Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Highlights from "Becoming Post-Brand," Presented at IABC-DC, July 17, 2012

Slides here. Some video clips here.

I'm hoping to get notes from participants, but here are some key points for now. If they send anything, I'll post a follow-up or amend this post.

  • There is a constant tension between wanting brands (which provide a fantasy of reconnection for the alienated self) and not wanting them (to return to a purer time).
  • Brands are a symptom of alienation - from G-d, community, the land, etc. They provide a temporary relief from the pain of that disconnect.
  • Brands continue to have an incredible power over every aspect of our lives. We feel surer about ourselves when a brand endorses our actions - whether it's raising children per an "expert's" advice or buying a brand of paper towels that we "know" won't disappoint the family.
  • When we talk about brands evolving this isn't to say that an old form is going away but rather that there are concurrent streams of activity. It's about choosing the right kind of branding for the right product and the right audience.
  • Brand insight is not an exercise in political correctness. If you refuse to see what's going on because it makes you uncomfortable you are losing insight and therefore money.
  • Brands take the natural and give it back to you in a form you want to pay for. In the process they make you devalue the natural.
  • Children are born unbranded and for a short time experience wholeness through the caregiver (ideally). However, they are rapidly introduced to the world of brands, which also quickly become markers of identity. 
  • The choice of brand is a very deliberate statement about who you are and is something even young people take very seriously.
  • The concept of functional value is nothing more than the fantasy of protection against a dangerous world. It is not a logical function. Marketers exploit the notion of quality to instill a feeling of insecurity, e.g. "unless you buy my product you are at risk."
  • Every type of economy is associated with a dominant brand fantasy: agrarian (fantasy of protection); industrial (escape); service (lifestyle); knowledge (superiority); collaboration (community); New Age (unity)
  • There are 5 hallmarks of the post-branded age: 1) the disruption of "normal" and the othering of the previous "mainstream" 2) empowerment 3) sarcasm 4) anti-brand activism ("antibrandivism") and 5) reflexivity.
  • Reflexivity is the most important quality - possessed by rare brand masters such as Charlie Sheen and Kris Jenner - who are able to immediately shift the brand based on anticipated reaction by the audience. 
  • The 10 principles of communication in a post-branding era: 1) balance consistency and authenticity 2) build the culture first 3) start at the top 4) everyone builds it 5) plain English 6) avoid roboticism and the "b-word" (brand) 7) distinguish marketing from information 8) reflect brand strategy in logo and name 9) encourage dissent 10) support social media. 
  • In the end, we won't need brands.

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