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Here’s What Sucks Already.

December 4, 2008

snake-oil2
Branding now officially sucks. The smart ones were the ones fast enough to sell a few books and seminars before people realized that they either didn’t understand what the hell they were talking about or realized that branding is a new word for something everyone was doing already.

Here’s my prediction for the upcoming year too. Everything which is attached to social/viral/conversational et al will grow to suck too. Why? Because conversations and tribes and social networks are all things which happened when Twitter was still a sound which emanated from a bird and Facebook was still two separate words.

Companies will pound home the simple truth that they exist principally to make profit. This is neither a positive nor a negative thing however it’s the thing (what you do after with the cash can be imbued with notions of morality but the existence of companies revolves around this one, neutral idea – making money).

How much time can you afford to put into staying ahead of the curve? How much of this time is fundamentally different from what you were doing before and how much of it is fluffy? How many hours a day can you delve into social networks on your computer before it tips over to being a 21st century version of having a drink with a business partner after work to staying in the bar all day?

Don’t get me wrong. There are important lessons to be learned from smart companies who succeed in spreading their stories to create users who are pleased enough with the services and products to talk about them to their peers. But this has been the cornerstone of business since one caveman sold a rock to another one.

English newspapers call this “tea” conversation. What stories go into the rag? The ones which will motivate people to talk about them over a cup of tea. The ones which will spread.

The traditional media vs. new media debate already sucks and sucked as soon as it left the starting gates. The ones who are making the most noise on this one are (again) those who were quickest to make a blog/book/buck from the idea.

Old tools or new tools. Tools are what they are. There is some level of interest in studying the shiny buttons on some new web application or plug-in in the same way there is some interest in admiring the spade you use in the garden. Admiring and talking about the spade with your neighbor however will not make your vegetables grow.

We have plunged into a world of eternal novelty and the human nature of rushing to stay abreast of what is coming up has lead to an industry of instant experts comprised of mainly of closely considering one’s own shininess.

In 2009, in a year which is going to be one of the toughest you will probably have to face, stop gazing at your spades and start working your gardens.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2008 7:27 pm

    Yup. I have to agree with that. I have to admit that sometimes I get too caught up with the latest and greatest. Probably trying to spend too much time trying to figure out how to make it work. Nothing will ever trump the one-on-one face-to-face connection that people can make.

    But, of course, if something has stabilized into a new medium, I do think we need to pay attention.
    Cheers.

  2. December 4, 2008 10:37 pm

    Interesting post. You are right, using online/social tools isn’t reinventing the wheel of branding, it is a shiny object that can suck hours and hours of your time and much of it already sucks.

    I think, however, that the macro level shift is something that all organizations MUST pay attention too. It revolves around the ability to start something quick and cheap, with access to thousands if not millions. It requires a new way to look at communications, moving away from “Hey I’m here” to “Hey I’m here, whats up, what’s next, lets chat” It emphasizes the importance of attention.

    With anything, a large amount of media sucks (just turn on the tv) but that should not discourage you from investigating, learning and implementing social campaigns that a relevant to your business with a business objective.

    Not being a head of the curve, or at least aware of it, is going to hurt more than ever. So yes, “stop staring at your spades, and start working on your garden”

  3. December 5, 2008 3:20 am

    Oooh…love how much info just magically appeared in your comment box. A little scary as I’ve never been here before, but cool.

    I’d have to say I disagree. I think the novelty in the new tools is that they work SO WELL for people who work at home. They allow us the freedom to do things that we otherwise would have had to trod the streets to do.

    For some of us, street-trodding just isn’t possible. That’s why I get excited about twitter, et al.

  4. December 5, 2008 3:20 am

    I meant “my” info. Loved how “my” info just appeared.🙂

  5. December 5, 2008 3:43 am

    Oh yes, and you know what does suck? Your Twitter link on the home page takes me straight to the main page. Not your page. So now I can’t follow you. @sarahjbray

  6. Jon P. permalink
    December 5, 2008 4:13 am

    Actually, knocking branding officially sucks at this point.

    I’ve been reading how ‘branding’ is over for a long time now. By now, it’s easily 25 years removed from being the latest “fad”. If it officially sucks now, then it always has. But I suspect branding will be around long after all those who don’t really understand it’s value have moved on to target some other object of pop disdain.

    Here’s why a lot of companies pay good money for thinkers, writers and designers to help them manage their brands: Because, more than ever, we live in a short attention-span world, and it helps customers and prospects to be reminded what you stand for and why you do what you do for them. Most people aren’t opposed to the companies they buy from making a profit if they’re happy with the way they’ve been treated and the products they’ve purchased.

    Branding helps keeps companies honest by reminding management of the promises they made, so they can live up to them. When companies don’t do that, then their branding officially sucks.

  7. Tim permalink*
    December 5, 2008 5:42 am

    @Jess. You are much more eloquent than I and I agree being aware of the curve is paramount to being in business. The question is how much is part of the curve and how much is eye candy?

  8. Tim permalink*
    December 5, 2008 5:42 am

    @Sarah. Oops. My Twitter thing does suck.

  9. Tim permalink*
    December 5, 2008 10:55 am

    @JonP. If I understand correctly “branding” helps customers because they have short attention spans and helps companies because they are dishonest.

    Thanks for the explication.

  10. Jon P. permalink
    December 5, 2008 1:27 pm

    Tim, you’re the perfect example. From the time you read my comment to the time you responded, you completely forgot what I said.

    Obviously some capitalist has done you wrong along the way and you have a chip on your shoulder. But you either haven’t been around that long, or your attention span has caused you to forget that you’re about the 100th or maybe the 1000th writer to proclaim that branding is obsolete. From the looks of your photo, I’d say they’ve been doing it longer than you’ve been alive.

    For that I envy you.

  11. Tim permalink*
    December 5, 2008 5:38 pm

    What a strange little analysis. Thanks anyway for the compliment about my age (or about the photo, one way or the other I’ll take it).

  12. Jon P. permalink
    December 6, 2008 1:11 am

    Here’s another compliment: you’ve definitely got the clever part of writing down. But the more attached you are to it, the more it’s a curse. Your main point about working in one’s garden rather than gazing at the shiny new spade was intriguing. I would much rather have read what that means to you than yet another rant about Facebook, Twitter and new media and branding.

  13. Jon P. permalink
    December 6, 2008 1:11 am

    Here’s another compliment: you’ve definitely got the clever part of writing down. But the more attached you are to it, the more it’s a curse. Your main point about working in one’s garden rather than gazing at the shiny new spade was intriguing. I would much rather have read what that means to you than yet another rant about Facebook, Twitter, new media and branding.

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