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March 07, 2007


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You have no idea what branding is.   I dont know, either. I dont know that anyone does, actually. At least definitively. I think brand is one of the most misunderstood, inconsistently defined words on the planet. Some peop... [Read More]


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Mike Sigers

Thanks for saying what a LOT of us think.


The only thing that brands me to a product is a great product/service that goes well beyond what I expected.

THEN and only then am I branded, not because of any advertising or marketing crap.

Chris Moritz

Hear hear!


I have to agree that putting the brand above the needs of the customer/buyer/visitor is a mistake. But I can't put the blame entirely on the marketers; sometimes it has to rest with the site owner. I can't count the number of times site owners have been more worried about what their web site looked like than what it said. Then they complain that they spent a lot of money but aren't getting anything for it.

Jack Crozier

Amen Brother. Good article. I get frustrated with Marketers who are only trying to win advertising design awards. Resume builders.

When you think about it – for most companies, the implementation and client services teams have much more to do with brand image than Marcom. Marcom can help spread the word – but the “word” is what the clients think – and what they think is your brand equity, good or bad.

So branding isn't graphics - it's the execution of a philosophy throughout all functions of an organization - market-facing and internal.

David Leland

I agree that branding is difficult, if not impossible to measure. Moreover, by itself, I seriously doubt that it sells products.

In fact, my experience with branding has been that companies very, very rarely commit the time and resources to make branding work.

Two companies that excel come to mind: IBM and Apple.

IBM with its e-business solutions and Apple with all of its cultural products.

Without budget, branding is nothing more than a silly set of rules that everyone breaks.

For those considering a branding campaign, I suggest frequency, frequency and more frequency. Damn the ROI - full speed ahead.

Gee, an integrated marketing campaign just began to sound pretty good.

Jon Silvers

Great post! Small companies especially can't afford to waste time on branding nonsense. Create a great customer experience, the rest will follow.

Eli Singer

I'm the Social Media guy with an online community background who works in a Branding firm owned by an Advertising Agency, so I feel like I'm trapped inside the vortex of your post.

All I can say is that the 96% of people out there who don't get it are screwing it up for the rest of us who want to do what's right.

In my mind, communications as a discipline is undergoing a massive revoltion right now.

There are only two elements - Branding and Communications.

The message (tone, manner, style) and how it's delivered.

Would love to chat more but gotta run.


Jonathan Salem Baskin

I agree! Maybe we have it backwards: brand isn't some imaginary construct that leads experience, and it isn't something conceived before, above, or beyond reality; rather, it's the tangible outcome of real experience. Branding isn't telling people stuff, but the stuff people say and feel about what, how, when, and why they do things with products and services? Radical proposition, and if it's true, it obviates cool billions of expenditure every year on that invisible 800 lb. gorilla of image. Maybe people don't have 'relationships with brands,' but rather 'branded experiences?'

Patricia Milton

When you refer to "branding" as images, aesthetics and logos, not buyers, it seems you don't know what "branding" really means.

The logo is the least of it. And buyers - how you interact with them, how they experience you - is a huge part of branding.

So I guess I do understand what you are ranting about (style over substance), but that ain't "branding."

Just my opinion.


Point well-taken. However, what evidence do you have that design is "the flaky stuff?" Quality design goes hand in hand with quality strategy...they are equally integral to any visual marketing campaign. By calling design "just the flaky stuff" you've made the common mistake of undermining the skill, experience and strategy that goes into good design toward the goal of successful branding. I often see the language barrier between designers, marketers, managers and CEOs. A good creative director or marketing manager overcomes this barrier by addressing all the factors that are part of a successful campaign, and is able to convey the importance of each to everyone involved, getting top results from all the players.

Ladd Woodland

Wow! Branding is very misunderstood. It seems even by marketers and CEOs. Logos, typefaces and color schemes are only the visual elements of your Brand Image. These elements are used to build a memorable image in the minds of the consumer; a perception of your company or product. Visual elements are only part of the brand building tool kit. The retail or corporate environment, customer service, employee dress and appearance, sound and scent are a few of the other elements.
A “Brand” is none of the above and all of the above. A CEO who complains that the employees are not aligned with the goals of the company should spend more time managing the company’s brand. The core values of a company IS the “Brand.” The way the employees experience and internalize the “Brand” is through visual and behavioral touch-points.
“Branding”, the activity of brand communication, is all about the consumer experience, even if the consumer is the employee. A brand lives, grows or dies in the minds of the consumer. Branding is about building a positive impression and a strong preference for your company or product.
The value of the brand? A brand’s value is measured in the additional value of the company or product beyond its tangible assets. If the CEO does not understand that, perhaps he or she should find a new job. More and more a company’s brand is finding its way to an entry on the bottom line. It’s obvious many feel that brand is just Flaky Stuff but I’m sure the CEOs of P&G, Coke, Apple and Nike would disagree.
P.S. there is no such thing as a “Branding Campaign”. That is advertising and advertising is not branding. Neither is marketing.


For everyone who doubts the power of branding and the improved margins it yields, I refer you to Proctor and Gamble. They successfully get millions of consumers to pay too much for items identical to much less expensive non-branded items, often on a first purchase, so the experience based argument just went out the window. That said, if you're midsized or smaller, you're better off putting the money elsewhere, you can't afford the repetition necessary to pull it off (like good copy writing that actually conveys what problems you solve for your customer and what makes your product the right choice for them… you do know that don’t you?).

Jesus Tachatte

Have you hear of http://www.sosickofyou.com ? It is a great place to get it off your chest and let others know about your issues. It is similar to twitter.com

Bill Wilkie

Hi David: I just read your New Rules book (harcover) after it was recommended by a few mutual friends. I'll be implementing like crazy in the coming months. Before I became a thought-leading leadership advisor, I spent 20 years in branding. And I agree with you completely! But ONLY if we agree to use a pretty backward and impoverished definition of branding. The best branding, practiced by the best agencies that I worked for or admired (like Chiat, Wieden, Fallon,etc),is about seeing real TRUTH in a consumer need or experience, or in the wider culture, before the consumer, pundits and competition even realize it's real, and then working hard to make it real and keep it real. So yes, 98% of branding is what you describe (and most tech companies haven't got a clue), but that just creates opportunities for leaders to do it right.

David Meerman Scott

Bill, You're right. Thanks for stopping by.


M. H. (Mac) McIntosh

David, I enjoyed your post!

Its title reminds me of a good book I recently read, Branding Only Works on Cattle: The New Way to Get Known (and drive your competitors crazy) by Jonathan Salem Baskin.

I personally believe brands are built more by what happens when a prospect or customer interacts with a company or its products and services than it is by brand marketing.

IN B2B marketing alone, millions of dollars are wasted every month on expensive “brand-building” campaigns that don't sell or don’t start the sales process by causing a prospective customer to respond.

From my point of view, those same millions of dollars would be better spent on marketing designed to drive leads and sales. And a brand message can come along for the ride for free.

Mac McIntosh

Alexz B.

I agree with you completely on all of the points, I especially want to highlight that branding is a complicated marketing process that consists of many specific details you have to take into consideration, which proper web content is part of.

Kasaro John

Great post! Small companies especially can't afford to waste time on branding nonsense. Create a great customer experience, the rest will follow.

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