Sunday, January 29, 2006

Rebrand. The end is near.

There are no direct marketers in foxholes, apparently.

It’s been too busy to post for a while. Why? Because the phone is ringing off the hook with marketers wanting branding. Brand me, rebrand me, refresh my brand, save my brand. There’s an apocalyptic hint of panic in the air, and suddenly everybody has religion.

And with just cause. These are strange days indeed for old school brand marketers. We always thought that we could just kind of teach brands to consumers through mass media. Give ‘em The Family Guy free of charge, and they’ll gratefully watch your dogfood ads all day long. After a few years, voila. A brand. Better still, there were so many people watching that you really just had to convert a small percentage of them and not only would you have a brand, you’d have a business. And here was the best part: Everybody would subconsciously remember your dogfood and have warm fuzzy feelings about it for a long time. So, when they eventually got it in their heads to Google ‘canine nutrition’, your brand would shine forth from the computer screen like a divine truth.

Good times.

But the dark horsemen are gathering on Madison Avenue. For one thing, audiences aren’t that mass anymore. We have a hundred times as many channels as we used to, but I’m pretty sure we don’t have hundreds of times as many consumers to watch them. Worse yet, some of ‘em are starting to think that the dogfood ads–for–Family Guy deal smacks vaguely of a hostage taking. Besides, you can get last week’s Desperate Housewives on your iPod for two bucks. And with Google always there for you, there seems less need to commit mental hard drive space to your impressions of a dogfood brand. Not with all those PIN numbers to remember.

Nobody is quite sure where it’s all headed, but it seems like a brand that’s already famous and loved will be a good thing to have, since it seems like it’ll soon be almost impossible to make one from scratch. So it’s standing room only in the church of brands. And I’m furiously pounding away at the organ and passing the plate, selling salvation to all comers.

Still, I’m an optimist. I know that as long as people continue to be the gloriously flawed, vain and restless creatures we are, there will be brands. We might find them differently, but we’ll still want them. And if bad marketers get scared straight by all this and quit taking consumers for granted, so much the better.

On the other hand, if you hear that Larry and Sergey have started taking riding lessons, let me know. Seven years’ notice or so would be about right.

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