The Next Era in Branding

That seems like a grand claim. Like something a branding guru would say as they set you up in order to sell you something familiar dressed up to look different. I’m no guru, and I’m certainly not prescient enough to see a new era if we’re really in the early stages of one. It’s just a hypothesis I have, and is one of the primary reasons I set up this blog – to explore what’s happening on the edges of branding and see if that constitutes a new era or simply, business as usual.

I’m probably tipping my hand with the name of my blog. Because I do believe that branding is changing and will change significantly in the next 10 years. Old rules of thumb will get overturned. New rules of thumb will be created. Some rules of traditional branding will still be true, but will be applied differently. It will be (heck, is) a period of enormous experimentation in marketing and it will take time to sort out the long-term successes and failures.

People say that branding is dead. That branding was a tactic created to exploit the information arbitrage between consumers and manufacturers. That with access to all the data now available in people’s smart phones, brands can no longer play fast and loose with facts, ingredients, claims, promises, pricing. That the clear eye of information will cut through all the marketing haze and will render branding’s magic null and void. Poof. It’s been a fun ride, but th-that’s all folks.

But humans have been using brands for 10,000 years. Don’t take my word for it. Anthropologists have determined that symbols on ancient commodities probably functioned much like logos do on today’s products. So, perhaps what everyone is reacting to isn’t the death of branding, but the demise of branding as we know it– the only kind of branding that any of us alive have known if we assume this era has been underway for some time. I believe the new era of branding will have much in common with what I imagine the earliest era of branding was like while, in some critical ways, looking very different from today’s branding.

As I said, that’s what I’m hoping to explore both in this blog and eventually in a book. If branding is really dying, then perhaps this will be its obituary. But if branding is simply going through a transformation rather than its death throes, future marketers will need to know which branding rules still apply, which rules will change, and which rules will spell disaster in this new era of branding.


Commenting area

  1. congrats on the launch, russ — i completely agree with you and that’s what i focus on operationalizing (not just expressing) brands — see:

    looking forward to seeing/reading more in this new direction for you!

    — denise lee yohn

    • Denise – appreciate the kind words. Don’t know the world necessarily needs another blog, but thought this is a great place to discuss many of the things we’re all feeling in the branding space. I immediately thought of where you’re focused on operationalizing brand and brand delivery. Also loved your guest post on the hierarchy of customer service over at the Neuromarketing blog. Hopefully I can convince you to guest post here sometime…I know I always learn something from what you have to say!

  2. Christopher Lehmann April 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm · · Reply

    good for you. looking forward to more….
    (nothing’s dying but some of the old ways.)

    • Thanks for the props. Figured I could use a place to start sorting through my thoughts and tap into all the great thinking out in the world on these things. Looking forward to hearing your comments and maybe getting you to guest write a posting or two in the near future!

  3. Glad to see/read your blog. Very proud of you…….

  4. Congrats! Looks great and I’m looking forward to reading future posts as you explore what’s happening on the branding edges.

  5. Jen Lockard April 25, 2011 at 8:18 am · · Reply

    On a completely selfish note, I’m thrilled you have started a blog for two reasons: 1) I get to see what’s going on up in that there head and 2) your first post is exactly what’s been rattling around in my own head for a while. Because we look back and call the 50s-60s the golden era of advertising, it’s hard to imagine that there might have been people then who wondered at the way the landscape (or brandscape, if you will) had already changed and how it would change in the future (of course, their visions also likely involved everyone using personal flying saucers vs minivans, but I digress). However much we might feel radical change is on our doorsteps, my guess is that it will still happen gradually enough that we’ll only really see it in hindsight…yet still I dream of being one of the visionaries who can see it before it gets here. Congratulations on taking your own first visionary steps!

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I actually think the next change is already underway. The challenge is its never a hard and fast line – its not like in a single day everything changes. But branding certainly is different today than it was in 1999. And likely different than it will be in 2023. There are so many folks who think we’re in the middle of a transformation that I thought this was a good place to start a discussion about that. And about what we can see today that points us in a certain direction. Hope its a place where many folks like you can add their thoughts. Appreciate your finding me – hope we get the chance to chat more.

  6. Russ – Congratulations on your blog! It’s great to see you explore your professional passion independently.

    I rarely post responses to blog posts, but your first post and your blog’s title, warrant a personal note:
    As long as there’s a society with wants and needs, and businesses and commerce positioned to fulfill them, there will be brands and branding. Thus, branding never dies. It evolves.

    Humans like to apply time stamps on time, meaning we invent eras, periods, ages of, and so forth – Doing so makes us feel better, gives us a sense of order and puts us in control. There’s nothing wrong with this until we let this practice limit our thinking and creativity, and often cloud our way forward. So those of us, like yourself, who break from this practice, are on a visionary, sometimes disruptive, path. I like this.

    Like you note, our current era chock full of new technologies, media and channels push brands into a new consideration challenges: Immediacy, transparency, values alignment, peer advocacy, the list goes on and on. Today’s consumers are less likely duped by a pretty dress. Brands must get naked and take action, quite like your blog’s theme echoes.

    Great branding is visionary, but poor branding isn’t always fatal. It’s up to those of us in marketing and branding to drive the visionary angle. I think you’re on the way to make us all better drivers. Thank you.

    • Alton- so glad you found me here! Agree completely with your thoughts. That’s the primary reason I started this -to explore some of these ideas without having to have all the answers or work within an existing framework. The ‘era’ thing is more a way of thinking about things than a hard and fast construct. Things take time to evolve and change…but I do think things are fundamentally shifting. Hope we’re still able to play around in this new “naked” brands era. Appreciate your comments. Hope we can chat more! Btw-you nailed the evolution thing. It’s my post for tomorrow.

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