If only we believe and continue to treat it like one.
All of us in the advertising and marketing fraternity will eventually have to take onus to play one of the two critical responsibilities. One to strategise and determine ‘what to say’ and the other to determine ‘how to say’ and execute it. Now, there are many of us who are the confused breed who float in and out between the two functions, ‘intellectually’. And this breed seems to make up for a large population of the marketing and advertising world. They come in many avatars.
There seems to be a problem here. It begins with a misplaced intellectual mastery over jargons and models. And to top it, a good knack to use the English dictionary and Thesaurus to show off the multi-dimensional talent to use the language to express, let’s call it ‘brand strategy’. Recently, at a ’Brand meeting’ the brand consultant had a slide on brand values with eight adjectives and another slide that read ‘Brand story’ with seven words to describe it and another slide which read as ‘Brand personality’ with a battery of seven words to capture it and then, yet another slide which read ‘Brand context’ with six words on it. All were presented with conviction and great presentation skills.
Now, the client seems to be impressed. The worst part begins here. Collectively, they probably have no clue how all these churn of over 15 to 20 words will eventually execute itself in the market place and certainly have no clue how the creative person is going to interpret all these and execute a ‘creative’ communication piece.
The funny part is, the creative guys will present a creative output, mentioning some of the words thrown at him as the basis. If the creative piece looks good, then everybody celebrates for a well-articulated brand understanding and brief. The sad part is that every time the brand jargons and models are used as a sign of mastery over the subject, with little know how of how consumers react to such multi-loaded articulation; the business suffers from pseudo-ism as a profession.
When it comes to brand models, again it seems like a pseudo fill-in-the blanks exercise. Many models, many proprietor versions and each patronised by a wide spectrum of users. Most of them are written by university professors from the West and many of us blindly ape and try to fill in the blank for the given model, knowing little how all of it will get expressed in the market place. Name it, Prism, DNA, Onion, Charcoal, Mirror, U-Plan, Magic Wand, etc. They are all out there to help us show off our intellectual capabilities. Models are presented as legendary models to make their articulation authentic. I call it the pseudo circus.
The current flow rightly seems to suggest that the brand is first defined for it to manifest itself into its visual identity, logo, tagline, visual signatures, communication templates etc. But what seems to happen here again is another round of intellectual fantasy and circus of words and jargons to justify the created visual identity and templates. Many a times it looks like a modern art interpretation, where there is a serious explanation to interpret the brand definition and to justify the identity creation. Best fit to be in the brand manual, leaving the poor end consumer blissfully unaware of this ‘modern art’ or the abstract creation.
If you pull back, the problem seems to be in the very system that we have created with specialised functional departments without the right experience and expertise to fill in the role. This seems to be forcing the intellect to justify his/her role by playing around with models and jargons to safe guard their ‘professional’ role.
Pulling back further, there is something even bigger missing in our current branding and communication ecosystem. The absence of senior experienced professionals, who have either shipped out of the system or are busy protecting their intellectual capital. This has left the next generation to run on their self-taught, self belief practices, depending on models and jargons, unchallenged by the experienced creative executors in the business. Interestingly, this new ecosystem seems to exist both in the client and among brand consultants and advertising agencies.
What next? It’s high time there is a brand practitioner’s way on how to understand the facets of branding rather than an academic version to follow blindly. It’s time the over-dependency on specialised functions be reviewed towards a more implementable and holistic approach to interpret brands and their future.
Pavan Padaki, author, Brand Vinci. He is principal, Insights In sight, and director - strategy and creative, brand-comm. Visit Pavan Padaki’s www.InsightsInsight.com