F!@#k brand!

Brand worship and propagation is dead!

This false worship of a logo or image that products are designed to support is woefully inadequate in the modern world today. We do everything in service of the brand nowadays. How will a new idea or concept support the brand? Where can we take the brand next?

These questions that are asked by marketing minds are outdated, outmoded and irrelevant. One just has to look to the recent past and how the Nazis in Germany used brand to prop up a way of life that proved destructive and worthless for its followers. Chairman Mao in China used communist propaganda to support his brand of social engineering in China. Utter failure!

Wall Street has its brand blinders on everyday, and propaganda rags like business week drink the kool-aid of “brand” a little bit more each day. They know the lemmings out in consumer society, where loyalty comes at a cheap price, will continue to buy trashy product just because it is branded with a mark that gives status and false sense of place in capitalist society.

Product rules! Always has. Always will. In the scheme of things, this current tangent we are on in the growth of the global economy is due to crash soon and be replaced with something more real, substantial and life afferming for the consumer. A revolution is brewing!

Imagine a product that has no branding, no image, propagnda supporting its existence. It just does what it does, again and again and leaves the consumer to seek other forms of existence that are more healthy rather than blind loyalty to a corporation that extolls profits and growth at any cost, including war, perstilence and explotation of individuals, families, civic groups, governments and nations.

Brand is dying on the vine!

Agreed, this is a side effect of technology democratizing information. Consumers are more saavy about design and marketing. They know and trust the products more and the brands less.

Sorry, what’s the point for this post?

Did you feel like ranting, or is this your manifesto?

“Imagine a product that has no branding, no image, propagnda supporting its existence.”

post one

Even those that consciously choose to not have a brand like Muji or are anti-commercial like AdBusters have a brand. Unless everything was produced as a single object and sold only by the maker – I think you are going to end up with a brand in the end. Now that that way of seeing is part of our communication strategy, we cannot escape it.[/url]

Imagine a product that has no branding, no image, propagnda supporting its existence. It just does what it does, again and again and leaves the consumer to seek other forms of existence that are more healthy rather than blind loyalty to a corporation that extolls profits and growth at any cost, including war, perstilence and explotation of individuals, families, civic groups, governments and nations.

… and the point you’re missing is that your brand worship is merely a subset of a much larger problem… rampant, blind, consumerism. What difference does a brand make if your culture is going to consume and dispose millions upon millions of whatever piece of crap that you thow at them?

Addressing this question as a problem with brands is like giving a paitent asprin for an inoperable brain tumor… it may dull the pain, but…

As long as we (as designers) keep throwing junk into the consumer pile, it’s not going to get better… And the naive design students who think that a consumer product can exist in our society outside of the consumer structure are only throwing more junk onto the consumer pile.

At some point, we have to decide that we’ve designed enough PDAs, Cell phones, cars, and sneakers… then maybe we can discuss brandless products.

I think that branding is a natural development of humanity. Humans learn by experience. When we find something that makes us feel good, we want more. When we find something that hurts us, we try to avoid it.*

Brands developed from the opposite end. A company builds a good TV. They want the consumer, who enjoyed their TV, to buy other products from them. So, they create a brand to identify their product.

Today, the brand has evolved as our view of products have changed. Now, Sony still means “quality product”, but it also means, “I’m a cool dynamic person”. Or, at least that’s what Sony wants its consumers to feel. Ironically enough, Muji and Adbusters both are projecting a very strong brand. They are targeting people who want an anti-corporate or anti-globalisation lifestyle.

Is branding dying? I don’t think it ever will. It’s linked to another human characteristic, prejudice. We’ve tried to eliminate that for centuries and failed.

*Actually, this sounds like behavioural psychology, which is relevant to most animals.

Whats funny about Adbusters is they are not Non-Brand, they are Anti-Brand. And they have built a brand out of that position. Which implies that without the largely branded world, they would not be able to exist. Look at their shoe. Is it an original, no. It is a knock off of the most famously branded shoe ever.

I think a non-brand would be anonymous products that function well, have no advertising, don’t seek media attention in any way, have no identity that tie them to other products in a line… I think it might be imposible.

If you go back to the beginning of sold goods, items crafted and sold, lets say to items made for sale by a blacksmith or whateve, you will still find branding. Embelishments that are the mark of their maker. And really, could you imagine it any other way? The human ego propels certain people to make things “better” or at least their own way, and when someone puts effort into such a thing, they want credit for it… and a brand is born. And in this way product and brand are in an inseprable dance.

The best brands combine brand management and product development in ways that are relevant to the way people live.

Branding happens on its own. You could try to take brands away, but the result is a brand (american apparrel). Its also a function of design – you can identify an ipod without trouble despite no visible Apple logo’s.
The only way to get rid of brand is to homogonize all products, remove innovation, and squelch creativity. Branding is also somewhat critical for commerce, even essential commerce. When Food Lion got caught mixing rotten meat into its food, it was nice to know what the food lion brand looked like (so as to go elsewhere).

The problem (IMO) is bad design. Outstanding desing brands itself while poor or uncreative desing requires forced branding. For example, Marcianni (sp?), the designer working for guess, is generally identifiable from a distance by anyone who cares about such things, despite no label, by their cuts/designs/etc… and characteristics. Abercrombie and Fitch by contrast copies the norm and brands by cramming a monster label on everything they make. Good design versus forced branding.

Fact is, no matter what you do your branding yourself (even if your brand is that you do nothing about your brand, which in turn attracts a whole target audience of people who hate brands yet are rushing to the non-brand-brand). I’ve never seen a slashdot tshirt (although I’m sure they exist), but I do understand their “personality.” How you choose to brand yourself is a reflection of your creativity – you can brand by shoving brands down people’s throat (Abercrombie) or you can brand by engaging the community in an interesting and creative way while subtly letting consumers know where you came from (Linux). The second is win win – companies become known not b/c they are able to spend money, but b/c they are valuable assets to users in their demographic (open source business model).

Straight from the horse’s mouth: I work in marketing for CADtalent.com. We decided from the outset that the market has evolved sufficiently that instead of spending top dollar on advertisment campaigns we’d engage the CAD community, build services that support users, ask questions, and generally be providers of anything that CAD users need (advice welcome). So clearly I’m biassed in all of my comments, but I still think I’m right – building a brand need not be a bad or detrimental thing if done on a community level.

Your input happily welcome at johnl (at) cadtalent (dotcom).

One last thing, as an example: The Red Cross, Sierra Club, Flight For Life, etcetera … are all brands. Brands are symbols that trigger memories and ideas. The red cross symbol for me triggers the idea of good people doing good things. The microsoft symbol makes me want to back up all my files. Branding just reflects your company, or at least how people perceive it. Maybe the problem is that so many companies are unethical?

Branding wouldn’t be necessary if more products were developed to last a lifetime (and then some). There’s plenty of companies who promise a lifetime garauntee, but what this really means is that they’ll promise to replace or fix whatever it is they sold you until you die.

A sad thing I heard on the radio today…the definition of “durable goods” means is has a quality lifetime of 3 years. That’s dismally pathetic.

Wouldn’t it be nice to buy a car when you’re 16 and it lasts unti you die without showing any age aside from cosmetics (for which remedies could be developed)? This is a definate possibility, but companies sometimes even engineer “wear flaws” into a product so that eventually consumers are forced to by the newer version.

Brand means fuck-all when you’ve got the best, and by BEST I mean, unbelievably reliable, never-dies quality found in few products outside a Swiss Army knife.

I love it when environmentalists play the “last a lifetime” card. What would LA be like if everyone was driving Ford Model Ts or VW Beetles (the old one). Probably alot more brown than it does today!

And what about all the products that we would have loved to have been good for a lifetime. That old crank telephone in the wood boxes, coal or wood burning stoves for cooking & heating, black and white TVs, VHS VCRs. I have nothing against old technology (I listen to shortwave radio!), but technology is bound to march on.

What I’d like to see, is more recycling. This is already being done by the automotive industry (probably the products that are recycled the most), some forward thinking companies (alot of Herman-Millers furniture is very recyclable) and governments (the EUs IEEE initiative). What would be a great idea would be a environmental tax on products. This would be calculated by factoring in air pollution from transport, the pollution at the factory, the amount of the product that can be recycled and the company’s system to make sure that product comes back to be recycled. This would apply to all products, including food, so sorry to people that like bananas.

consumers do not trust products from brands/companies they do not know. my experience with a startup was very frustrating. we had a good product at a good price, but we couldn’t get any traction in the market because people couldn’t be reassured that our company would be around tomorrow and they were right. a self-fulfilling prophecy to be sure.

single products could be brandless or avoid brand function but most products are compound, atleast products that carry a huge brand signal. for instance companies like boeing or any automotive company that use thousands or hundreds of parts from other companies. they simply can’t be stripped of brands because there’s a rehearsed QC on the way that requires a recognizable brand signal. this creates a loop.

some companies have developed after the industrial revolution relying heavily on brand as a catalyst while others have used it for other objectives mainly demonstration of objectives and goals in a purely commercial way.

i believe the latter in some areas has been damaging to an extent that it has obsecured the real function of a brand, something more in line with the former understanding of it.

that’s why it can get confusing in a broad sense specially when those brands in the latter category try to dictate the evolution or process of creating a brand for all products.

another problem is that there’s no way you can qualify or disqualify a brand with something like an FCC approval or non-approval, it’ll find other channels. in other words in order to survive the market it could create fake signals that ordinary consumers tend to find appealing without any real reason connected to that particular product’s function.