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June 30, 2008

Obsessive Branding Disorder


Lucas Conley’s OBSESSIVE BRANDING DISORDER book is receiving some nice media attention. And for good reason … it’s well-written and provocative.

Conley’s book began as a Fast Company essay from Oct. 2005. He’s since beefed up the premise and added in lots of relevant and unique case study examples.

For the cynical marketing crowd, which includes me, this book will be right in your wheelhouse as it delves deep into the superficial side of the arts and sciences of modern branding.

To give you a taste of Conley’s take, below is my trademark pending WHAT ? — SO WHAT? — WHAT NOW? summary of OBSESSIVE BRANDING DISORDER. (Just kiddin' on the trademark-pending quip. Tom Ehrenfeld is the rightful owner of this idea.)

“Branding is corrupting our culture by heralding emotion over reason, surface over core substance, and packaging over experience.” (p. 197)

“More than marketing, advertising, or positioning, branding is an all-in-one ideology—a facile reduction malleable enough to govern all facets of modern business.” (p. 5)

“By abandoning the trusty, dusty principles of business—innovative products, good service, solid management—for the idealism of branding, companies reveal the true escapist appeal of their new religion.” (p. 10)

“Successful, enduring brands are either truly innovative and outstanding or a great value. They have never needed much advertising. They don’t have to reinvigorate their employees with brand-morale building or rely shamelessly on empty company taglines. Their products fulfill the legitimate purpose of the brand.” (p. 64)

“But the effect of … [obsessive] branding has been a steady erosion in the public’s trust.” (p. 110)

“The world is cheapened when everyone sees it with a marketer’s eye. We lose trust for each other and grow skeptical of one another as we try to determine what we’re being sold. We become more isolated and more self-conscious, more prone to rely on brands for status and to ally ourselves with other brand loyalists for company.” (p. 199)

“To combat this obsessive branding disorder, we must acknowledge that we will always have brands—they are an inevitable medium for communication and commerce.” (p. 201)

“But if we acknowledge that we must rely on brands to some degree, and if we keep our focus on the products rather than the promotions, we can begin to extricate ourselves from a world of brand churches, tribes, and religion.” (p. 202)

“Run a good business and your brand will follow.” (from Lucas’ Oct. 2005 Fast Company essay)


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Thank you, John. I like your trademarked flow ;-)

If I may, I'd like to share a quote from Umberto Eco on the truth of signs I included in a post I wrote a long time ago:

"I have never doubted the truth of signs, Adso; they are the only things man has with which to orient himself in the world. What I did not understand is the relation among signs . . . I behaved stubbornly, pursuing a semblance of order, when I should have known well that there is no order in the universe."

"But in imagining an erroneous order you still found something. . . ."

"What you say is very fine, Adso, and I thank you. The order that our mind imagines is like a net, or like a ladder, built to attain something. But afterward you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that, even if it was useful, it was meaningless . . . The only truths that are useful are instruments to be thrown away."

-- The Name of the Rose, Seventh Day, Night

Valeria ... thanks for stoppin' by and droppin' massive knowledge on us.

John -
I'm so glad to have your input on this book. I just ordered it and have put it on my mandatory reading list for July. With your overview, I'm now even more excited to dive into it and widen my (and my clients') understanding of Branding vs. Marketing.

Keep Cooking!

Well now that you've tweaked the principle and made it better, I would certain say that it belongs to you! At any rate, isn't the whole point of the ether world that nobody really owns ideas any more?

Thanks for the mention--

“Branding is corrupting our culture by heralding emotion over reason, surface over core substance, and packaging over experience.”

Agreed. This is a core reason why the discipline of marketing is treated with derision. Instead of focusing on concrete reasons for product diffusion and adaption, we marketers too often look at the fluff.

Hi John!

Thanks... so interesting post!... Marketing needs to change and understands the this new fluid non-structured world...

I'd like to invite you to visit Brand 3.0... and, perhaps (only perhaps) you'll also find something inetresting there!...


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