Friday, December 15, 2006

Branding with Hot Iron

There have been a few poorly muffled snorts and giggles over Jon Armstrong's slideshow presentation at this conference, mostly over the length--95 slides in all. It has also been suggested in some quarters that the content is puerile.

I am not making that suggestion. I am trying to be a more positive person these days. I think the only thing to do, since I obviously missed the branding conference, is to engage the slideshow on its merits. I know almost nothing about marketing. I am hoping my interactions with the slideshow will teach me a thing or two, or at least get me started thinking about my online identity and how to brand it.

But I'm not walking us through all 95 pages of this. I vote we just skip forward 70-odd pages and get to the good stuff. Everyone, please turn your PDFs to page 77:

Think about the brands in your life.

Okay! I pick Tampax.

What makes them important to you?

They come in Super Plus, and I can get a box of 80 for pretty cheap at that store I probably shouldn't be shopping at.

It will often seem foolish on close examination.

I disagree, Jon's Slideshow. Bleeding through one's jeans doesn't normally connote super intelligence. It would be foolish NOT to Tampax, in that case.

But that is the essence of a brand.

I think I get it now: You don't want me to think about the actual Tampax product, you want me to think about the Tampax brand. No wonder we're having misunderstandings.

Well, the essence of the Tampax brand for me is that it sounds very similar to tampon, which makes it easy to remember, and that's important to me because my memory is a shambles anymore. See, Kotex I could potentially mix up with Rolex, and it is ill-advised, generally, to confuse tampons with anything else in the world. I'd look awfully stupid trying to tell time with a Kotex, and I don't even want to think about the other possibility.

So I guess what I have learned from this is that a good brand sounds like what it is. This seems reasonable to me, but still leaves a lot unexplained, like Prius and Yahoo and Starbucks.

The emotional response is weird.

Now you've lost me again. I thought we were talking about brands, not my period.

I have to ask: Did you really stare out at a conference room full of people, Jon's Slideshow, and break the news to them that emotional responses are weird? You have brass balls, Slideshow.

Embrace it and apply it to your brand.

Maybe I'm not cut out for marketing, because it's only just occurred to me that I should probably have a product or a service first before even thinking about applying brands, or applying weird emotional responses to brands, or--hey, was this covered in the first 70 slides at all? That's what I get for skipping.

It won't be easy.

All right, I guess, but do you have to be so negative about it? I was sort of looking to you for encouragement. I thought that's what slideshows were for. Instead you're just making me doubt myself, my emotions, my menstrual cycle, Tampax, and hybrid cars.

Building a solid brand can be rewarding for you and your customers.

How rewarding is it for Leta, slideshow?

Okay! Wait! Don't storm off. I admit that was a little nasty. A lot nasty. I just . . . see, this is why I'm so disappointed that you went negative in the last slide. That hurt my confidence, and now I'm lashing out, and I'm sorry.

Advice

Time for more skipping. I'm going to condense the next few slides into one because there is seriously a slide for every fucking bullet point on the advice list. People sat through this. People paid money to sit through this. This either proves that people are insane, or that I am the dumbest person on earth for not having thought of this instant-expert-on-branding gig myself.

If I started telling you guys I was a sex expert (I will not say "sexpert," because I like you, and because we've all long since forgotten about Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and that is just as it should be), would you buy it? What if I put it on slides? Would you pay me to learn how to sex it up like an expert? Do you know any people who might? Can you give me their addresses?

What if I applied branding to my sex expertise? What then, huh? Could you even handle it? SEXBRANDING: It's the future; I'm just giving you a glimpse of it.

And now, without looking ahead, I am going to make a prediction: I predict that some version of "dream big" will appear in the "Advice" section. Because "dream big" is the favorite advice of every slideshow presenter in America, and because I've watched a lot of infomercials, and because I once bought a set of Anthony Robbins tapes. On the one hand, I was 18 at the time. On the other hand, I handed over $180 to Anthony Fucking Robbins and I don't think that should be forgivable even if I'd been THREE at the time.

The advice on the tapes, by the way, amounted mostly to "Dream Big."

And now back to the slideshow!

Advice:
Take your time.

Think conceptually.

Think abstract.

Don't be timid. Go big.

Beautiful. Can I get half credit for it being "go big" instead of "dream big?" I really think I should get half credit for that.

Advice 2

Oh no please no. Not more--

Advice 2
Did I mention the bit about taking your time?

Hire a pro. If you can't afford one, one will not be appointed to you.

Use professional tools. I'm looking at you MS Paint.

There should be a comma after "you" and before "MS Paint" in that last sentence, shouldn't there be? I know it's tacky to nitpick and grammar-cop like that but in fairness to me, the prior sentence DOES read, "Use professional tools." You mean like punctuation, slideshow? I hear that shit is awesome.

I am not even getting into the part where the conclusion of a 95-slide slideshow is essentially, "Hire someone who's actually good at this stuff. Really, what are you all sitting up here in Canada, in November, listening to me for?"

8 comments:

John said...

All right, here's where I confess - although I play a scientist in the blogosphere, I actually don't do that for a living any more (but I know more than enough to fake it). I am in (sob) Marketing. Never you mind for what or whom.

I noticed long ago in business school that there were two marketing types. One I refer to in my better moods as the "artsy-fartsy advertising types". In my pissier moods I refer to them as "shitheads". The other types are really quantitative psychologists and ex-engineers - the product designers who try to measure consumer response and behavior, and try to tailor products to what people want - before the artsy-fartsy types get "creative", and put a bug in senior management's ear, which turns the whole project to shit.

Being a former scientist, you can figure out which camp I fall in to. This shithead seems a prime example of the other camp. Never heard of him BTW. Anyone who talks about branding without first talking about the substance of the product (and don't you just love referring to yourself as a product?) is a Grade A Shithead, in my book.

ilyka said...

He's the husband of Heather Armstrong, the woman who created Dooce.com. A presentation on "How to Commercialize Your Wife's Hugely Popular Website Enough to Allow You to Quit Your Day Job," I could accept. This, not so much.

He's also known for being hot-tempered and defensive, which is why I don't have any direct links to him here.

The non-artsy side of marketing actually sounds interesting to me. Is that covering things like usability, comfort, visual appeal? Those things do matter, as I think any Apple product designer could attest. I wouldn't goof on that stuff.

wolfa said...

If you're looking for something to brand, have you considered investing in real estate? I hear you can get millions of dollars in mortgages if you just lie a bit on them.

ilyka said...

EVIL wolfa! Hee!

Zendo Deb said...

The amazing thing is Brands do work. (Some of them anyway.) My favorite is Clorox Bleach. It is a chemical for goodness sake, in some concentration in water... But Clorox charges twice what others do, and people pay it.

Oh, lately they have had to add lemon scent, and claim theirs is "extra pure," but that is a fairly recent problem. For years it was bleach at twice the price.

Then there is Ortho products. Stuff that makes things grow, and stuff that kills things. Why are these in the same brand? But it works....

John said...

Ilyka - what you mention is part of the non-soft marketing. There is a lot more as well. Some of the quantitative psychology aspects are discussed here.

There is also a fair bit of complex statistics involved, as you can see here.

figleaf said...

I can't possibly say what brought about the name Prius, except maybe it's allophonic with "purist." Maybe.

I'm pretty sure "Yahoo" got its name because one of the (college-age) founder's dads was always saying "what are you yahoos up to now?"

I know that Starbucks is named after Herman Melville's character Mr. Starbuck in Moby Dick "who did like his coffee."

And no, none of that gets to the heart of your post, which I really enjoyed.

JD said...

I can't possibly say what brought about the name Prius . . .

Are you kidding? It's named after Priapus, the God of Hard-Ons.