Will There Be A Branding Bullshit Reaction?

George Parker is the perpetrator of adscam.typepad.com. Every week he shares his opinions on the advertising world with PSFK.

One of the most memorable things that happened to me when I first came to the US as a snot nosed student, many, many years ago, was wangling an interview with David Ogilvy. Back then, in the early sixties, he was already a legend on Madison Avenue, and deservedly so. At the end of the interview, he offered me this final piece of advice… “Never forget, advertising is about selling.”

I next met him twenty five years later, when I was freelancing at Ogilvy. He entered a conference room late one evening where a bunch of us hired guns were drinking warm beer, eating cold pizza and talking shit. After asking us what we were up to, he banged on the table and shouted (he was quite deaf by then) “Never forget, advertising is about selling.”

OK, I am not repeating this episode to make you think that David was a one trick pony, far from it. It’s because I am getting sick and tired of how BDA’s and even many SDA’s (Small Dumb Agencies) never stop banging the “Branding” drum. Even Ogilvy’s Web site, which for years talked about “360 Degree Branding,” now flaunts “BIG,” their Brand Integration Group, which can bring your brand to life, tell your brand’s story, manage brand crisis issues, engage customers with your brand… But not a fucking mention of selling stuff. David must be spinning like a top beneath the Chateau.

However, it seems that smart consumers are actually starting to push back on all this agency inspired crap. There’s a really interesting post on Reuters “Entrepreneurial” blog about how Starbucks is opening “stealth” Starbucks – Stores without the Starbucks name over the front door – These are starting to appear in Seattle, its hometown, and London. Like the other stealth outlets, these have antique-style furniture, retro lighting, and not a Starbucks logo in sight.

Even though Starbucks would never admit it, this has to be a fucking crisis for them. When a brand is forced to hide its own identity, doesn’t this imply that its name – the core of the brand – has lost value? Why is Starbucks beginning to act like a small business? As the Reuters piece points out… The answer rests with communities and consumers. Over the last several years, a quiet but emphatic shift in buying patterns has taken place. Is the unthinkable happening? Are smart consumers starting to reject brands?

Perhaps a recent event here in Boise (Yes, fucking Boise) can shine a light on it. Idaho governor “Butch” Otter, who’s major claim to fame was once winning a tight jeans contest at a local bar, and then being DUI’d on the way home, (Hey, it’s Idaho!) Was recently attacked by an angry mob as he exited a Starbucks, ‘cos just across the street is a local coffee roaster that he has refused to patronize. The mob was mad that he was buying his coffee from an out of state company, particularly as he appears in really bad commercials for the state’s “Buy Idaho” TV campaign. But then, as his politics are well to the right of Genghis Khan, he was first in line to buy a wolf hunting permit when it was made legal a few months ago, and with a name like “Butch,” what can you expect?

Hey, it’s Idaho.

George Parker is the perpetrator of adscam.typepad.com, which is without doubt, one of the most foul and annoying, piss & vinegar ad blogs on the planet. He is the author of MadScam and his new book, The Ubiquitous Persuaders, which is currently setting the ether ablaze (and which you can order now on Amazon). He will continue to relentlessly promote the crap out of it until you are forced to stab yourself in the eyes with knitting needles.

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