Old Is Wrong. New Is Right. (A Fool’s Guide to Marketing.)

[Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse. Find the original post, here.] Brands are dead. Advertising is dead. Marketing is dead. All one need do is Google* the demise of any of these terms for proof. Right? Yes, marketing has (and is) evolving at an astonishing pace. As are business, communication, and our entire society. (Remember in 2010, when Eric […]

[Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse. Find the original post, here.]man-bulb

Brands are dead. Advertising is dead. Marketing is dead. All one need do is Google* the demise of any of these terms for proof. Right?

Yes, marketing has (and is) evolving at an astonishing pace. As are business, communication, and our entire society. (Remember in 2010, when Eric Schmidt stated that we now create as much information in 48 hours as we did from the dawn of man through 2003?)

But change is not death. And evolution is necessary. Take the idea of brand, for instance. Today, the concept of brand has migrated far from its humble beginnings as a mass-medium, mental shortcut for product benefits. Now, as an overriding philosophy, brand thinking drives political campaigns, religions, companies, individuals, and more. However this powerful concept is applied, the idea behind brand thinking is (still) that a thing (person, product, concept, or other) can carry a perception greater (and more intangible) than its day-to-day function and form.

Social media doesn’t change this fundamental premise, or signal its death, although it certainly changes the methods by which one accesses, understands, and needs to construct a brand.

What it does mean, however, is that brands simply giving lip-service to the idea of brand (let’s call them the shiny new logo people, for now), have and will, die an even faster death. These are the brands (and the companies) that confuse ‘brand’ with ‘advertising.’ Or identity. Or (fill in your surface marketing discipline or tactic, here.) Once, it was said that, ‘a good ad makes a bad product fail even faster.’ Now, this tenet can be applied to what social media is doing to poorly developed brands.

Does this mean that brands are dead? Certainly not, except for the ones that should have died anyway, due to lack of purpose or relevance.

The web and social media are rapidly forcing organizations to embrace the functional benefits that every customer already wanted in the first place. Customer service. Free delivery. Better pricing. For commodity products and services that compete (and competed) in areas where there is negligible product, service or concept differentiation, functional benefits ARE the point of differentiation. New logos and taglines for these companies never were the answer. (Unless, of course, these logos and taglines were part of a bigger brand and marketing strategy that addressed functional benefit.)

The more science and technology is applied to marketing, the more we need to collectively remember how and why marketing strategy works. The new tools we have at our disposal today can create incredible speed and efficiency. They cannot, however, take the place of solid strategic (business and brand) thinking.

Old is not all wrong. New is not all right. And evolution is not death. The truth (and the perfect marketing answer) can be found by understanding and isolating the best and most relevant of everything we now have in our marketing toolbox.

(By the way, if your organization is looking for the perfect blend of traditional and new marketing, I know a marketing direction company that can help.)

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*Please Note: When a brand name is used as a verb, it signals that it has become the preferred name for an entire category and usually, the market leader (think Kleenex® as the proxy name for all facial tissues). Yes, brands are alive and well.


Brian Creath is the president and strategy director of Cohesion, a nationally recognized St. Louis-based marketing direction company. He has helped hundreds of businesses and brands achieve success during his 30-year career. To learn more, email him at bcreath@cohesioncompany.com.

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