Is Branding Dead?February 2003
By Tom Barnes
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That question raises ire in all but the most sanguine marketer. Branding dead? That's heresy-just the type of thing to get your attention.
Actually branding will never die-- it's the tools and the means by which we typically use them to achieve the goal of branding that are, in fact, obsolete. What's worse-- every tool and technique we've spent our careers learning, useless or not, is under new scrutiny: a new, mathematical, quantitative, hard-core, squirm-in-front-of-your-CFO, scrutiny. After the wreckage has been removed even the slowest amongst us will discover it is disruptive marketing that has died.
Few of us got into marketing because of our math chops. Ironically, it is the quantitative methods we dread that will save us. That said, let's review the technologies that are silencing our branding initiatives.
TiVo. Believe whatever hype you want, but TiVo and other hard disc video recording aren't going anywhere. Nor is technology that allows TV viewers to skip commercials. There will be much hand wringing and gnashing of teeth over the next few years, but know this: you can never un-ring the technology bell. That genie is not going back in the bottle no matter what Jack Valenti says. Ask any record company executive. We think TiVo may be the best thing to happen for a lot of brands since "gift with purchase".
Telezappers and Caller ID. No more telemarketing. Demon dialers have been rendered functionally useless. People have too little leisure time to listen to your phone pitch at dinner. Time to find a new channel. Mourn the innocent researcher who is already packing his bags in search of new methodologies.
MP3 players. While radio continues to deliver both value (relative to TV) and speed for traditional advertisers, music as the primary content for radio stations is in the final stage of decline. Commercial breaks are reaching unlistenable lengths Radio will still remain viable, but not as a music delivery channel. If a station isn't selling something unique besides music, you probably need to look elsewhere.
Don't forget the diffusion of satellite either. XM most probably will have 500,000 subscribers and $300 million in new financing by the time you read this --Sirius is just getting started.
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