Sunday, July 1, 2012

About my new group on LinkedIn, Brand Masters

As begin the process of writing the next book on branding, it seems a good thing to start a conversation. Helps to jog my thinking.

In response to the question, what is Brand Masters all about?
 It's meant to be a discussion for people who have an intense interest in branding + an academic bent. Brand ninjas, brand samurais, disciples of branding who seek to know the Tao, if you will. What drives brand? What makes it work? What are the riddles, the paradoxes, the evolving issues that are unprecedented but that must be addressed?

The first issue is the freebie paradox. Which is, obviously, that - to get known, to move merchandise - one gives something away or discounts it. The joke about "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" is no joke - it is serious. For five years I personally have given away a great deal of brand insight...and recent comments have led me to question why. They have led me to consider that perhaps I am done building credibility through ubiquity and now must turn to another strategy, exclusivity. I am working on a book. I won't say any more.

The second is the issue of whether you can do a good job branding a client, if you don't especially see eye-to-eye with them or are dissimilar personality-wise. It's something I wonder about, as I can see it going both ways. On the one hand consultant and client do well when they are close; I've seen this dynamic in action. On the other, you are better as a "stranger in a strange land" so that you can see them objectively. How do you handle this? How do you think about it? It's similar, I guess to the journalist who writes about war while embedded.

I see so much of sociology, my native discipline, at work in brandology. And so much of my own life - my own upbringing, the demands of my surroundings - intertwined with the discipline. Just this weekend in the heatwave here in DC, where did people run? Not to any government center that I knew about. They ran to the mall. To plug in their devices, shop for fast food, get a sense of normalcy. Starbucks, Panera, Barnes & Noble were all packed. We were trying to act like everything was OK, but really we were scared that things were falling apart - trees were down all over the place, there were no traffic lights for a long time - and the police were blocking off streets and directing traffic.

I felt scared about what could happen in a more serious disaster. We seemed so unprepared. Brands helped to make us feel better. How is that possible if brands are manufactured, fake?

These are the kinds of things I'd like to explore in the group - the paradoxes and richness that are at the heart of branding. Which, in the end, is creating an artificial person, a religion, out of something that never existed before.