't grow up to be someone who does branding.
Agreed. I said "Branding is dead", not "Brands are dead".

[BONUS LINK:] Great thoughts on the same subject by the ever-wonderful Evelyn Rodriguez:

Another hint: Don't look for books to portend the future of brands. Or the future of anything for that matter. The unfurling edge of the unfolding future is being revealed in the real world all around us (observe!) and, secondarily, recorded within blogs, daily and monthly media. A book takes 12-18 months to publish after it's written (and that's after you've written the proposal, found an agent, condensed all your thoughts and research into cohesive drafts and revised the drafts and submitted to your editor and...)
Reminds me of a story: Some clever-dicky journalist type once asked a great Jazz musician (it may have been Thelonious Monk, but I'm not sure) where he thought "Jazz was going."

The musician replied, "If I knew where Jazz was going, I'd already be there."

Posted by hugh macleod at November 16, 2004 9:08 AM | TrackBack

Hi Hugh,

BTW, just heard on ITconversation's Gillmor Gang session that mentioned your site and business card drawing. It's around 40 mins in and was brought up when someone mentioned seeing hiliarious business cards with drawings.

Thought you'd want to know!

Posted by: Alex Lam at November 16, 2004 10:37 AM

Cool, Alex =)

Do you have the link? Let me know and I'll blog it.


Posted by: hugh macleod at November 16, 2004 1:31 PM

Here's the link to the show and the exact quote.

Cheers and congrats!

Posted by: Alex Lam at November 16, 2004 4:46 PM

What a great quote from Monk, one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century.


Posted by: Tom at November 16, 2004 5:50 PM

I'm an illustrator, and when I went freelance a few years ago, I ended up with several marketing/communications firms as regular clients. Within these companies, the terms "brand" and "branding" were tossed around very casually, and were seemingly applicable to everything.

Despite trying to read as much as possible (including a lot of the info provided here), I feel I'm still at a loss to understand what the heck "brand" means these days. In my business, it seems 95% of the people who use the word drop it mainly as jargon to sound current and informed (without necessarily knowing what it means for themselves or their clients).

I realize I'm a relative newbie to the world of marketing, so hopefully this kind of thing will get a little clearer as time goes on. Right now it appears that anything and everything can concievably be a brand.

Anyway, thanks to everyone here for trying to shed some light on this stuff. Much appreciated.

Posted by: Craiger at November 16, 2004 11:00 PM

"Branding" today might mean keeping your products and services focussed on your goals for your product.

In the past it might have meant "make our customer Think this" but I'd give a bit more credit now for many people using the word.

If Brand is your reputation, and reputation is based upon what aspects of your product you aim to be the best at, the act of "Branding" can be said to make sure that your keep your products, and marketing "on topic".

The old "who are we, and are we doing what we say we are?"

If your brand is a "rolex" watch, and your product aim to be: "a fine quality watch made with high quality jewelry materials that generally have a sportier flavor than a piaget", branding might include the packaging and advertising of the brand as well as reigning in on designers that might want to spread the brand into plastics on one side or more delicate styles on the other.

The "Branding" is the act of focussing design decissions as well as the marketing and packaging of what you make.

Branding means staying on message with product and presentation.

Does that mean that people will pay more for your product? That was the past concept, but making a superior product isn't always enough, you must have your product considered. If branding keeps you well regarded in the niche you're after, its far from dead.

But if "branding" meant selling a buick as a mercedes...yeah thats not going to work. Its not about misleading but about consistency of message.

Posted by: Tom Norian at November 17, 2004 4:54 PM

What's branding?

Posted by: Jake the Snake at November 17, 2004 6:49 PM

Brands are just the vessels of meaning.

Branding is really dead simple.

It is the complex process by which professionals try to get us to associate consistent positive feelings with whatever 'thing' they're 'branding'.

That 'thing' can be a product, a corporation, a country, and ideology, a service,whatever.
The so called 'War on Terror' is an attempt to manipulate minds by branding US foreign policy.

So is branding dead? Of course not. It's a massive growth industry. BUT it is struggling to create any impact amidst critical, enlightened and info-empowered brand users.

The argument that branding must become a whole-organisation affair, based upon consistent experiences is well rehearsed by bookds like Lovemarks and Beyond Branding.

But there's a deeper truth here that still gets missed.

Flip the branding concept and consider it from the point of view of the victim, not the assassin. We, the people, own these brands. They only exists in our heads...

Branding, properly understood is the process by which communities reach common consensus around the meaning of a named idea.

It is an organic process of personal contextual framing. (Did I just write that?)

Brands exist inside users' heads, not in design manuals. And try as you might, you lovely brand people, you cannot control our thoughts.

As human beings, we have a right, and even a duty to steal the brands that truly matter to us, and redefine them as we wish.

If BT comes to mean 'Bloody Terrible' service, the organisation will have to change.

The best branding folk can hope for is to lead them to the water. Then hope we don't spit it right back at them.

Posted by: Tim Kitchin at November 18, 2004 12:57 PM