Branding: It’s Beginning To Grate on Nerves

Edwin Heathcote, writing in the Jan. 15, 2011 Financial Times on old British eateries, said:

The more everything becomes the same, the more ubiquitous branding begins to grate, the more everything looks like it belongs in a mall – the more Britian’s few surviving “caffs” represent a refuge.’

Heathcote was writing about those British cafes, simple diner-like eateries serving breakfast, lunch and tea. They are disappearing, squeezed out by rising rents and self-conscious chain retailers and eateries. Fake, contrived eateries that are far too clever than necessary, are squeezing out real places.

But his comment applies to all branding. These are the questions I wonder about:

  • Is there too much branding?
  • Must we all be so concerned with branding?
  • Isn’t a good brand really the result of a moral, well-run company? Isn’t it better that hospitals focus on patients, and let the “branding” speak for itself? Do churches really need to “brand” themselves, or is it better that they focus on saving souls? Do we really need for banks to have visual identities, or do we want them to treat us properly when we make a deposit?
  • Is the most recent mania for branding yet another management fad that we use to obscure coercion, duplicity and manipulation?

4 Comments


  1. I’m sick of walking around pimping somebody’s brand of clothes. I suppose I could take a razor blade and saw the Carhart(sp?) patch off my jacket. And tape over the ‘Duluth Trading’ embroidered on my ball cap. Won’t bother. But I won’t buy a Polo anything. When it comes to clothing, brand graphics are just gawdawful. Some folks go so far as to ‘shave’ the manufacturer’s badges, and even model badges, off their cars. That’s just a bit OCD for my taste, though I will insist on no dealer badging/decals/plate frames on the cars I buy. Bottom line is, I can generally accept the ambient brand/ad noise out there – the kind businesses pay for. I just don’t want to be somebody’s sandwich board bitch as I walk around.

  2. Perhaps Mr. Heathcote thinks he can ride the tube down to Kathy’s Cafe in Walford and have a bite of fish and chips? I will really start worrying when that institution becomes franchised.

  3. Yes, branding has become excessive. Brand used to mean the name of a company that made a product or group of products. The brand name used to stand something because it told the consumer who made it – who stood behind the product. Now, it stands for a marketing department that is seeking a marketing opportunity. The marketing department selling a name not a product. Shoot, the ‘brand’ may still be there but the odds are the company isn’t. The unfortunate side effect of the rampant proliferation of branding is that people are loosing their trust in branding – the name means nothing or next to nothing. This excessive use of branding is ultimately cause all branding to fall victim of the law of diminishing returns, damaging the usefulness of branding.

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