The human mind is one of the most complex and mysterious things in the universe. Yet when the word "depression" is spoken, for example, despite it being a concept squarely anchored in the realm of psychology and the mind, it connotes a clear definition and meaning. This is without regard to who says the word, either psychologist, or patient, or psychiatrist, or internist, or talk show host. Depression is depression. When people throughout the business world say "debit" or "credit", these are ideas that no matter whether you are a CPA or a CMO or a CFP or a CHRO, the meaning is precisely the same.

Furthermore, we live in a Western world that is dominated by marketing-driven consumerism. Marketing and advertising are woven into just about every nook of society; they are the fundamental engines that drive business. Wouldn't it be reasonable to think that the basic pillars of our craft would have been set by now, if for no other reason than since the dawn of time it has always been in companies' best interests to maximize revenue and profit?

Why, then, the extraordinary "wishy washiness" in brand marketing? Why is there such confusion and lack of clarity when we start talking about marketing concepts, taken to a completely other level when the topic of brands and branding arises? It's almost like when people talk about the paranormal or near-death experiences. All kinds of stuff from 'left field' makes it into the conversation. :-)

Here we are - firmly into the 21st century - and the most sophisticated of marketers still debate the meanings of the fundamental and basic ideas of our craft. We constantly argue such Cro Magnon questions as, "what is a brand"? Two "pros" can be asked this question and come up with sometimes dramatically different answers. As an example, while it is now universally accepted that human emotion plays a critical role in marketing, there's someone on Twitter who promotes himself as a 'branding expert' who doesn't think that emotion should be a part of brand strategy at all. Huh??? It's like if a prominent economist argued that economics shouldn't include the topic of money.

I've acknowledged that the human mind - which, of course, is where all of these ideas both reside and are about - is complex and confusing, but if other fields can standardize nomenclature and meaning, then what's behind us not doing so? If there is a standard set of principles on how to treat mental illnesses, or set a broken bone, or build a nuclear reactor - then why can't we branding folks get on the same page?

Could it be because there are so many people out there who have a financial interest in finding an "angle" to justify their existence? We're all competing with each other, to varying degrees, that the extent to which one can come up with a new idea, even if its only new shine put on an old concept, ostensibly allows us to win business and stay in the game one day longer. Perhaps, but I'm not sure how branding is any different from any other field where people are competing in the arena of ideas to put food on their plates. Why is branding so different than all other industries? Do you honestly think that on "The Logistics Farm" they are debating "what is a supply chain?" I don't think so.

Perspective, clearly, has something to do with it. A brand manager from a CPG company and a creative from an ad agency, for example, look at the words "brand" and "branding" from different angles. They see it from their unique perspectives, strategic and creative. This seems to somewhat beg the question, though, of why the common language when talking about (even slightly) different things? Using perhaps an extreme example, for some, "branding" contemplates managing all of the holistic inputs that touch consumers from a product, whereas for others it merely means a logo. If some Native American languages have 142 different ways to say "love", then why is our vocabulary so limited when talking about brands? :-\

Maybe the answer lies in the fact that there is no universal governing body that establishes common industry procedures or confers professional accreditation. I guess if doctors didn't have to pass their various examinations we would have all manner of "quacks" pushing anything and everything to enrich themselves. Clearly lawyers need a "bar" since a common set of legal principles is the basis upon which any legal interaction can proceed. I'm not sure that marketers require governance in that way, but sometimes I wish we could all just understand what it is we are talking about. You'd think that with something as central to our way of life as the consumer - brand relationship that we'd have figured this stuff out by now. :-)

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Tags: brand, brandstrategy, marketing


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