Paradox of Branding: How To Use What We Don’t Understand?

Paradox: significant challenges to understanding Branding. 

Designing a complete brand experience is not a luxury.

There are a number of challenges to effective market branding—particularly to the SME (Small or Medium Enterprise). In no particular order these are seen as corporate (and societal) hegemony, literacy (linguistic access), and accessibility.

1. As a society we are enveloped in a branded culture so systemic that it is virtually impossible to separate our (individual) belief systems from the all-out corporate jihad which surrounds us. Even individuals committed to changing norms are obliged by this system to expend much of their discretionary income through brand structures. For instance, it would be impossible to purchase telecommunications services without participating in this plutocracy.

By nature this (corporate plutocracy) is secretive and therefore individuals see (and to a great extent believe) only what corporate brands want them to. Obviously this does not include the (crucial) hidden elements of market branding—only the tactical outcomes, which it serves corporate brands to propagate. Therefore, many, if not most people, still believe a brand is somehow tied to a logo mark. Such a limited view does not serve to produce effective new SME market brands.

2. The second major challenge is formed by lack of branding literacy. As with any specialized field of knowledge, market branding requires a special set of language constraints against which progress is measured, and plans are charted. For instance, the use of all the following words (along with many more) have special meanings in the field of branding:

  • archetype
  • architect
  • architecture
  • gestalt
  • hidden question
  • house
  • unspoken promise
  • color field

This language problem is confounded by the fact that there are no significant university or graduate programs in real market branding! Instead the many working aspects of branding are developed and taught inside major multinationals, intent on understanding (and keeping secret) their brand’s inner workings, but not necessarily as a general study. Therefore, language is not even necessarily standardized throughout the field, either.

3. Access is the final hurdle to effective branding. Obviously, as a society we are first made blind to the potent effects of branding—and how its mechanics function, and then ‘forbidden’ to communicate about it (for it is through language and education we normally gain access to intelligence). We require some source, preferably impartial, which might illuminate us. Unfortunately, there is very little to assist us. Other than a handful of books on the topic (notably several by Al and Laura Ries) there is far more disinformation than useful or fulfilling information on the topic. The closest most people ever get to a local access of understanding is through an advertising or branding agency, which is typically so in favor of media (advertising) that little true understanding is able to seep through to the interested (or impartial) observer.

For more on the significant challenges to understanding market branding, please see the illustrated article at


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