Branding Today | Is Branding Bad?

“It’s a new brand world” (Peters, 1997).

Estimates of the number of marketing messages the average consumer is exposed to each day now range from 3,000[1] (Verna, 2006) to 6,000 (Jaffe, 2008).

The growth of the marketing industries is explained by the fact that in developing brands, all corporations are locked in an arms race with their competitors.

The ‘coke wars’ between Pepsi and Coca Cola lead to increased in advertising budgets from $25 million to $125 million and $34 million to  $181 million respectfully between 1975 to 1984 (Foley, 1994). As the media landscape became more heavily populated by advertising, brands found themselves competing for the consumers’ attention, not only with their direct rivals, but all other brands. Inherently, any increase in advertising creates more brands, which leads to increased competition, which cultivates demand for more advertising.

Similarly, the growth in media – which has been largely funded by the growth in advertising – has also led to more advertising. This is because it has forced advertisers to increase their exposure to overcome the fragmentation of media consumption (Rust and Oliver, 1994). In 1965, a P&G product manager could reach 80% of eighteen to forty nine year-olds with just three 60-second commercials. By the 1980s, the same task would have required ninety-seven prime-time commercials (Aaker 2000).

As competition intensified and communication channels diverged, client expectations rose and the marketing companies were forced to look for more diverse, bold and complex ways to gain our attention. In response, a ‘science’ of advertising has developed with marketers spending billions of pounds each year in the pursuit of insights. Advertising research involves extensive cognitive and evolutionary psychology in comparing the effect of various attention grabbing or emotive techniques.

As we move out of the mass media age, this trend has taken a new turn. The consensus among marketers is to create relationships between brands and consumers using subtle or attractive techniques – creating content that is either engaging rather than disturbing. They release advertising that doesn’t look like advertising, hoping for it to be shared actively between consumers. They aim to create ideas “that are seen, not because you have stuck a lot of money behind them, but because people want to talk about them, or tell their friends about them or write about them… or pass them on online…things that gather their own momentum because they capture the spirit of the time or tap into a trend that people are talking about”[2].  This change in tact has been seen in the rise of product placement in films and is sure to continue with product placement in blogs and British television (Ofcom, 2011).

Although it is less obtrusive, it is not regarded as any less intrusive.  The more subtle techniques serve to blur the line between editorial and advertisement, and as a result, culture and commercialism.

[1] Studies undertaken by the Media Awareness Network (2010) in NextStep Marketing article –

[2] Sid McGrath, 2011, Planning Director and Partner, Karmarama advertising agency.