Marketing helped create post-truth politics, but must resist their lure

 This year’s political campaigns hold an ugly mirror to marketing. In an era where many marketers are obsessed with questions of purpose and social responsibility, politics have run away in the opposite direction, embracing the bad habits marketing is trying to leave behind

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The results of the US election draw a line under a shift in political discourse. The rise of post-truth politics is here regardless of who won. The story of this shift is very much intertwined in the role marketing plays in popular culture.

Despite being coined in 2010, the term post-truth politics has only entered mainstream public debate in the past year. The twin shocks of the British EU referendum campaigns and the US presidential election have intersected with a series of compounding factors that are amplifying this specific type of discourse. Continue reading

Marketing Should Promote A New Masculinity

Recent coverage of the state of masculinity is alarming. The latest research from the advertising association research arm Credos points to the negative effect advertising can have on boys’ body image. The same effect it has had on girls for many years. That research joins mounting evidence of a crisis related to the shifting roles of men, often blaming the void created by the decline of some of their ‘traditional roles’, such as being breadwinners. Make no mistake, those roles can be oppressive, sometimes toxic, and are cultural myths in their own right.

A recent study by the Journal of Gender Studies went as far as blaming the financial crisis for the rise of the ‘Spornosexual’ – young men using their toned bodies on social media as a means of feeling valuable in society. A part of a larger trend where fitness regimes are shared with the world as a visual means of getting positive attention. Attention that hides the flip-side of body-policing and shaming. Maybe we shouldn’t strive for that specific form of gender equality.

Putting aside moral panic, where the BBC condemns porn for causing erectile dysfunction in teenagers, it’s easy to feel empathy and concern when considering how boys learn what it means to ‘be a man’. The pressures of toxic masculinity can end in anxiety, depression and violence. Harming both men and women, particularly those who are vulnerable to begin with. Continue reading

Google’s rebrand and the four forces affecting brand identities in digital environments

Google's new logo and some core identity elementsThe recent launch of Google’s brand identity evolution brings back to light questions around the impact of digital environments on brand identities.

Visual design is a vibrant, ever evolving world. It always combines timeless principles with new tools and changing fashions. Contemporary design operates within a global culture. One that has been getting increasingly visual for over a century since the early days of mass media.

Brand identities, specifically, now spend a large part of their lives in digital environments. These environments offer both opportunities and challenges, but are we really seeing the amount of innovation we’d expect? The kind we’ve seen in product design or interface design. What are the key factors shaping brand identities in digital environments? Continue reading

Google Alphabet – initial thoughts about naming and brand architecture

Photo CC by: Thomas Hawk

Isn’t Capitalism Interesting, by Thomas Hawk

A brief comment from me has gone live this morning [yesterday. UB] on the front page of The Drum. Here’s a fuller version of my initial thoughts about Google Alphabet. Feel free to ask me anything in the comments.

Yes, it is the brand architecture move of the decade, and the memo announcing it is one of the best pieces of corporate communications I’ve ever come across.

No, I don’t think the name’s great.

No, not because of SEO. The domain is inspired, in fact, and the importance of a .com is overrated in the era of search engines, even more so when you’re Google.

So, some thoughts focused on the branding perspective: Continue reading

Six reasons thought leadership content is often left unread

Thought leadership presents a challenge to the best and brightest of organisations. It’s hard to generate and even harder to fully leverage.

Hard to generate because good content is a rare thing and because organisations tend to rely on their most senior and, therefore, busiest people to come up with the goods. Harder to leverage because once a piece of thought leadership content is created, many organisations discover that it’s not creating the impact they were hoping for. An often resource-intensive process leads to a modest bang when the content is released and ends with a whimper.

So here are some reasons why nobody reads your thought leadership:

Continue reading

Ideas, meaning, purpose and fluff: when brand strategy goes wrong

(This is an archive find and one of my few longer pieces. I wrote it just before leaving Landor back in 2011 and later edited it with the help of Frances Gordon. It’s seeing the light of day for the first time and I believe it is still relevant. Hell, every project is a Déjà vu…)

Mission, worldview, vision, values, personality, role, insight, opportunity, story… Has your brand strategy proliferated so much that it’s hard to see the wood from the trees? If so, you’re not alone. Read this article to understand how it’s happened, why it’s happened, and what you can do about it.

Smart and succinct brand language is proven successful

Most celebrated brands find their articulation through simple phrases: Apple has “Think different”; GE has “Imagination at work”; Sony has “Make.Believe.   Google’s mission statement is simply “to organise the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful’’.

While corporations may have more detailed versions internally, it is these surprisingly short phrases that are most often cited as best practice by marketers and most often admired by everyone else. Because once the fundamental creed of a brand is identified, very little strategic language is necessary. So instead of focusing on endless wording and rewording, corporations can focus on taking action to make their strategies live.

‘’Brand language” plays a greater role than that of a slogan. These words become central to the ethos of the brand. These short statements serve to rally together internal and external communities of a corporation. At its best, this “strategic language” gives communities focused, lucid creeds that have clear strategic imperatives and imply real-world action.

But if smart and succinct wording is recognised as best practice for brand strategies, why – more often than not – do we see reams of overcomplicated text used to articulate what should be a clear concept? Continue reading

Superbrands 2014: no brand is safe, but it’s never too late…

(Originally written following the publication of Superbrands 2014, then handed between editors until it was too late to publish. Points still valid though..)

The annual Superbrands list is a fun one. Unlike some brand lists/‘indexes’ that are based on complex, notably opaque, brand equity models; models which often employ statistical calculation bordering on voodoo, it simply turns to the public with a list selected by experts and asks them about their perceptions.

Once a long list is selected by industry experts, participants are asked to consider which brands are ‘Superbrands’. A Superbrand being a brand which has established ‘the finest reputation… [and] offers customers significant emotional and/or tangible advantages over other brands, which (consciously or subconsciously) customers want and recognise.’ In addition, they are asked to judge the brands against the factors of quality, reliability and distinction.

To answer those questions, participants have to fall back on their own perception of brands, and, arguably, also their perception of the perceptions of brands. With that in mind, it’s interesting to try and figure out the reasons behind the movements in the ratings. Since we’re in a perception-led territory, it makes one look back at the passing year and try to deduce how events, communications and the general zeitgeist banded together to create such an impact.

If I had to summarise the lesson for brands from this year’s results it would be ‘no brand is safe, but it’s never too late.’ Continue reading