Timothy Neve is the creative director of Boutique Agency. He is a graduate of Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Arts and he is famous for his theatre set and costume design.
He calls a brand a "visual personality." His website says,
Tim’s passion and gift is for creating brands from inception, flowing through to unique advertising aesthetics – along with his amazing eye for detail and expression.
Cool Hunting today described Tim as creating "a flourishing identity throughout all aspects of branding."
Thomas Cromwell is the head of East West Communications. He specializes in helping nations create brands for themselves.
Here’s how he is described by his website:
[Thomas Cromwell] has traveled to over 100 countries and worked with many governments on their communications needs, including the preparation of country reports for The Washington Post, The Washington Times and other media. […]
Here’s the way Cromwell describes the value of what he does.
If, on the other hand, your country is known for civil war, widespread crime and corruption, inadequate infrastructure or an unfriendly population, the task of encouraging tourists to visit your destinations is very difficult. You have to either pretend all those disincentives don’t exist, or convince your audience that they will have no impact on a visit to your country.
Think about it. If you are heading to a vacation destination that looks like paradise in the brochures or on the net, but when you arrive you are kept in a long line at passport control at an airport that is dirty and has no climate control, and then you are exposed to sweaty men fighting over who will take you in his taxi, and on and on, your vacation will be spoiled and you are unlikely to return to that country.
(To be fair, not all of Mr. Cromwell’s prose is as bad [or funny] as this. And some of his notions of branding are interesting.)
I don’t doubt that Neve and Cromwell are good at what they do. But I am impressed that the same term can describe what they do. Branding, what an athletic little concept. Apparently, it applies to the aesthetic, flourishing, and flowing even as it applies to investment, tourism, and nationhood (oh right, and "sweaty men fighting.")
Ours is an expanding culture, its absolute semantic space growing a pace. So it makes an anthropologist’s heart glad to discover something this encompassing, a bit of culture that stretches from the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters, as it were. (I refer of course to the deathless lyrics of "This Land is Your Land" by the Brothers Four.)
Still, "branding" is perhaps too inclusive for its own good. It may be all things to all people because it’s not much of anything to anyone of us. Aesthetic and practical, identity and investment, perhaps no concept can stretch this far.
I wonder if the concept called branding is not AWOL, an innocent making its way in the world, falling sometimes into bad company, pressed into service by the not very scrupulous or the not very bright. It’s as if "branding" fell off the back of a truck and is now circulating without guarantees or operating instructions. Gray matter gone gray market.
This raises the question of who should be in charge. Should it be the academics? Should it be Mr. David Aaker at Berkeley? Should it be Philip Kotler at Northwestern. I don’t think so. Kotler has done magnificent work, but generally speaking this academy is guilty of abuse and obfuscation. I was interested to see that, today, Ann Fudge (pictured) resigned as the CEO of Young & Rubicam Brands. I could not help wondering whether her professional fate would have been any different if her alma mater (Harvard Business School) actually understood brands in any sophisticated way. Put it this way, no one in the business school community gets the cultural dimension of branding. This is a little like doing statistics without understanding any of the math. (You are just going through the motions. Let’s hope this works for you. God help you when it doesn’t.)
Well, perhaps the keepers of the branding concepts should be the gurus and the consultants. Oh, don’t even go there, girlfriend. Gurus and consultants are famous for adjusting their concepts to suit the client. So they should, that’s their job. But this makes them the very worst guardians of the branding concept.
I believe the nod should go to the marketing practitioner. Not all of them, to be sure. But there are people out there who a) really, really care about the brand, b) who have the advantage of watching it take shape over several years, c) who have the advantage of seeing how it responds to various experiments in product development, advertising, promotion, and interaction, d) who have built up an idea based on practice that makes up in empirical acuity what it lacks in formal specification.
If we were smart, we would go out, gather up best practice, and make this the new standard of what branding is and how branding works.
Cromwell, Thomas. n.d., Why Nation Branding Is Important For Tourism. The East West Communications Website. here.
Sanders, Lisa. 2006. Ann Fudge Retires From Young & Rubicam Brands. Ad Age. November 28, 2006. here. (subscription required)
The boutique agency website here.
Cool Hunting on Tim Neve here.