Skip to main content

Controlling Your Brand In A World Of Brand Anarchy

Here's an overview of the evolution from brand infancy to sophistication:

  • Stage 1 - Mark of authenticity - a thing is what it says it is; trusted products and services
  • Stage 2 - Relevant differentiation - my brand is more relevant than yours
  • Stage 3 - An integrated experience across "touchpoints"
  • Stage 4 - Person = brand; emotional labor is more important than physical labor; and/or you are always self-employed, building your own separate professional image
  • Stage 5 - Social media integrates with branding - the studied effort to appear "authentic"
Underpinning the above are the following three disciplines:

  • Brand architecture - where and how brand names are applied (corporate brand, house of brands, brand endorsement)
  • Brand operationalization - making the brand the center of the business - always asking "how will this affect the brand?"
  • Brand internalization - employees as brand drivers - empowering the staff to act 
The above presupposes that a brand can be owned. Someone intentionally creates a brand - it's "theirs." But it is common knowledge nowadays that the concept of "brand ownership" is squishy at best. This is due to:
  • Copycatters: No sooner do you innovate than they steal your idea and make another one just like it - well, almost.
  • Conversationalists: They bring other people in to opine on your brand, some of whom understand it and some of whom don't, but your ability to control the narrative is lost in the process
  • Curators: They like your brand so much they contribute to it on social media, adding this, subtracting that, until it looks completely different than you meant it to.
  • Hijackers: Commenting here, blogging there, coopting your symbols and photobombing your best intentions, they subvert the original meaning of the brand.
  • Revolutionaries: They remove you from the center of the brand because they don't believe in you, and/or the principle that a brand should have a center (anarchists).
There are two ways to approach this problem. One is not to care, not to define it as a problem - in that case you don't need to read the rest of this post. And you are also not a Brand with a capital "B" because you're not making any effort to shape your image. Rather you are a brand by default.

So think of brand anarchy as a problem, and solve it by thinking of your brand completely differently than any existing definition would have you do so. As follows:
  • Get away from the idea that your brand is a thing. It's not a thing. It's a work in progress.
  • Brands do not progress in a linear fashion - Point A to Point B. (The tendency to update logos is misleading.)
  • Brands do not evolve like dandelion puffs, constellations of stars, or any other idea where there is a network of related items that together constitute a united front. Your brand is not the sum total of what people think it is. There is no such thing - that is impossible. The idea is a lie.
Rather, here is a definition of brand that you can use in the context of controlling your image:

Brand is the outcome of the dynamic between yourself and those who respond to you. 

Put simply -

Branding is war.

Your job is to understand the nature of the conflict, and like a great warrior, decide which forces to use to your advantage, when to confront and when to lie low, who are your allies and who is out to eliminate you. Here are some resources that can help:
There are those who say that there is nothing new under the sun. I prefer to think that there's a lot that's new, and there are also new ways of combining old information to produce better results than we've been able to achieve in the past. 

Unfortunately branding (like any discipline or realm of scholarship) can be used for good or for evil. I can only hope there are good people reading this blog who use these tools ethically and fight back against the forces of propaganda, dictatorship and yes, terrorism.

* All opinions my own. 

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between brand equity and brand parity?

Brand equity is a financial calculation. It is the difference between a commodity product or service and a branded one. For example if you sell a plain orange for $.50 but a Sunkist orange for $.75 and the Sunkist orange has brand equity you can calculate it at $.25 per orange.

Brand parity exists when two different brands have a relatively equal value. The reason we call it "parity" is that the basis of their value may be different. For example, one brand may be seen as higher in quality, while the other is perceived as fashionable.

All opinions my own. Originally posted to Quora. Public domain photo by hbieser via Pixabay.

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …