| The Unbrand America campaign is promoting silent protest by asking people to make creative use of a black spot in public places. They are also looking for donations so they can run a series of ads by July 4th. Running ads to bash branding... that's a difficult concept - but I don't know how to outshout 3000 marketing messages a day. I've learned how to silence them in my home, but that's all. A blogger's voice whispers to the literate and googled, reaching/teaching the bamboozled is something I've been struggling with ever since Doc & David Weinberger published World of Ends. The very people that need to read that piece - don't read.
The black spot - is in itself a recognisable "brand". I rebranded myself in Beating the Brand - Part 1 - crying out - "I AM THE-ANTI-BRAND!" - but I've been trying to work at a subtler level since. Really. Much subtler than this.
, is an ANTI-BRANDING symbol. It's an in-your-face form of protest that cries out - "Wake up America! - you are being blinded, deafened, dulled by sensory overload! You are not pavlovian dogs!"
Until I got the brands out of my face last month I couldn't think clearly enough to write - and look at me now - writing nearly every day. You too can write gonzo stuff if you just get your environment to shut up!
If you want to know who made your shirt, look at the tag. If you want to know who made my car, ask. Same for my fridge. You don't want, or need, to process the information on a daily basis. It is a mind and soul-sucking exercise to filter it all out. I have got to make clear that I am not against brands - I'm not THAT anti-corporate - all I want to do is get the constant reminders of branding out of my/our lives. OK?
I'm going to use the black spot in my future posts but I'm planning to make my website go entirely black on July 4. Why? I'm ornery. The people doing the unbranding brand are also promoting other causes that I don't believe in - And... well, I'll get to that later this week.
writes in. I'm going to comment on this - maybe move it up the blog later - but I have things to do this morning.
Branding is about bypassing quality
Normally, we evaluate a product using whatever subjective quality measures make sense for us. Let's choose an obviously ubiquitous brand as an example: S******. I am a coffee drinker. I happen to like S********** coffee; however, I like it because I happen to like the slightly acidic edge their particular roasting process imparts to the coffee. That's choice by quality measurement. If their coffee suddenly stopped tasting as good, I'd stop buying it--even though it still would have the S******** brand. (I've done it before, with other roasters I like.)
If you're a product purveyor, choice by quality measurement doesn't give you a break. You'd better produce a consistently good product, or some upstart will usurp your market position.
Enter the brand. If, by advertising blitz, strategic product placement, rebates, and other measures, you can mold your product into a "brand" that is synonymous with quality, you might be able to hold your market position without having to work as hard. This is especially helpful with high ticket items (like refrigerators, or stereos, or cars). Truly convince people that at F***, quality is Job One, and you might stand a chance of producing a few F*** loyalists, who always buy F*** cars, without question, because, dammit, Fords are best. (I've known a few such people. I'm sure you have, too. They puzzle me.)
It's probably easier to brand high-volume items, especially high-volume items that aren't subject to the senses (e.g., detergents, as opposed to breakfast cereal). You either like the taste of a cereal or you don't. But the quality differential between various brands of detergents isn't that high, especially if you factor out the generics. Is Tide really that much better than, say A** or F** or whatever? It's doubtful. So how do customers choose? Well, some just buy whatever's cheapest that week, modulo a quality baseline (i.e., they won't buy the supermarket's brand). Of course, that's exactly what the manufacturer doesn't want. That's another instance of choice by quality measurement.
The manufacturers don't want a discriminating customer. They want exactly the opposite. So they work very hard at establishing brand awareness and loyalty, subtly pressuring and encouraging customers to become less discriminating and to settle on a brand. In a way, it's easier for the customer, too: no more time "wasted" doing research to figure out which product is best, one is best, no more running to Consumer Reports when it's time to buy a new car or fridge, no more scanning the shelves looking for this week's cheapest detergent. "If I buy enough T***, they'll give me a coupon!"
This is one very big reason that we're all so assaulted by brands.