Autumn 2004

Brand discipline (extract)

Rob Camper
Brand madness part 2 / essay

Branding is not design and it is not marketing. Branding is a discipline we have to define

Many businesses and organisations confuse the discipline of brand with that of marketing, or worse, assume that branding means hiring a designer simply to develop a logo and then burn it on to every inanimate object within reach. Sadly, this is how many designers think as well. Businesses and organisations can claim ignorance but as designers, we should know better.

True, design education rarely broaches the topic of ‘brand discipline’, but it would still seem that many designers are going right ahead and laying claim to this area of expertise, only to find that more often than not they are referring to logo design, identity design, or ‘brand identity’.

These definition inconsistencies are not just relegated to the fresh-faced designers looking to sign up clients by dropping the ‘branding’ buzzword haphazardly – their seniors are just as guilty. At the 2003 AIGA National Design Conference in Vancouver there was a noticeable undercurrent of frustration prompted by so many disparate assumed definitions of ‘branding’, ‘brand’ and ‘brand work’ by the presenting designers, and even the AIGA Brand Experience Council. The latter was discussed in the recent AIGA Brand Experience Newsletter, where Nathan Shedroff, chairman to the council writes, ‘It seems that every conversation we have comes down to a disagreement of definitions at some point. Admittedly, something as complex as a brand can’t be easily defined on only one level. However . . . If we can’t even agree on a definition of the word brand, how are we ever going to discuss anything else related to brands?’

Branding is not simply a marketing term or a deliverable, it is a discipline – though it is sometimes perceived as one of those mysterious areas, like Tai Chi or Latin percussion, where you need a fundamental, almost spiritual understanding before daring to list it on your business card.

Branding is certainly not a logo, or marketing, or even a positioning statement. It is a foundation, stating who you are, what your association is, what you offer to the world, and how your audience should (or does) perceive you – and it all centres around the increasing necessity of ‘mindshare’ and conceptual ownership. Without it, organisations will find it more and more difficult to survive.

How did we get here?

The average consumer in the western world must deal with approximately 10,000 brands competing for mindshare. This is a far cry from a generation ago, when the total number of news sources, television stations and meaningful cereal choices numbered single digits. . .

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