What Will Replace the Brand?

Over the past 25 years branding has flourished as the cultural keystone and pseudo-scientific discipline of choice for marketers everywhere. Hipster author, Douglas Haddow, is calling bullshit. Tell us what you think.
Branding

We will change the way information flows, the way we interact with the mass media, the way in which meaning is produced.

The monolithic notion of a “brand” – an infinitely dependable symbol of prosperity, happiness, comfort and security – is over. For nearly a century brands acted as the definitive medium through which we experienced capitalism. A brand’s strength came from its ability to transmit a consistently identical static message. Brands gave our reality a strong foundation: symbols dotting our mental and physical landscapes that we could use to navigate our way through life. But then brands began to show their age. They started to rust, chip, degrade, fall apart. All of a sudden brands cease to be the impenetrable fortresses of consumer relations we thought they were, and anyone could start a brand and do whatever he wanted with it. Gen X created flexible brands that catered to subterranean audiences, prompting Gen Y to embrace the idea of the “personal brand” - individuality expressed through a marketable system of identifiable signifiers.

And so these slick little icons – towering planets that represented entire universes of product experience – were slowly deconstructed to a point of irrelevance. Our daily lives are now inundated by a torrent of dead images and meaningless symbols from a bygone era, leaving us with one very important question to answer: What’s next?

Douglas Haddow

104 comments on the article “What Will Replace the Brand?”

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Moeafati

Branding has been around for quite some time, having evolved to the form we know from "marks of trade" and symbols stating manufacturer or origin. Brands are symbols, and humans are symbolic creatures. Language, art, religion, and commerce are all symbolic activities. A brand is a special kind of symbol, in that it is attributed to a product, somewhat arbitrarily, and it is attributed to things that are for sale. What has happened in the last hundred or so years, what I would say capitalism has made possible, is the application of brands (symbols of commerce) to things that had not previously been for sale. When something previously unsaleable (a religion or a lifestyle or a political party or a subculture or an individual - I will refer to this thing as an individual) brands itself it puts itself up for sale. Not only is it enabling advertisers to co-opt the symbols of the lifestyle or subculture in order to apply the symbols to their own product, the individual is setting up a scenario in which the individual no longer controls the symbols that define it. This is the essence of alienation; the individual interprets itself in terms of the symbols that refer to it and sees those symbols also refer to something that is not itself. Regardless, brands will continue to exist and evolve. What will have to end is the way we all allow the symbols in our world to seem to create their own meaning, rather than to refer to the meaning of the objects that they are intended to symbolize... to "see through" brands as symbols that represent ideas. Ideas that are used in ways that may not be true. The symbol is not the the thing. The car is not the happiness on the face of the woman driving it. The sneaker is not the skill. It might be on an athlete the first time you see it, but wearing it does not make you an athlete too. The church is not the belief. The logo is not the quality. The scarf is not the solidarity. The flag is not the country. Sometimes we see through the symbol to the essence beneath, sometimes we don't. Soon we won't have a choice... to take the symbols that surround us at face value is to see the world as empty and alienated from itself. To see the objects of the world as they are and to apply our own values and symbols to them is to see the world as full and fascinating. My two cents.

Moeafati

Branding has been around for quite some time, having evolved to the form we know from "marks of trade" and symbols stating manufacturer or origin. Brands are symbols, and humans are symbolic creatures. Language, art, religion, and commerce are all symbolic activities. A brand is a special kind of symbol, in that it is attributed to a product, somewhat arbitrarily, and it is attributed to things that are for sale. What has happened in the last hundred or so years, what I would say capitalism has made possible, is the application of brands (symbols of commerce) to things that had not previously been for sale. When something previously unsaleable (a religion or a lifestyle or a political party or a subculture or an individual - I will refer to this thing as an individual) brands itself it puts itself up for sale. Not only is it enabling advertisers to co-opt the symbols of the lifestyle or subculture in order to apply the symbols to their own product, the individual is setting up a scenario in which the individual no longer controls the symbols that define it. This is the essence of alienation; the individual interprets itself in terms of the symbols that refer to it and sees those symbols also refer to something that is not itself. Regardless, brands will continue to exist and evolve. What will have to end is the way we all allow the symbols in our world to seem to create their own meaning, rather than to refer to the meaning of the objects that they are intended to symbolize... to "see through" brands as symbols that represent ideas. Ideas that are used in ways that may not be true. The symbol is not the the thing. The car is not the happiness on the face of the woman driving it. The sneaker is not the skill. It might be on an athlete the first time you see it, but wearing it does not make you an athlete too. The church is not the belief. The logo is not the quality. The scarf is not the solidarity. The flag is not the country. Sometimes we see through the symbol to the essence beneath, sometimes we don't. Soon we won't have a choice... to take the symbols that surround us at face value is to see the world as empty and alienated from itself. To see the objects of the world as they are and to apply our own values and symbols to them is to see the world as full and fascinating. My two cents.

Brian Creath

Brands Are Dead. (Really?) Johnathan Salem Baskin and now you. “Brands Are Dead,” according to Mr. Baskin, who wrote, “Branding Only Works On Cattle.” In a November 2008 post, he says, among other things, “Nobody carries brands around in their heads. Nobody has a relationship with a brand. Or lives a brand lifestyle. Brands aren’t conversations, and they’re not bought, possessed, or coveted. Companies don’t own them. Neither do consumers or shareholders.” Funny. As I drove from Walmart through McDonald’s to the Apple Store the other day, I could have sworn he was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a guy playing devil’s advocate to sell a few books; but c’mon, dead? Read the rest of this post, here: http://briancreath.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/brands-are-not-dead/

Brian Creath

Brands Are Dead. (Really?) Johnathan Salem Baskin and now you. “Brands Are Dead,” according to Mr. Baskin, who wrote, “Branding Only Works On Cattle.” In a November 2008 post, he says, among other things, “Nobody carries brands around in their heads. Nobody has a relationship with a brand. Or lives a brand lifestyle. Brands aren’t conversations, and they’re not bought, possessed, or coveted. Companies don’t own them. Neither do consumers or shareholders.” Funny. As I drove from Walmart through McDonald’s to the Apple Store the other day, I could have sworn he was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a guy playing devil’s advocate to sell a few books; but c’mon, dead? Read the rest of this post, here: http://briancreath.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/brands-are-not-dead/

Anonymous

I know what you mean. LOL. Apple is a brand with which I have a strong allegiance and history. haha!! I don't think it's dead, but definitely transformed. People like the consistency of a brand but the idea of "slapping a brand on something and "buying a brand" is definitely dead I think. (it is for me atleast LOL!) If I stick with a certain brand it's because of the quality of the product (like apple). etc. interesting though . I just hope less branding means less packaging, which means less plastic pollutatns, which means safer healthier clean oceans, which means less plastic and pollutants in fish, which means less pollutants in our diets, which means we're healthier and happier with less branding plastic packaging! haha!! TRUE! lol www.validatelife.com www.destinationescapade.com John Kooz, Master-lifecoach

Anonymous

I know what you mean. LOL. Apple is a brand with which I have a strong allegiance and history. haha!! I don't think it's dead, but definitely transformed. People like the consistency of a brand but the idea of "slapping a brand on something and "buying a brand" is definitely dead I think. (it is for me atleast LOL!) If I stick with a certain brand it's because of the quality of the product (like apple). etc. interesting though . I just hope less branding means less packaging, which means less plastic pollutatns, which means safer healthier clean oceans, which means less plastic and pollutants in fish, which means less pollutants in our diets, which means we're healthier and happier with less branding plastic packaging! haha!! TRUE! lol www.validatelife.com www.destinationescapade.com John Kooz, Master-lifecoach

Anonymous

This book was awful. Completely contradictory. Poorly constructed arguments all around. Branding has evolved but it far from dead. The author's reluctance to admit it crushes the premise of his argument from the beginning.

Anonymous

This book was awful. Completely contradictory. Poorly constructed arguments all around. Branding has evolved but it far from dead. The author's reluctance to admit it crushes the premise of his argument from the beginning.

Brands Are Dead...

A follow-up post to my comment on April 9, 2009: Brands Are Dead. (Really?) Read it at: http://briancreath.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/brands-are-not-dead-part-2/

Brands Are Dead...

A follow-up post to my comment on April 9, 2009: Brands Are Dead. (Really?) Read it at: http://briancreath.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/brands-are-not-dead-part-2/

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