Papa’s Got a Bland New Brand 2

I just got off the phone with John Winsor. We had a great conversation about brands and marketing, and we’re essentially on the same page. He posts his own response to my comments here. I have to say what I appreciate about the whole experience is finding a thread online that leads to an open and engaging discussion, less about "what’s wrong" with marketing per se than about how marketing can be done more effectively.

John’s focus is on the development of *real* interaction between marketers and their customers, rather than the relationship-by-proxy that happens through agencies, focus-groups, surveys, etc. He talks about going Beyond the Brand (ie: the hype of branding) by changing the one-way flow of marketing communication–the broadcasting of a pre-fab message–to a two-way dialog with customers. I can’t argue with that–in fact, I’m looking forward to more of a dialog with John in the future.

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Papa’s Got a Bland New Brand

This is unreal. Over at Corante’s BrandShift blog, John Winsor is arguing that the word brand has become too stale to be useful, and that we need to come up with some *new* special word that infuses new life into what it is that marketing does.

The word brand has started to loose it’s magic through overuse. Is
there another word that captures the same concepts? If so, what is it?

Is this really the face of marketing today? Is this the best we can do? Apparently, the way to solve marketing’s shortcomings is not to dig deep in order to understand how we are failing to provide real value and how we can improve; the solution is to just toss away the old paradigm and create something new and shiny. A new word will solve all our problems and make it all magical again. 

*This* is exactly what I’ve been ranting about for the past few weeks. I am extending an invitation to John Winsor–and anyone at Corante–to dialog on this topic and explain their point of view. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not we can get something going to get to the bottom of this.

I should have mentioned in the post that Winsor was picking up the call for a new word for Brand from a William Safire column  that makes the same case: "brand" is bland, let’s have something new. That doesn’t change my position–I could add to it by saying marketers probably shouldn’t be taking professional cues from William Safire–but the original column is relevant to the discussion.

4 thoughts on “Papa’s Got a Bland New Brand

  1. john winsor

    Christopher –

    Thanks for the invitation. To tell you the truth, I don’t think we could agree more. By advocating unbranding the word brand, I mean unhyping it. I agree with your posts both here and at Business Week that branding is a pretty basic concept that many in the marketing community have overcomplicated.

    In my opinion, one of the major issues marketing is the application of a top-down, controlling philosophy to interact with customers. While top-down tools might work well in finance or manufacturing they loose their effectiveness when they are applied to the humanistic world of marketing and product development. Instead of using top-down, inside-out tools, such as mass media and focus groups, to engage with people outside the company, especially customers, bottom-up, outside-in tools must be developed to engage the right customers and communities in a dialogue. Bob Garfield’s tale of An Impending Period of Transitional Chaos for Media on NPR’s All Things Considered last Friday is a good example of this impending shift. Likewise, blogs are a perfect example of the need for a more bottom-up approach.

    Companies that connect with people’s imaginations, that inspire, provoke and stimulate, helping them interpret the world that surrounds them, will be successful. Those are able to make the transition to provide honest, original, cultural materials, offering space for co-creation will win. Proactive people will carefully weed out and broadcast those products, and companies, that they do not trust. Many companies have already discovered that being good corporate citizens can be good for themselves.

    It is the creative citizens of a community – both the customers and employees – that will help companies survive by engaging in a deeper dialogue, by co-creating from the bottom-up.

    Great brands, like Nike and Patagonia, engage in exactly this kind of deep dialogue and co-creation.

  2. Johnnie Moore

    Hi Christopher, I just found your invitation courtesy of Technorati.

    I posted a comment in John W’s blog which reflects my own view that there’s not much point in trying to find a new word for brand. Much better to engage in more plain speaking against the branding/marketing we hate, in favour of what we like – and not wasting time in trying to redefine what the words mean.

  3. Chris


    Thanks for the response. I had a great conversation with John on the phone yesterday, and we’ll be continuing the conversation online.

    I appreciate your weighing in. I’m interested to see where this all goes.


  4. Errol Saldanha

    ‘Brand’ and ‘branding’ are just words — they cannot be held responsible for over-marketing by corporations or consultants (what William is really reacting to).

    If we “cool off” on uses of the word ‘brand’, what single term do we replace it with? I have spent countless hours researching and I could not find anything better. It is too easy to suggest that ‘brand’ is a bad word — a lot harder to find a replacement and even harder to properly define it (which is where we should focus our energy).

    The terms ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ are already “unbranded”. As a result of all the hype, few people understand their true meaning. So it is time for branding, not unbranding.

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