21 January 2009

Obsessive Branding Disorder–A Zeitgeist Affliction

1921.Look! A post having to do with branding or marketing or design! If you want to follow my public-personal journal of the Sam Adams Electrolux Imbroglio, follow this entry here. I'll tack new stuff on the end.

In the course of marketing and design, the concept of Brand stands large as the holy grail toward which many work.

Branding involves more than just coming up with a brilliant logo. Branding addresses every tangible and intangible about whatever it is you're promoting ... be it the experience, the ingredients, the physical presence, how it relates to your perceived audience ... and attempts to distill it into a high, marketable concept.

But what happens when that all careers (NB: "careen" is usually used here. That word, like "decimate" is typically used wrong) out of control? Sure, just about everyone turns a jaundiced eye toward product placement anymore. But the quest to have a strong brand has gone so out of control that marketers, like Burger King, first tell us that they've found people who have never had a Whopper before; then they prank themselves that they've discontinued the Whopper just to vid the reactions of upset customers. What do do after that?

Two words for you: The Burger. From the OBD blog:

The Whopper has been whooped! After recent gags in which customers were told the Whopper was discontinued, now comes news that the King’s flagship sandwich is again the butt of the joke. Only available in the UK, the $200 boutique burger - roughly 100 times the cost of a regular burger - features Wagyu beef (AKA Kobe beef), white truffles, Modena balsamic vinegar, “onion tempura prepared in Cristal champagne” and “Italy's finest Pata Negra prosciutto.” Oh, right, and pink Himalayan rock salt (naturally). And what do they wind up calling this culinary delight? “The Burger.”

The quest for a strong brand has gone beyond a quest; it's ascended through addiction into obsession.

Lucas Conley has produced a book that looks like it will be provocative, Obsessive Branding Disorder: The Illusion of Business and the Business of Illusion, which appears to be all about our modern obsession of style over substance:

With hundreds of new products arriving on retail shelves every day, and the rise of cheaper foreign brands and the house brands of mega-stores like Target and Wal-Mart, American companies are increasingly resorting to image overhauls to attract customers in lieu of improvements to product quality or functionality. Identity, in a sea of nearly indistinguishable items, is more important than ever before. Yet while innovative packaging commands attention, it often does so at considerable cost to the businesses and consumers responsible for fueling an industry of shape-shifting.

Looks interesting. Don't have the book yet, but here's the blog. Recommended.

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