Jonathan Salem Baskin, author of Branding Only Works on Cattle, is fast becoming the new Bad Boy of Branding.Â We don’t always agree with him, but we are certainly entertained by his unique and irreverent viewpoint.Â We asked Jonathan ten questions that are vexing us right now:
- What is the biggest problem with branding as it is practiced today?
It’s mostly useless.Â Branding is glorified awareness, if that, and it’s more notable for what it doesn’t do, like drive sales, support higher prices, or improve customer satisfaction.Â For all the talk of engaging customers, branding is inward-looking; it addresses absolutes of what marketers want it to be, instead of getting applied to outwardly-relevant behaviors that are motivating to consumers
- Is a brand really just a shortcut â€“ a way for consumers to save time?Â What does that mean for marketers?
Not any longer.Â Brand was info shorthand in the days when consumers didn’t have ready access to information a la the web, nor did they have the collective experience of having had their grandparents and parents targeted by aggressively inventive marketers.Â Brand doesn’t fill gaps in knowledge anymore; it emerges from consumers, and is a collection of info, opinion, experience, and intent.Â This means that marketers need to address the context of those moments in order to be relevant and useful.
- Comment on Sarah Palin from a marketerâ€™s standpoint
Utterly brilliant.Â And the potential voters’ remorse has a 4-year tenure with no requirement for effective customer service.Â The point is to win an election, and reducing her to a simple USP is crass, smart marketing.
- What is the worst ad youâ€™ve seen this summer?Â Why?
The Korean Air campaign continues to befuddle me.Â A man or woman stands against a mostly-white background with a slash of green-blue color, over which some nonsense text says nothing about airlines, flying, etc.Â It makes absolutely no sense, although I’m sure it’s totally ‘on brand.’
- What do you think of the hype over social networks?
It’s hype.Â The idea that we’d replace the ‘interruption model’ of advertising with the ‘distraction model’ of social media is rather laughable; pointless conversations are, well, pointless.Â But seen as true communities wherein information is shared and vetted, I think social media can and will be a powerful tool for helping consumers define brands.Â The challenge is to stop talking about “joining the conversation” and focusing instead on “giving it direction.”
- Do you Twitter?
Nope.Â Ambient noise is still noise, to me.Â And I can feel close to people I know without knowing that the cup of coffee they just got served isn’t hot enough.Â As for the acquaintances I barely know, I’m comfortable barely knowing them.
- Give us five brands to watch for 2009 …
Microsoft: how will they waste more money?
Google: how will they react as privacy and consumer groups realize they want to rule the world?
B of A: how will it get Mainstreet America to invest hard-earned dollars in stocks?
Sears/Kmart: how will the stores capture recession-conscious consumers who would otherwise go to WalMart?
Apple: how will its competitors knock off its latest branding, and fail to understand it’s all about the interface?
- One piece of advice for a new marketer?
Think behavior.Â If anybody tells you that something is ‘good for the brand,’ attach an active verb to it, and see if it makes sense in a sentence that begins “Our customers will do X which will yield Y…”
- Finish the sentence:Â If I were creative director of a NY Advertising Agency right now …
…I’d figure out how to get creative about getting people to do things, not just think them.”
- How will the end of Wall Street affect marketers?
It’s not the end, just the beginning of a new phase.Â The real impact of the Wall Street meltdown will be to further drag down the overall economy, and make corporate leaders scared to spend money.Â This will mean lots of marketers…especially those purists who hold tenaciously to the abstractions of brand…will lose their jobs.