Obsessive Branding Disorder

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Obsessive Branding Disorder

In an average day, every American is exposed to between 3,000 and 5,000 ads in their various forms.  Collectively, companies directly pay for some $300 billion in branding each year.  Has it gotten out of hand? 

There are M&Ms branded NASCARs, Procter & Gamble portable toilets, branded beach sand, branded golf holes, and even branded athletic
stadiums.  Hundreds of new products become available every day of the year.  Cheap merchandise from abroad has flooded the market.  Companies desperate to bolster sales have resorted to using branding as a substitute for old-fashioned competitive responses like innovation, good quality control, and incremental improvements in their products. 

Similarly, the complete fragmentation of the advertising market due to the Internet and mobile communication devices has left that industry at a loss for what to do.  Branding seems to be the "panacea of the moment," a fad that could do more harm than good. 

Another factor behind this trend is the use of the new sciences of human behavior.  According to the new book Obsessive Branding Disorder1 by Lucas Conley, this understanding of how the brain works and how human biases work, is encouraging marketers to manipulate consumers as never before. 

Writing in FastCompany,2 Conley refers to branding as the "self-help" industry of corporate America.  He argues that branding, led by an army of self-styled experts, has become an obsession among business executives to the point that it has permeated every element of life and spread out to include such far-flung outposts as the mental health field. 

The fundamental trouble with the branding craze as it has evolved is its tendency to take our attention away from what is important to the customer and place it squarely on what is not.  In the process, it leads companies and customers alike away from innovation and the efficient delivery of high-quality products and services and into a vague realm of entertainment that ultimately delivers little or nothing of value.

Consider that during the now-infamous Super Bowl of January 30, 2000, companies lined up to spend an average of $4.2 million a minute for TV time, totaling $250 million in all, to deliver their high-impact messages in the space between touchdowns.  The spots were generally 30 seconds long, of which five seconds, on average, delivered the actual sales message...

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