Brian Creath

Brands Are Not Dead. (The readers speak.)

In Brand, Marketing, Positioning, Strategy on April 21, 2009 at 1:43 pm


We’ve had quite a spirited debate here during the past few days. If you are just joining this discussion, you may want to first read the two posts that sparked this dialog, “Brands Are Dead, (Really?)” and “Brands Are Dead. (Really?) Part 2.” While discussion on this topic is far from over, I did want to post an update on a few of the many comments I’ve received. (As reference, much of this conversation stems from the opposing view I have taken to Jonathan Salem Baskin, who wrote, “Branding Only Works On Cattle,” and argues in a recent post that “Brands Are Dead.”)

As your comments to my two earlier posts confirm, rumors of the demise of the brand have been greatly exaggerated.

“Brands are, of course, not dead,” comments John Bottom of the blog, Beyond. “They are useful labels to attach to otherwise apparently indistinguishable products and services. Most of us agree with Brian’s meaning; not many, I would suggest, side with Jonathan (Jonathan Salem Baskin). But then he is selling a book, whereas Brian is offering his excellent commentary for free. Perhaps that’s all you need to know.”

Writes Bret Kinsella, COO, “Brian has some great comments debunking the shock-literature of ‘Brands are Dead.’ The notion that branding is logos or tag lines or something that is unexplainable was discredited long ago. It is still about owning real estate in someone’s mind. Whether that real estate is well located or not is a question of the quality of branding efforts. It is important to influence that location and make the brand associations positive. Mr. Baskin needs to work on his real estate. He is on the wrong side of the tracks.”

And says Michael Kuhn, Communications Director, “I could have sworn that the new brand we created when we moved from an airline division (Air Canada Technical Services) to Aveos created a stir in the whole industry. Cattle you say? Not in the areospace industry I can assure you. Brand will continue to become the reason companies either succeed moderately or succeed phenomenally.”

In all, there have been 47 comments to these two posts–people have responded directly to The Idea, to its posting on several LinkedIn groups and to its inclusion on a number of other blogs and comment forums. All but three (3) have supported the point of view that brands are very much alive and well. As you may have expected, Mr. Baskin was a noted detractor.

But these ‘Brand Detractors’ exist for a reason. Brands have increasingly been the victim of undifferentiated positioning and shoddy advertising. They’ve been abused by senior managers who want their power, but refuse to invest in their future. They’ve been put at risk by those too inexperienced to leverage their real strengths, and worse, to manage their real weaknesses.

Brands have also suffered at the hands of charlatans. Yes, for every true brand expert, there are many more who aren’t. This doesn’t mean that brands aren’t important, or should be dismissed; it simply means that there are quite a few non-experts out there. You know: Ad agencies and design firms that slap ‘branding’ on their business cards to ride the wave. Authors and consultants that use ‘brand’ to their benefit, simply to make a buck.

No. It’s not time to call for the death of brands; but rather, to re-establish their true power. To look beyond the superficial era of ‘branding’ and into the intrinsic good that brands can provide: Where the experience of real value delivered creates a lasting pre-disposition based on the anticipated replication of that same positive experience. True brands help companies deliver consistent and sustainable value to grow their business. They also generate two-way trust that further bonds customers and producers. Consumers like true brands. So do smart companies.

The Idea welcomes additional comments from both supporters and detractors.

While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll read about how Cohesion helps organizations build stronger messaging to increase consistency, lower cost and drive growth, here.

  1. […] with a plug for Jonathan Salem Baskin (see my posts regarding his points of view, here, here and here) and a call to not use the ‘tainted language of branding’ to save the Earth. “I […]

  2. […] Those who have called a death to brands have severely underestimated their potential. In fact, true brands – may be the answer to many of our current marketing ills. (More on true brands can be found at Brian Creath’s blog, The Idea, here and here.) […]

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