Dec 152010

Branding Only Works on CattleBRANDING ONLY WORKS ON CATTLE
By Jonathan Salem Baskin
John Wiley

“Branding doesn’t work any more…You need another branding solution like you need a hole in the head.” Considering that he makes his living as a branding consultant, Jonathan Salem Baskin is a brave man. In his iconoclasm, he reminds of a routine by Rich Hall, in which the American comedian questions why Coca-Cola is willing to spend millions on brand advertising, only for diners in a restaurant to reply “Whatever” when the waiter asks “Is Pepsi OK?”.

Despite his profession, Mr Baskin is nothing if not consistent, as followers of his website and blog will know. His lively new book challenges the brand gurus—and indeed, the entire subculture around the concept of branding, to prove things at the most fundamental level—that their campaigns, no matter how clever or how “viral”, actually make customers buy more of a company’s products.

Although a rabble-rouser, Mr Baskin is no Naomi Klein. His book is aimed at chief executives, asking them why branding “isn’t held to the same standards as the activities of the rest of the enterprise”. He believes that companies can no longer rely on vague image associations in a world where consumer choice is heavily influenced by information and opinions found online. “People are harder to find, more difficult to convince, and less likely to remember what they’re told… We need brands to do more, only we’re getting less from them”, he writes.

With this challenge, he takes on a “multi-billion creative Media-Industrial complex dedicated to maintaining the status quo,” making good use of an analogy with the Ptolemaic system (which for centuries placed the Earth at the centre of the solar system). Money is squandered “in perpetuation of a charade that hasn’t been remotely relevant since the mass media days of the mid-twentieth century”. As with Ptolemy’s idea, Mr Baskin is dedicated to gathering the evidence so the charade can, finally, be reputed.

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