Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stylistic decontamination

Our friend Prof. Livingston points out that David Brooks recently urged Republicans to “stylistically decontaminate their brand.” Then Livingston waggishly asks, “Is decontamination something you brand guys regularly do?”

Well, yes, actually, it is – (and thanks for your question). Brand consultants stylistically decontaminate all the time. Whenever an organization reeks of pestilentially undifferentiated and alien expressions, the working brand consultant dons a bulky hazmat suit and rids the place of such organisms, which compromise brand strength. Then the expert fertilizes all the well aligned products, policies and messages, thus enabling the brand to flourish.

Oh, then we spray the afflicted client with a mist of hemlock and mint, which generally does the trick.

Of course, the procedure’s technical term is not stylistic decontamination. It is (in the long version) “expunging activities and communications that are not aligned with the organization’s brand voice.”

In addition to stylistic decontamination and expressive fertilizing, brand consultants offer substance abuse – also known as “message generation” – host teddy-bear picnics – called “focus groups” – string clients’ offices with color-coded concertina wire – technically referred to as “brand guidelines” – and scrape and repaint the insides of our clients’ closets – under the rubric “employee branding.”

Yes, Brooks had it right. The Republican Party – that run-down coop of ranting, headless chickens – could use a good going over with the hose – also known as a brand identity engagement.


Monday, May 4, 2009

The spirit of a brand

Pontiac's demise is being poignantly documented by the New York Times – which itself seems to have a macabre interest in the final days of established brands – an obsessive concern for brands that become obsolete – a grim fixation on companies crushed by economic forces. 

Is there a lesson in Pontiac's imminent disappearance? Global capitalism is destructive, yes. Over-capacity in car manufacturing means that some brands must die, yes. Fuel prices and demographic trends favor some strategies over others, of course. 

But this old brochure pictured in today's New York Times reminds us that one reason for Pontiac's end is GM's absolute failure to keep alive and fresh the once-compelling spirit of the Pontiac brand.