The 3 Fallacies Of Branding: Intentionality, Rationality and Transparency

If you were to ask me how I got to this place in life, the most honest answer would be "I don't know."

I don't know how most people I know got to where they are either. G-d has a strategic plan for everyone (I actually think we get input on that before we're born). We either align to it and feel good or we don't and we course-correct.

Yeah there is hard work. There is education and opportunity and coaching and staying in track in the face of life's obstacles. There is networking. But mostly, I think, there is raw gut instinct - for physical, emotional, and spiritual survival - that leads people to do what they do.

If you don't believe me look at any strategic plan. Once it's all said and done how many organizations actually follow the results of these rationalistic exercises?

The applications for branding are simple, clear and straightforward, in 3 ways.

1. The Fallacy Of Intentionality

Brands are not built in an incremental way. To even try to do so presupposes knowing what the audience reaction will be. Instead brands are built by acting, seeing the reaction, and adjusting accordingly - just like in living life.

2. The Fallacy of Rationality

There is not currently a scientific body of work that can explain why some brands succeed and others fail. It is possible to develop one in much the same way as we have the Project Management Body Of Knowledge. The PMBOK codifies project management and is subject to review, debating, updating. Accountants, lawyers, and doctors have similar repositories of shared reference points.

In branding we cannot even agree on taxonomy. Rather it is for the client to judge what "system" or framework is best. In that sense it is more like Scientology - a religion passing itself off a a way of life.

3. The Fallacy Of Transparency

There is a mythical quest nowadays to get to the "truth" behind the image. The reality is that there are many truths, and some of the most important ones are not accessible to the customer or even many employees. We are always building brand on a mountain of sand - partial and shifting information.

Does all of this mean that the quest for brand mastery is useless? Obviously not. But maybe it's time to start being honest about what we are doing as people who support brand development. Mostly we are there to give advice and support, and to avoid making the brand worse by implementing ill-thought-out plans.

The most meaningful things in life are the ones you can't capture in words. In essence that's the job of a brand specialist - to imbue raw material with emotion, excitement, fantasy, passion, and zeal. It's not a "nothing" job at all, and it takes great care and skill. But we shouldn't try to "legitimize" this discipline/art by talking about it like it's rocket science, either.

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