Mark Earls on Branding

On December 4, 2008, in Branding, by Brett Duncan

My brain has latched on to this interview by Mark Earls with Hugh MacLeod at GapingVoid, and it won’t let go. Thanks to Valeria for originally doing the latching. 

I’ve copied Valeria’s excerpt of Mark’s ranting below just to get you going. Here’s what I want to know as your reaction:

  1. How do you define branding (or do you)?
  2. What are the most common misconceptions you face in reference to “brand?”

Let’s start with the good stuff about “Brand”: it’s clearly a popular idea, it’s spread far and wide into politics and self-help books. It’s useful, in that it allows us to talk about the cluster of stuff that floats around reputation and perception and so on. It looks like we can measure it because it’s something that seems like folk out there in Consumerland can talk about.

So what’s wrong with it: well, first of all “Brand” is a metaphor. It’s not a thing, even though we talk about it as if it were: it’s a way of talkingas if.

Second, it’s a fat-metaphor: there is no agreed definition, so we can use it to mean just about anything we want – to pre- or proscribe whatever we want. Most brand conversations need an agreed set of definitions or…

Third, “Brand” is what you get as a result of doing great, not a good guide to what to do – it’s the scoreboard, not the game.

Fourth, “Brand” is a distraction from the main gamewhich is doing great stuff for customers and staff (“baking it in”, as for example the Zeus Jones go on about). P***ing about in Brandland is a good excuse not to really get to grips with the stuff you need to get to grips with, and it tends to lead you off into “communications” rather than actually doing something.

Fifth, “Brand” perpetuates the myths we like to hold tight to, about the power of marketing and communication – sometimes when you hear brand folk talk, they seem to imagine they are sorcerers and magicians, weaving binding spells and illusions. More often than not, they like to use military metaphors. The truth of course is that mostly were neither of these things and have a marginal effect at best.

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