RANTS & RAVES

True Colors
Branding Isn’t Dead Yet

Jonathan D. Spiliotopoulos

31 May 2017

In a New Yorker article titled Twilight of the Brands, James Surowiecki postulates that branding is dying — that brands have outlived their business purpose, and that “[a brand is] only as good as [its] last product.”

I Disagree

I’m usually loath to pile on, but after reading my colleague and friend, Mark O’Brien’s reaction to the New Yorker piece, I just couldn’t help but add my opinion.

Suffice it to say I think Mark is absolutely correct in saying that branding is not dead. In fact, I believe the concept of branding is actually undergoing a kind of renaissance.

Over the years, some companies have been perfectly willing to use brands nefariously — as shields that protect inferiority, or as tools to justify overpricing.

But that’s all wrong, and we’re undergoing a correction.

Branding is About Reputation.

To make use of personification a bit, brand is what people think and feel when they see you from across a room.

“Oh, I know him. That’s Mickey Schmitz. He makes widgets for Flatley. He’s a nice guy, down to Earth, and he really knows his stuff. I’ve never seen him put out anything but good work.”

When the audience knows who you are, what you do, and has some assessment of your ability, then you’re branded. The logos, collateral, and all that jazz, only constitute the visuals by which people recognize your brand.

The point that Mr. Surowiecki seems to miss is that consumer connectedness is returning authenticity to branding, not killing it. It’s restoring control to markets, by removing companies’ ability to exaggerate their features and mask their deficiencies. It’s taking the lipstick off the pigs — allowing their true colors to shine through. And THAT is what branding is about.

Final Thoughts

If you’re not happy with the way your brand is perceived by the market, maybe it’s time to look at changing who you are and what you’re doing, rather than looking for more lipstick.

And when you’ve genuinely earned a positive reputation, the market will not only recognize your brand; they’ll trust it, they’ll have faith in it, and they’ll buy it (literally and figuratively).

Jonathan D. Spiliotopoulos

About the Author

Jonathan D. Spiliotopoulos is a Partner with O’Brien Communications Group (www.obriencg.com), a business-to-business brand-management and marketing communication firm with responsibilities ranging from brand creation and creative concepting, to graphic design, web development, and more. He's also an experienced teacher/trainer, presenter, a newbie dad, and is active in a number of communities and forums — online and in the real world — dedicated to helping others achieve their goals.

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