The language of branding, continued

My earlier post on the language of branding seems to have resonated with a few people.

Tony Goodson comments and relates it to an excellent Simon Caulkin piece from the Observer.

I bet Martin Johnson never went on a leadership course

And also bet that he doesn’t write down his values and seek out other team member’s values and then have a set of team values. Forget Leadership and Values. Ants don’t have Leadership and Values, they just get on with it.

Uncommunicative, less than media friendly, Johnson is pitch- rather than book-smart. He is, as he would say himself, an ordinary bloke. An accidental, initially reluctant captain, at first he was too taciturn to be a really good one.

Jennifer Rice comments:

You just verbalized what I feel on a day-to-day basis. I want to make a bigger difference than coming up with a new tag line. But companies who understand real, authentic branding don’t need me…. and companies who don’t understand it, can’t (or don’t want to) be helped…Sometimes I think it’s just us consulting folks sitting around reading each other’s books and blogs. Oh well, don’t mind me… just another jaded marketing/branding person

I really understand Jennifer’s frustration and I really like her for voicing her frustration, I believe that is partly how we get ourselves out of abstractions. And, I’m a little more optimistic about the outlook for her as I’m finding that many executives are actually longing to get away from the abstractions of brandspeak and will embrace other ways of doing their work. My own view is that a conversational approach does work, I’ll blog more on that later probably.

Earl Mardle elaborates on his experience:

Here’s the nasty secret of branding; It Happens One Contact At A Time and nothing you can do will shortcut that. And the people who make the contacts, from sales and delivery to training and support to the accounts department can make it or break it. Then the boss gets all swish and gives everyone email as well without knowing how everyone actually feels about the company.

And I think that good conversations quickly reveal that the CEO really does want to know what’s going on, and his swishness is partly a result of no-one taking the risk of challenging him. In Earl’s own blog, he elaborates on his frustrations with the B word. There’s a comment there from Marc Orchant:

My company spent a year (just prior to my coming on board) thrashing about its “brand” and even commissioning a “brand architecture” study. Fortunately, it’s a really smart group of people and sensibility won over styling.

That’s one of my hot buttons, this phrase “brand architecture”. It seems to suggest brands are fixed things, like buildings, which emerge exactly according to the architect’s blueprint. It’s an abstraction that seems to ignore the reality of brands and their social nature. Of course, it’s a way of seeing the world that allows the authors to think of themselves as rather powerful, which may be part of the appeal.

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