Brands today – between courtesy and opposition

A guest post by Boris Kochan on the topic of SMART BRANDS


“And Madonna does not sing in Bavarian to please Bavarians,” said Reinhard Springer of Springer & Jacoby around the turn of the millennium as he explained to what degree autonomy and distinctiveness can translate into success. It is one thing to meet the client’s expectations – it is another thing altogether to bend over backwards in order to adapt at all cost.

As early as the early noughties, the yearning for authenticity and tangibility was enormous. This was certainly triggered by the loud crashing of the internet bubble in 2001 as well as the end of hopelessly overrated ventures with the word “online” in their name. Up until then, everything was meant to become even more beautiful, even bigger, and even more incredible. Success was measured in “burning rates”, the annihilation of invested capital, and three-man e-commerce outfits traded higher on the stock exchange than Daimler, Siemens et al.

Nowadays – in line with the world of brands and the experiencing of brands – demands have become much more complex. Today, a quick reality check makes artificial, staged authenticity crumble instantly. The public exchange about products on channels such as Twitter and Facebook has become a matter of course – a reality which the owner of brands can no longer control. And while companies still long to control their target groups, these very target groups are looking for something that truly fascinates them. Something they can simply believe in such as Airbnb, car2go or a media brand such as brand eins.




Whether or not this becomes easier when an anonymous user blogs about products, chats about them or rates them is another question altogether. It goes without saying that not all online platforms are equally useful to all users, let alone correct with regard to content. Collective intelligence can be very helpful on many levels – collective taste, however, is a horse of a different colour. Surely it would lead to mediocrity? Long live the link to the run-down pizza joint as the city’s best restaurant!

To this day, the following notion holds true: the more defined one’s position, the easier it becomes to create tangibility. Brand building is based on differentiation, which in turn invites (welcome) rejection. That is something one must be able to endure. Or something to desire as it is valuable. No one is more boring than everybody’s darling. Is the perfect brand of this brave digital world thus made up of distinctiveness, courage and obstinacy alone? Maybe not, but they help make it credible. And as a result it becomes truly authentic. A good beginning, because staying true to oneself and not putting on any disguise eliminates the need to pledge allegiance to authenticity. Which in turn is the premise for the next step: good old consistency. Sturdy, down-to-earth and verifiable consistency – it brings to the table all that is vital to any long-term relationship, namely reliability.

Combined with empathy, the ability to understand the idiosyncrasies of one’s counterpart, and a generous dollop of the ability to learn, this visual brand personality comes across as something akin to a rebel when compared to the ADHS-like fussiness of its competition. And all of this is achieved with the kind of old-fashioned values that create new forms of relationships and links – it is as easy as it is effective. Really smart.

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