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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Obsessive branding disorderly conduct?

Brilliant skewering of the branding and anti-branding tonight on the Colbert Report.

I am consistently amazing by Mr. Colbert's ability to indistinguishably tow the line between support his guests and completely undermining everything they stand for.

I happened to catch the his interview tonight with Lucas Conley, author of Obsessive Branding Disorder. While Mr. Conley made some interesting points about how companies are expending excessive amounts of their revenue on branding ventures and product extensions rather than product improvements, Colbert managed to make his guest's point look both pertinent and asinine.

Conley cited a mother in Conneticut selling the rights to her baby's name to an online casino, but is that really advertising? Isn't that just the next generation of used car salemen and giant inflatable gorillas? Someone just trying to make a fast buck?

Not that I've gained great insights within my first week of my advertising career, but I believe there are some great things that brands can do for their own companies as well as consumers. They certainly aren't want some consumers want , but for other they provide a well packaged experience that really can be meaningful.

While the idea of Koolaid brand Reeboks seems bizarre, I see little wrong with Harley Davidson brand birthday candles. I can imagine the the joy on some 58-year old Hog-enthusiast's face when he sees that candle lit up on the top of his birthday cake.

Anyway. I'm sure it'll be on YouTube by tomorrow. Watch it. Decide for yourself. Is branding out for control or not? Does Lucas Conley really understand what branding is? Do I? Your choice.


jmSnowden said...

The true test of a brand’s topography is the alignment of the associations. The common error is to infer the associations rather that truly research them. If Jack Daniels and BBQ are both associated with heritage, taste and refinement, then Jack Daniels BBQ sauce makes sense. But what about brownies? Whisky is used in plenty of sweets, why not Jack Daniels brownies from Duncan Hines? It just does not feel right and here’s why. It is not because it would not taste good (I’m sure some chef could make them taste great), it’s because brownies are associated with childhood, Mom and other wholesome things that don’t involve whisky. Unless, of course, your Mom is Robert Downey Jr. Then the associations are spot on.
Understanding the associations people make with things is the key to knowing how far a brand can stretch and how the communication can be formed for maximum impact.

Jim Lippard said...

I just saw the Colbert interview with Conley, and while I find it amusing, it wasn't clear to me what Conley's message is. If his message is that companies and individuals have made some poor branding decisions, I agree. If his message is that companies shouldn't try to expand their brands into new areas, I didn't see him actually make an argument for that. His list of "top ten overrated brands" at looks to me like a list of brands some of which have made some missteps and some of which he seems to just not like, with very thin arguments for why they're "overrated"--e.g., Southwest Airlines is an overrated brand because of its FAA issue? Apple is an overrated brand because the iPhone is going to face competition from Google Android phones at some point in the future? That's just silly.

andy said...

I agree with everything both of you very intelligent men have said here. Extensions must be carefully considered to not only bring new life to a brand but also to avoid potential harm.

I think Conley's rebellion, as you said, Jim, is against poor branding choices. They're prevalence now is just like the existence of any other marketing schemes. When banner ads happened, the internet became overrun with pop-ups. After viral videos crashed YouTube everyone wanted one. The other day I saw a teeerrible one done by Coors Light.

Extensions are a great way to not only generate revenue but also enhance a brand. When done properly.

But sadly, as long as there are people, there will be bad marketing decisions. So yes, Conley has a point. But blanket statements such as his hardly seem fair or even intelligent.