Why new branding may be the last thing you need

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And this is especially true in the ludicrous mixed-up world of marketing and what they now call ‘branding’.

A few years ago, everyone who knows only a little about marketing became convinced that The Brand is everything. You had to build a brand to sell your product.

Everyone who knows a lot about marketing knows the opposite is in fact the case. You have to sell your product in order to build a brand.

And to sell your product you have to tell people why they should try it, or buy it.

Because it cleans whiter. Because it’s the sweet you can eat between meals. Because it’s the safest car out there.

In short, you have to give people a clear, focused and specific reason to buy your service or product. This is called selling. Which is now virtually a dirty word in marketing and advertising circles.

The absolute foolishness of trying to create a brand to sell your products is tragically demonstrated by the closure of a private school near me. This school has been going for over 300 years.

But last year they suddenly changed its name from The Friends School to Walden School. And a new logo popped up to support this. Hmmm, I thought, That’s odd, why on earth would you ditch a very distinctive brand name with three centuries of heritage and, one imagines, close to 100% recognition in the local area? And replace it with a name that creates instant confusion with the local Saffron Walden County High School? Which even has a similar logo.

I’m guessing the answer is a simple one.

The school was losing pupils. Revenue was drying up. Something had to be done.

But instead of concentrating on creating a great product (a brilliant school with stonking academic results well worth your £7000 a term fees) and then telling people about it as loudly and convincingly as possible, offering special discounts and making themselves generally unmissable to their target parents, they obviously picked the route that so many businesses do today…

They decided they needed a new brand. Branding will solve our woes!

“Yes! If we change the name and the logo the customers will come flocking to our door and our woes will be over for ever! Hoorah for marketing!Hoorah for branding!”

Except it didn’t work.

Because it never does. Yet, more and more companies do it. It’s a lot easier than selling. It makes you feel cool and trendy talking about ‘brand’ rather than grubby ol’ sales.

You get to meet designers and strategists and planners who make you feel very important and write all sorts of portentous documents about your brand and the psychological power of Pantone 345.

They make you a new logo. And choose a fashionable typeface. Maybe they even write a slogan.

But do they make people buy your stuff? Nope.


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