Likeability. Brand conversations. Connecting with consumers. Are you as tired of the hoopla as I am?

July 27, 2011


How about ‘bullshit artist?’

Scrolling through my many bookmarked websites and blogs I see the usual array of stories about brands trying to connect with people. And it hits me. Brands don’t give a shit about people. They never did and they never will. How can they?

According to Wikipedia, The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”

Nowhere in that definition is anything about connectivity and conversations and all the other hoopla associated with modern day marketing. People who make or sell brands try to connect with people but the brands themselves are inanimate objects and incapable of connectivity.

I cringe whenever a breakfast cereal or a deodorant tries to start a conversation with a human being. Or when a soft drink beseeches us to like it on Facebook. Or when a car asks me to follow it on Twitter. Yes, a man obsessed with Pony Cars will follow and bookmark everything he can about his beloved Mustangs. But he is already converted. Just like Apple people. Or Guinness drinkers. Here we are preaching to the converted. This is not usually an acceptable brief.


“Like me on Facebook!”

I’m willing to bet that if you took the average person and audited all her brand “likes” and “follows” (if she has any at all) it would in no way represent what’s in her pantry at home. There would be one or two “connections” but, by and large, the audit would reveal no marketable connection between most brands and the people who bought them. Mom bought Kraft Mac & Cheese long before she had a conversation with it.

In my opinion, advertisers and their agencies go way overboard when they try and turn brands into friends, allies, heroes and other archetypes. I know planners don’t want to hear this but archetyping (while fascinating) is like a brand trying to masturbate itself. Folly. Do we give the comedian brand a laugh track?

The fact is being a fan of such and such a brand is wonderful only when one considers the alternative. Which leads advertisers down the same path it always has: they need to be out there because the competition is. Therefore, if they’re going to be out there they might as well be likable. If you believe this syllogism is valid (and I do) one can see the wizard behind the curtain. And that wizard is, was and always will be a salesman.


Better than a dog!

Again, according to its definition a brand is “a feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” By going after likeability, connectivity and conversations sellers act as if their goods or services have no distinct properties but, rather, distinct personalities. Which is fine. But these distinct personalities are created, like any ad, to sell. In this light the most likely brand archetype is bullshit artist.

5 Responses to “Likeability. Brand conversations. Connecting with consumers. Are you as tired of the hoopla as I am?”

  1. Amen, brother. What’s worse than big brands trying so hard to engage us with bullshit are the local brands trying very half-heartedly to do the same thing.

  2. Tracy said

    “I’m willing to bet that if you took the average person and audited all her brand “likes” and “follows” (if she has any at all) it would in no way represent what’s in her pantry at home…”

    The online world is an opportunity to tweak and airbrush, if not thoroughly reinvent yourself. Preaching to the converted is the best case scenario; the other side of it is brand and consumer lying to each other at a party or one-night stand.

  3. David Burn said

    When I use the word “brand,” I’m not thinking about a logo or “mark,” I’m referring to the very real people who make up the company (that the brand stands for and is meant to promote).

    So for me, the brand is animate.

    I often say “brand team” to make the concept even clearer.

  4. SRP said

    On the subject of “brand” vs “branding” from AdAge, http://adage.com/article/agency-viewpoint/make-brand-a-verb/229088/

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