If you can remember how to spell it, you will be well on the way to getting back to the basics of branding, according to the “Antichrist of Marketing” Prof. Stephen Brown.
The professor of Marketing Research at Ulster University has been ranked in the world’s top 50 marketing gurus, and has been dubbed a “postmodern provateur” and “antichrist of marketing” for his views. A profilic academic author, Brown has begun to pen “management thrillers” — not textbooks! — to keep his students engaged.
Speaking at another full house at the NCI’s Cornflakes & Commerce series in Dublin this morning, Brown said the word “branding” has become devalued to the point of “becoming the linguistic equivalent of an invasive species.” An engaging and lively speaker who delivered most of his talk wandering amongst the audience, Brown’s aim was to boil down the essence of branding.
To that end, he came up with his mnemonic.
M: Magic. “It’s really important that you identify the magic,” Brown said. This means identifying what makes your product different and unique, and then building and focusing on that.
N: Names are “prodigiously important,” he said. Google was briefly known as Backrub while BlackBerry was once a PocketLink.
E: Emblem. Nike, Ralph Lauren and thousands of other companies are instantly identifiable by their graphics, Brown said. “Logos are lightening in a bottle.”
M: Milieu, or “the context in which your product is set.” Tiffany’s has distinctive packaging and stores, while Toilet Duck has a “magically zoomorphic” bottle.
O: Ouroboros, the ancient drawing of a snake eating its own tail, represents continuity and infinity, Brown said. Short-term performance pressures can undo decades of work to build up brands. Examples include Tiger Woods, News of the World and BT.
N: Narrative. “Nowadays, you must tell a tale to make the sale,” Brown said. The stories of James Dyson, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson “are integral to the mystique” of their brands, he said. Dyson struggled with thousands of protypes to get the product right. Branson has his daredevil exploits, while the story of Steve Jobs leaving Apple, its near collapse, and his return are “almost biblical,” Brown said.
One of “Ireland’s greatest natural resources is storytelling,” yet it is incredible that the Irish do such a bad job thinking up and telling their narratives, Brown said. He urged companies to “adopt an author,” not PR people, to get the message out.
I: Icon. The Michelin Man, Ireland’s Mr. Tayto, Tony the Tiger, Compare the Meerkat and other countless figures have been dismissed as gimmicky, Brown said. But they are “brilliantly effective,” and even more so during troubled times, he added. Brown compiled a database of 1151 icons and found that some groups were most common than others.
People, either real or stylized, top the list. Domestic animals are next. At the bottom are amphibians, insects and inanimate objects. And some just don’t work, Brown noted. The London 2012 mascots, for example, have been derided as “terrifying one-eyed penis monsters.” Meanwhile, Guinness used icons to great effect for many years in its advertising, Brown said.
C: Catchphrases. “I love New York,” “Guinness is good for you” and “Have a break, have a Kit Kat” all remain in public memory even after they have long been abandoned by the companies’ own Marketing departments, Brown said.
Accounts of past Cornflakes & Commerce events can be found below.
Image courtesy of Patrick Dockens on Flickr.