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Debranding: The Future of Branding

Today, brands are everywhere. They’re in your house, they’re in your car, they’re on the tube, they’re in your office. They’ve infiltrated every avenue of our lives. And as more and more people get the opportunity to create branded content, the fuller the market gets. But right now we can’t really get anymore full. We have reached brand saturation point.

As these brands continue to spread into our lives, people are struggling to draw a line in the sand. But now, they’re realising that they don’t like having their minds polluted with the conceptual ideas of branding. We don’t need to be sold a story. We don’t need to believe that a few sprays of aftershave will transport us to a desert, where we ride a motorcycle without a shirt on. We just need an aftershave that smells nice. We need real products and real stories. We need to see real people with real voices acting as the advocates for companies.

Since the 90s people have been fighting back against intrusive advertising, like trying to stop Coca-Cola from sponsoring school events. And this gradual rejection of overt advertising principles is helping people to stop brands from corrupting everything in our lives.

But to get around this, companies have started to use a camouflage strategy. As their impact has fallen on social media they’ve looked for new ways to draw customers in. Their newest tactic, is ‘native advertising’. A way to hide their commercial agenda under the guise of familiarity. With content that looks and feels like a newspaper or magazine article, these companies are trying to trick consumers into believing their fabricated brand story. But pretending to be something you’re not never works out well.

This kind of branded content journalism is confusing. It blurs the lines between advertising and journalism, all designed to seem more familiar to customers and coerce them into trusting them. But this isn’t sustainable. It’s a system based solely on misdirection. Using the qualities of journalistic articles to sell a product that isn’t even remotely related to those features. This kind of branding deliberately obscures what the product means, hiding any reality under layers of misleading information.

Using these tactics is why brands try to bypass the need for a quality product with high tech graphics, artistic films and conceptual photography. But these companies need to wake up and realise that no matter how good your branding efforts are, your marketing won’t improve the quality of your products. And the more these businesses construct vast amounts of information that isn’t related to their products, the more they will begin to sell lies. They sell things that they’re simply not capable of delivering. For example, companies that sell shoes normally struggle to live up to their brand because they create such elaborate imagery around the shoes, that it’s out of reach of the product. Some shoe adverts will sell you the ideal that their shoes will turn you into an athlete, or a skateboarder, or a model. But regardless of the idea they try to sell you, the company will struggle to live up to it.

Branding, at its core, is a way to communicate and therefore it will never fully disappear. But it will change. Its focus will shift from marketing to products. As consumers demand a more authentic, more realistic approach from their businesses they’ll want more truth in the products they buy. Pushing back against misleading branding ideas and instead looking for the companies who dedicate more of themselves to building a great product, rather than just acting like they do. And this is going to change how people work for their companies. There’ll be a need for employees to feel more personally involved in their businesses, acting as advocates and providing a more humanistic perspective to branding. Through this brands will be able to discover the power of real people’s voices in interfacing between customers and products.

But this kind of debranding philosophy is already in our society. Where before brands tried to emphasise the difference between themselves and show why they’re nothing like each other, they’re now seeing just how powerful interconnectivity is. In a world where even our ovens and washing machines are connected, businesses are looking into how they can integrate with us, as well as each other. Companies know that to succeed they need to allow cross platform integration; iPhones need to connect with Windows applications and health trackers need to connect with treadmills. Brands don’t need to shout about themselves anymore, they need to offer a product that’s genuinely useful.

In this debranded world, the higher quality products and decreased push to make us buy other things will mean that we buy less. Spending more on fewer quality items, as companies invest more in the development of their products to ensure that it’s good enough to speak for itself, without all the excess branding. But despite the product development pushing the price up, customers will save cost by not having to pay for the added conceptual value of brand. What you see is what you get. If you buy a toothbrush you get something that cleans your teeth, not something that makes you more successful. If you buy some sunglasses you get eye protection from the sun, not a trip to Ibiza as a millionaire. Companies will make sales on the basis of a well-made product, not a well-made story.

Business will be able to return to what they were made to do. Make great quality products.

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