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Branding Does Not Mean Boring

Jul 5th, 2010 | By | Category: Featured Articles

Branding is important, but it doesn’t mean sanitizing what makes you special so that you can package yourself like a product. Here are two manifestos: one from a writer, one a company.

The red poster on the left is the Lululemon Manifesto from a company in Burnaby (near Vancouver.) While their product is athletic wear, the manifesto clearly shows their goals, as people and (as a result) as a company.

Now, I know a thing or two about branding. It’s not just that I have a masters degree in marketing, and that I still have friends from in New York ad agencies from the days of “Mad Men.” I was part of the Bufferin account team at Bristol-Myers, I have placed media campaigns for Procter & Gamble brands in Cincinnati, the corporate home of Procter & Gamble. And I can tell you that the Internet is most effective when you show your individuality.

Here’s how writer Maureen Johnson put it in

MY POINT IS . . . it’s early days yet on the Internet, and lines are being drawn. We can, if we group together, fight off the weenuses and hosebags who want to turn the Internet into a giant commercial. Hence, the manifesto. It goes something like this:

The Internet is made of people. People matter. This includes you. Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people -— talk TO people. It’s organic. Make stuff for the Internet that matters to you, even if it seems stupid. Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare… but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make.

Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand -— tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people.

For example, here is the current website of the oldest awning company in San Francisco. They’ve been making awnings since before the earthquake. Does this website tell the story of this family-owned business? The father-to-son training in measuring, sewing, selecting fabrics and getting logos to look great?

Here’s the new website that I developed for American Canvas and Awnings… much more personal. Notice how I use testimonials to convey how long this family has been making awnings for restaurants and businesses. The pictures show the range of shapes and styles, but the text gives the visitor a chance to see the people who make the awnings, and how they bring creativity and craftsmanship to their work.

Awnings matter to them, and they matter to the businesses. They are hand-made. Each awning is custom made and one-of-a-kind. I think that’s what Maureen Johnson means by “organic.” This business was struggling because so many restaurants are being squeezed by the down economy. They were not going to attract more business with the sanitary, ordinary website, they need something to make them stand out. And we are going to leverage this so that businesses in San Francisco and find them.

It is safe to be ordinary. If you are extraordinary, open the kimono. Put what makes you extraordinary on your website. If you love what you are doing, sing out loud. Let people hear you. Let them hear that you are proud of what you make. It is a gift.

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