Wednesday, August 22, 2007

When Brands Don't Matter

When I was in graduate school, one of my advisors gave me some sobering advice about my work. He said that when you are pursuing a dissertation topic it's important to identify the subjects about which your subject has nothing to say. "Not," he specified, knowing he was talking to clever graduate students who (like clever planners) are good at connecting very disparate subjects, "inversions of your topic or negative comments on your topic but subjects before which your topic is inert."

As planners, we tend to assume that brand development is relevant in some way to every business challenge. And in fact that might be true. But it's always instructive to encounter an expert who doesn't share that perspective.

When one of my former students got into a fancy business school, I joined her for one of her introductory lectures to hear her future corporate finance professor announce that "brands are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the financial structure of the company."

I was reminded of these moments earlier today when I listened to an expert on organizational development discuss how organizational alignment was more important than any particular brand idea of piece of communications.

My point here is not that these positions are correct or even correct some of the time, but they remind us to say sensitive to those situations when a brand is less relevant to the business problem at hand. And when that is the case, to have colleagues who know how to solve the problems (financial restructuring, organizational alignment) about which we don't have a clue.

1 comment:

Brad Noble said...

When brand *may* not matter online, begrudgingly offered by Jakob Nielsen, usability "guru":
* The more an ad looks like a native site component, the more users will look at it.
* Not only should the ad look like the site's other design elements, it should appear to be part of the specific page section in which it's displayed.

So much for branded, eye-catching OLA.