Brian Creath

With Apologies To George Carlin (and the Earth).

In Advertising, Brand, Marketing, Positioning, Strategy on April 22, 2009 at 2:29 pm


Well, now I’ve really done it. According to one reader of The Idea, my point-of-view is both against the principles of George Carlin and the sustainability of the Earth.

Commenting on my post “Brands Are Dead. (Really?),” Ruth Ann Barrett has written what she labels, “a Call to Arms about why branding may be considered just another word for covering up.” The same comment, she says, is also, “an ode to advocacy, to Earth, and Earth Day.” Yes, to Earth. Ms. Barrett also writes at a blog called Digital Savvy and you can find the above comment republished in a post entitled, “The Tainted Language of Branding.”

In her post, Ms. Barrett says, “What I think is that brand and branding were used in the service of so many unsustainable products and services with too many disreputable companies across a wide range of unsustainable industries that it may be viewed as a cover-up as a noun and covering up as a verb.” She also says, “The language of brands is rife with what the late George Carlin called a soft language and said, “I don’t like words that hide the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality.”

Where is this language of brands that so masks reality? And which word is hiding the truth? In my work and in the work of my firm, truth and reality are the critical components of a brand’s foundation. The essential pieces that make a brand ring true. Anything less is not a brand, but simply a hollow promise.

Strangely, Ms. Barrett also twists sustainability into her argument against brands. (I believe she’s confusing product packaging with brand.) Ms. Barrett, if you’re advocating fewer disposables and more durability, I’m on your side. But please, don’t use the term ‘brand’ to make your case. It doesn’t deserve it.

Ms. Barrett closes 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 think Mr. Baskin is being provocative and challenging the status quo. He’s getting attention and challenging us to meet the historic opportunity (to shape and encourage consumer demand for sustainable products and lifestyles) and steer the conversation towards how we are going to do that and not use the tainted language of branding. Let’s jump on it. Our scientists are telling us we are running out of time.”

Ms. Barrett, I am sure you are a passionate person, driven toward your cause. But c’mon: Brands don’t create problems. People create problems. Like the people that simply use brands to make a quick buck. Or hide behind them to abuse power. Or in this case, try to abolish their very being because they don’t acknowledge how good and valuable they can still be. Ms. Barrett, don’t you see? The very things you fight for can be accomplished with smart brand thinking — not in spite of it. Why would you throw away the learning of a hundred years, instead of working to harness its strength?

Here’s another George Carlin quote: “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

Rest in peace, George. And to my friend the Earth, on your special day, may your reign be a long and prosperous one.

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. Just a quick note to tell you how much I enjoy reading your new blog. Keep up the great work!

  2. I think indirectly you address the real issue behind branding — despite all that has been done in this arena, there are still just way too many people that don’t get it. They really don’t know what it means, how to use it and sadly enough how much influence it has over literally every one of our lives. Guess that may or may not keep us all in business…

  3. Go here to hear Carlin’s view on sustainability. Interesting! (Warning: some strong language)

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