09 September 2011

[branding] When You "Make Your Brand Work" For A Bigger Brand, Does That Make You Seem Phony?

2692.This may sound odd coming from me, since I don't really even care for Project Runway, but I happen to think that Tim Gunn is one of the most fun TV personalities out there right now.

The whole elegant, confident "Make It Work" thing. He's turned his personality into a pretty powerful brand and it's really taken him off and taken him places. As a matter of fact, he's recognizable and big enough now that he can hire his brand out to promote other brands, as this recently-released commercial where Expedia gets the Project Runway treatment …

I'm hardly a brand guru (yet), but I get a certain feeling when I see things like this.

Now, I've got to say, the commercial is very slick, and nails the PR vibe with preciseness. And it's not unentertaining. Expedia got their money's worth, and more. Tim Gunn's smoothness and personality lend a certain style to Expedia's brand that's hip and unique.

But here's where I think this might be going a bit far. I'll try not to ramble, because I'm going way subjective here … but then, that's what branding is all about.

Tim Gunn's signature phrases … Make it work, Major WOW factor … were uniquely him. They expressed his personality in ways nothing else quite could and that nobody else could ever own. He is suave and smooth in a way that's obviously sincere and authentic. I get the impression that, when we see Tim doing his Timness, we aren't seeing an act. He's not a put-on.

However, when he does it in the service of another brand, that removes a the honestness about it. More's the pity, it seems insincere now. I'm left with the impression that Expedia has enhanced his brand … but Tim's unenhanced his, and now, it's not as fun as it used to be.

Now, I'm not exactly saying that it's a bad thing to hire your brand out. Branding is a tool. It's a powerful tool with more edges than a Gillette disposable razor (see what I did there?). It can be used for evil, good, or awesome. But I do wonder if it's always a good thing to hire out your brand to support someone else's for advertising in this way. And branding, when it's used in this way, to me, sucks a bit of the sincerity out of human emotion.

Or … am I just being too sensitive here? Obviously this use of Tim Gunn's identity to promote Expedia obviously moved me in a way.

I'd be interested to know what people think. Comment, please.

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