Grant McCracken from MIT - in my view one of the most interesting bloggers on economics, anthropology, marketing and culture - inspires me with this post on new branding tactics. Highly recommended reading on the role of chance, complexity and letting go in branding and brands.
Personally, I do believe branding has changed the last 10 years due to increasing complexity and innovative pace, media fragmentation and proliferation and more critical and (commercially) educated end users/consumers. The Cluetrain Manifesto is a classic and visionary book in this respect. We move from a centralized, top-down, repetitive, one-dimensional, controlled, perfected, one-2-many, reductionistic, modernistic view on branding towards a new model of decentralized, egalitarian, multi-faceted/dimensional, holistic, many-2-many, postmodern conversations allowing for remixability, open source creation, interpretation, chance, ambiguity, serendipity and complexity. This is in line with Complexity Science elaborating on themes like self organization, emergence, complex systems, order in chaos etc. Additionally, it resonates with the fascinating concept of Paradessence - a paradoxical essence meaning that every successful product had an inherent paradox which is accepted, communicated, leveraged and celebrated in its richness. As a result, it is more authentic and real. Indeed, brands are becoming more like friends after all ;-) More human with more color, more personality, more depth, more surprises, more layers and more vulnerability. Brands become more biological and organic. In my view, these new brands and views on branding will trickle down from the innovators, youngsters, professionals, influential bloggers and highly educated people towards the mainstream consumers within 10 years.
"Have we ever used chance to create
brands? Certainly as we embrace new and less controllable kinds of
marketing devices (open source marketing, viral marketing, experiential marketing, networking, buzz management,
guerrilla marketing, and so on) we embrace chance whether we want to or
The trick here is to mix lots more elements into the ad or the campaign
than we normally do. And this means mustering our courage and hewing
to a course that will test the mettle of every marketing manager. The
old rule of marketing was of course sell that unique selling
proposition often and loudly. Mixing lots of interpretive options into
the signal, this is a departure for which some of us are intellectual
and emotionally unprepared.
What we want are brands that invite our involvement and then reward it. Involvement takes complexity and the willingness to open the brand to a variety of interpretations and the possibility that some of these interpretations will prove a little insipid. What we are doing here is buying sublime brand moments at the cost of some that are ill formed and unsuccessful. We keep saying that marketing is a conversation. Perhaps its time to make brands creatures worthy of talking to.
What I mean is that we consider creating brands through the "rigorous removal of human agency". We must choose the elements with care, but the "folds," the outcome, should be fortuitous.
In this event, the brand message would have to unfold in the moment, and each time a little differently, until, hey presto, perfection for this fleeting moment is achieved. If this where an ad with several elements, an ad that was constructed more like noir, with complexity and ambivalence. Sometimes we would see the ad one way, sometimes another.
The work that Arnold did for Volkswagen in the 1990s, the car traveling
through a summer evening with kids who decide not to get out and go to
the party. The work that Wieden + Kennedy does for Nike also
qualifies. The spot that shows a girl who walks to work without ever
touching the ground. I would watch it a little differently every time,
sometimes it was simply odd. But sometimes it was close to sublime."