You’ve been branded!

You’ve been branded!

Attaching words and ideas around brand to everything that moves is somewhat old hat. But just when you didn’t think it could get any more confusing along comes – branded!

Branded assets (the mind boggles). Branded products (don’t they all have names). Branded experience (Disney must be so proud). To name just a few I’ve heard in the last week alone and I’m sure the list goes on.

Everything these days is branded!

But before I descend into full-on rant mode let me take a step back and see if I can pull apart what the lazy lingo types are really trying to say when they use the term.

At its most basic, to be branded is to have a mark of some kind put on something. Think cattle but remove the hot iron, burnt hide and searing pain (or maybe not – depends on how you feel about your agency I guess).

Taking it a level down, the whole idea of the brand was to mark the property of the rancher (his cows, his ranch). And over time that mark came to mean more than “this is my property”. If the rancher was a decent guy who helped others in the community, people saw the mark on the cow (or above the front gate) and thought “that rancher is a good guy”.

The actions of the rancher affected what people thought when they saw the mark. And the idea of the brand as representative of something was off and running.

So what’s my take on what the marketing and consulting types mean when they talk about those things as branded?

I think they simply mean that the asset (thing owned by the company), product or service (see asset), or experience, are shown in some way to be part of the company.

Which of course begs the question, when wouldn’t they be?

Is there any such thing as a “un-branded” product? Don’t all products have some kind of name, even so-called no-name still carry the name of no-name. You recognise them as something, they have meaning based on what you know about them (i.e. cheaper, probably lower quality, disposable).

A branded experience is just an experience that you closely associate with the company whose actions are creating it.

I mentioned Disney, and you could say they were the original branded experience company, with every aspect of the customer experience at Disneyworld manufactured right down to calling employees “cast members”, customers “guests” and a work shift a “performance”.

Being deliberate and conscious in the development and execution of your products, services, customer experience, company structure, communications and visibility is essential to building a great brand.

My point is of course that the term branded is largely redundant. And the rush to try and leverage some supposed added value by using it does nothing more than add confusion and hype-inflation to budgets.

Too often using terms like this takes the place of doing the work that does generate something that is truly branded. Something that generates the kind of meaning people felt when they saw the ranchers mark on the cow.

See you next week.

Michel Hogan is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make.

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