Finweek English Edition - - Advertising & Marketing -

MOST BRAND­ING is “a waste of money, based on an outdated and in­valid de­sire to ma­nip­u­late and con­trol con­sumers’ un­con­scious.” In a book called Brand­ing Only Works on Cat­tle, Jonathan Salem Baskin ar­gues that brand­ing may look and feel good to the peo­ple who pro­duce it, but it has lit­tle or no ef­fect on con­sumer be­hav­iour.

Con­sumers aren’t pay­ing at­ten­tion any more and they don’t be­lieve or re­mem­ber what they hear any­way. You can think about brands un­til the cows come home, but un­less your com­pany and your con­sumers ac­tu­ally do some­thing about it, brand­ing is a waste of time and money. Be­cause be­hav­iour trumps brand­ing.

It looks like an­other nail in the cof­fin of tra­di­tional me­dia ad­ver­tis­ing, which still ranks high in mar­keters’ minds as the best way of do­ing the brand­ing job.

But the thought has been seep­ing into the con­scious­ness of ad agen­cies that com­pa­nies must be seen to be good cor­po­rate cit­i­zens – to be so­cially re­spon­si­ble, to avoid prof­it­ing from child labour, to do things about the en­vi­ron­ment, to sup­port ac­tiv­i­ties that con­sumers ap­proved of. It’s what you do that counts, not what you say.

We’ve seen quite a lot of this new kind of mar­ket­ing in South Africa. Sports spon­sor­ship is an ex­am­ple of it, where sup­port­ers re­ward the spon­sors of their favourite teams or events by buy­ing their prod­ucts. Says Baskin: “Con­sumer be­hav­iour is a far cry from what it was 50 years ago. It’s time to up­date our model and applications. We need a new def­i­ni­tion of brand.”

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