Cruising for a Bruising

by Chris Kenton on March 15, 2005

New column out today at Business Week. My rant against mushy-headed marketing. One of these days I’m going to find an audience waiting in the parking lot with baseball bats and brass knuckles.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike March 15, 2005 at 10:21 am

With all due respect, your BW piece argues for a distinction without a difference. How can you say that a brand is just the logo and that all of the “relationship” substance is just a bunch of hooey, and then say that the relationship hooey is really, really important, but it’s just not the “brand,” per se?
Either relationships and trust matter or they don’t. You took a point that was about nothing more than semantics and dressed it up as an indictment of the marketing industry. Now that’s hooey.

Chris March 15, 2005 at 11:07 am

You’re right: it is semantic. You’re wrong: it is not a distinction without a difference. The whole point of semantics is to develop clarity and distinction where the waters have been muddied.

Relationships matter. Trust matters. But they are not synonymous with the brand a company creates to anchor and influence them. Relationships and image can be developed and cultivated strategically, but they can’t be engineered from whole cloth like a brand. They aren’t created the same way, measured the same way, protected the same way, or valued the same way.

My indictment of the marketing industry is based on its constant glorification of shiny little memes that are often insightful, but never put into the context of a consistent framework. So the meaning of bedrock concepts like brand–and in fact like “marketing” itself–changes with whatever way the wind is blowing. That’s a serious problem for a profession that is struggling to be taken seriously, and it has to stop.

Brand is a word with a meaning. Brand Relationship is a valuable concept with a different meaning. A big part of their value comes from their distinctness, which provides better clarity for understanding what they hold in common. When you wax poetic and find all kinds of new meanings and metaphors for brand without making distinctions from the fundamental concept, it may sell, but it breeds confusion and erodes the clarifying value of the concept.

That is semantics. And it is important.

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