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Branding Now
10 dos
10 don’ts
Grant McCracken
grant27@gmail.com
BBR 2014
Boston University, May 21, 2014
note to slide share viewers
This deck was written for Susan Fournier’s conference
on branding at Boston University late May 2014
It’s a little “shouty,” expressing my frustration with the
way branding how happens in practice.
I sum up the argument in the next four slides.
One brand, many meanings
we continue to act as if
every brand is one thing.
A very clear, simple, exact
thing
Doesn’t it have to be
many things? One
brand, many meanings.
Multiple, inconsistent, and
sometimes messy
meanings.
One brand, meanings both broad and obscure
we’re caught between two
impulses: work designed
to speak to the largest
possible audience AND
branding that makes tiny,
precious, local meanings.
Don’t we have to do both?
One brand with meanings
both big and small, both
broad and obscure.
The brander is the prime mover
We have worked to make the
consumer a collaborator in and
cocreator of the brand.
I wonder if we haven’t gone too far.
The brander is the prime mover,
creating the world within which
consumers, fans and content
recreators work with brand
meanings.
This is not a symmetrical
relationship. The brand begins and
ends with the brander.
Old media matters sometimes more than new media
We have concentrated too
much on new media (mea
culpa here too).
We need both old media and
new media to build the brand.
Old media has a special role to
play, creating the foundational
meanings of the brand. (There
are certain meanings we can’t
make with new media.)
Ok, here’s the deck as
I gave it yesterday
a transitional moment
• that guy at the party
• brand as bore
• brand as bully
Oops, TV got
better
bastard child catches up
good and bad for branding
http://www.wired.com/partner
s/netflix/
1. The banded
brand
a brand with many
layers or bands
Brand
outer-most
band, perfect
simplicity
2nd story
wrapped in &
concealed
by the 1st
next band,
a finer signal still
for the brand’s
deepest fans
if we build it,
they will find it
24 million viewers - 4 shows
http://cultureby.com/2014/05/big-bang-theory-theory-you-should-have-one.html
2. the “broad
band” brand
the broadest meanings
dearest to the biggest
segments
3. secret
messages
the brand as a place the
consumer can wander,
inhabit. Medieval Paris.
(The upper image is a secret
image send by Fringe show-
runners to their fans.)
4. provocative
brands
annoying, actually
to win some,
we gotta lose some
http://cultureby.com/2014/03/provocative-
cadillac-rescuing-the-brand-from-bland-my-
latest-at-hbr.html
5. brands that
go into the
world
we are too mediated
brands should show up
in the world
not to bang the drum
but to play
http://blogs.hbr.org/2011/08/cessna-marketing-
what-we-can-l/
6. brands that
go into the
show
the perfect opposite of product
placement
this Subaru ad incomprehensible
unless you know the show
http://cultureby.com/2014/03/bran
ds-being-human.html
7. brands that
know where
they are
brands used to act
like they existed unto
themselves.
“context, who cares
about context?”
http://cultureby.com/2004/07/site_sp
ecificit.html
8. the brand
with a sense of
self mockery
RadioShack: The 80s
called and they want
their store back
9. brands as
creative
platform
the brand as a starter-kit
brand as a platform
brand as a place to play
http://cultureby.com/2014/03/head-
starts-creative-platforms-for-culture-
makers.html
10. test for
oxygen
Clive Sirkin, Kimberly-Clark,
we give our marketers
“freedom and license”
like Ian Tait and the W+K lab
after the Superbowl
Don’ts
bound to be more
controversial
sorry
1. branding is
not a
conversation
The brander is the meaning
maker, the arena within
which the brand lives.
Conversations are
symmetrical. Brands are
asymmetrical.
2. branding is
not a
collaboration
the brander is the prime
mover, alpha & omega.
consumers participate, but
they participate within the
brand, once the brander has
put that brand in place
3. branding is
not crowd
sourcing
the Pharrell Williams
“Happy” video feels
spontaneous and street
sourced but it is in fact
carefully casted & crafted.
4. branding
should not be
purpose driven
Our job is to be responsive to
consumers, and to change
with them in real time.
It’s not about us.
It’s about them.
5. branding is
not about
stories
It’s about meanings
“Stories” constrain us.
Meanings must be modular.
Stories have narrative arcs,
characters and climaxes.
Branders need to be
modular to build a banded
brand
6. don’t inflict
ourselves on
culture
Minnie Driver on The Riches
our most disgraceful moment ever
http://cultureby.com/2008/05/marke
ting-out-o.html
just say “no”
to product placement
7. don’t act like
it’s all about you
we are not welcome
unless we have something to
contribute to culture
practice cultural arbitrage
hack culture
http://cultureby.com/2014/04/cultural-arbitrage.html
http://cultureby.com/2014/04/hacking-culture-an-april-fools-
edition.html
8. branding is
not “all about
new media”
old media is the major meaning maker
Vince Gilligan, BB. no new media project
can make meanings like these
new media essential for mediation
but the prime mover remains for most
purposes old media
http://cultureby.com/2014/05/new-media-fundamentalists-
how-will-they-react-to-the-revolution-in-tv.html
9. don’t do
publicity stunts
Earn your media by contributing to
culture. No cheating, no stunts.
inhale culture,
exhaling culture
and otherwise make the brand
charming & useful
don’t be this guy
10. don’t make
the brand live
in the moment
We need earliest warning
possible
Reacting is not a strategy.
http://cultureby.com/2009/09/culture-
in-real-time-data-visualization-and-
the-cco.html
thank you
this presentation will
be up at
www.cultureby.com
by end of tomorrow
Image by Alaine Delorme
Thanks again to Susan
Fournier for including me
in the conference

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10 Dos and Don'ts for Branding Now

  • 1. Branding Now 10 dos 10 don’ts Grant McCracken grant27@gmail.com BBR 2014 Boston University, May 21, 2014
  • 2. note to slide share viewers This deck was written for Susan Fournier’s conference on branding at Boston University late May 2014 It’s a little “shouty,” expressing my frustration with the way branding how happens in practice. I sum up the argument in the next four slides.
  • 3. One brand, many meanings we continue to act as if every brand is one thing. A very clear, simple, exact thing Doesn’t it have to be many things? One brand, many meanings. Multiple, inconsistent, and sometimes messy meanings.
  • 4. One brand, meanings both broad and obscure we’re caught between two impulses: work designed to speak to the largest possible audience AND branding that makes tiny, precious, local meanings. Don’t we have to do both? One brand with meanings both big and small, both broad and obscure.
  • 5. The brander is the prime mover We have worked to make the consumer a collaborator in and cocreator of the brand. I wonder if we haven’t gone too far. The brander is the prime mover, creating the world within which consumers, fans and content recreators work with brand meanings. This is not a symmetrical relationship. The brand begins and ends with the brander.
  • 6. Old media matters sometimes more than new media We have concentrated too much on new media (mea culpa here too). We need both old media and new media to build the brand. Old media has a special role to play, creating the foundational meanings of the brand. (There are certain meanings we can’t make with new media.)
  • 7. Ok, here’s the deck as I gave it yesterday
  • 8. a transitional moment • that guy at the party • brand as bore • brand as bully
  • 9. Oops, TV got better bastard child catches up good and bad for branding http://www.wired.com/partner s/netflix/
  • 10. 1. The banded brand a brand with many layers or bands Brand
  • 12. 2nd story wrapped in & concealed by the 1st
  • 13. next band, a finer signal still
  • 15. if we build it, they will find it
  • 16. 24 million viewers - 4 shows http://cultureby.com/2014/05/big-bang-theory-theory-you-should-have-one.html
  • 17. 2. the “broad band” brand the broadest meanings dearest to the biggest segments
  • 18. 3. secret messages the brand as a place the consumer can wander, inhabit. Medieval Paris. (The upper image is a secret image send by Fringe show- runners to their fans.)
  • 19. 4. provocative brands annoying, actually to win some, we gotta lose some http://cultureby.com/2014/03/provocative- cadillac-rescuing-the-brand-from-bland-my- latest-at-hbr.html
  • 20. 5. brands that go into the world we are too mediated brands should show up in the world not to bang the drum but to play http://blogs.hbr.org/2011/08/cessna-marketing- what-we-can-l/
  • 21. 6. brands that go into the show the perfect opposite of product placement this Subaru ad incomprehensible unless you know the show http://cultureby.com/2014/03/bran ds-being-human.html
  • 22. 7. brands that know where they are brands used to act like they existed unto themselves. “context, who cares about context?” http://cultureby.com/2004/07/site_sp ecificit.html
  • 23. 8. the brand with a sense of self mockery RadioShack: The 80s called and they want their store back
  • 24. 9. brands as creative platform the brand as a starter-kit brand as a platform brand as a place to play http://cultureby.com/2014/03/head- starts-creative-platforms-for-culture- makers.html
  • 25. 10. test for oxygen Clive Sirkin, Kimberly-Clark, we give our marketers “freedom and license” like Ian Tait and the W+K lab after the Superbowl
  • 26.
  • 28. bound to be more controversial
  • 29. sorry
  • 30. 1. branding is not a conversation The brander is the meaning maker, the arena within which the brand lives. Conversations are symmetrical. Brands are asymmetrical.
  • 31. 2. branding is not a collaboration the brander is the prime mover, alpha & omega. consumers participate, but they participate within the brand, once the brander has put that brand in place
  • 32. 3. branding is not crowd sourcing the Pharrell Williams “Happy” video feels spontaneous and street sourced but it is in fact carefully casted & crafted.
  • 33. 4. branding should not be purpose driven Our job is to be responsive to consumers, and to change with them in real time. It’s not about us. It’s about them.
  • 34. 5. branding is not about stories It’s about meanings “Stories” constrain us. Meanings must be modular. Stories have narrative arcs, characters and climaxes. Branders need to be modular to build a banded brand
  • 35. 6. don’t inflict ourselves on culture Minnie Driver on The Riches our most disgraceful moment ever http://cultureby.com/2008/05/marke ting-out-o.html just say “no” to product placement
  • 36. 7. don’t act like it’s all about you we are not welcome unless we have something to contribute to culture practice cultural arbitrage hack culture http://cultureby.com/2014/04/cultural-arbitrage.html http://cultureby.com/2014/04/hacking-culture-an-april-fools- edition.html
  • 37. 8. branding is not “all about new media” old media is the major meaning maker Vince Gilligan, BB. no new media project can make meanings like these new media essential for mediation but the prime mover remains for most purposes old media http://cultureby.com/2014/05/new-media-fundamentalists- how-will-they-react-to-the-revolution-in-tv.html
  • 38. 9. don’t do publicity stunts Earn your media by contributing to culture. No cheating, no stunts. inhale culture, exhaling culture and otherwise make the brand charming & useful don’t be this guy
  • 39. 10. don’t make the brand live in the moment We need earliest warning possible Reacting is not a strategy. http://cultureby.com/2009/09/culture- in-real-time-data-visualization-and- the-cco.html
  • 40. thank you this presentation will be up at www.cultureby.com by end of tomorrow Image by Alaine Delorme
  • 41. Thanks again to Susan Fournier for including me in the conference