Q:The latest issue of Business 2.0 features an in-depth profile of Weiden & Kennedy founder Dan Weiden, the man who created Nike's famous slogan and has been pushing the limits in the advertising world ever since. According to the article, Weiden is once again stretching boundaries by blending advertising and entertainment into a new art form: branded content. Will we see movies, music, Broadway musicals and television shows produced by an advertising agency for a client?
A:Sadly, we probably will. And people will hate advertising even more than they already do. "Branding", one the latest business flavors-of-the-month, is one of those concepts that doesn't generally translate well to small business and small budgets. One of the most sad but common scenarios occurs when small business people try to emulate the big boys, then wonder why it doesn't work. I look forward to the passing of the torch to a new business fad... What new fad? If you watch some of the very first television broadcasts, you will note that branded content was the rule and not fashion. As for advertising in general, it exists to pay for the content being watched, either directly or indirectly. Somebody has to pay for content. Otherwise, no one will bother to create it. The basics remain the same. Like all business fads, "branding" has at its core some valid, long- standing concepts. The trouble is when they become the be-all, end-all solutions to all problems. Just think back to re-engineering, TQM, and so many others... And while you're right about the old-time radio and TV broadcasts, those were simpler times. People weren't bombarded with the massive quantities of advertising they are today -- and they weren't as angry about it as they are today. In those days the big corporations were largely imagined to be benevolent members of the community, not the evil empires they are often seen as today. People today have a much greater awareness of the way these things work, and their tolerance and willingness to believe is much lower. Branding and brand management is not exactly a fad. It is a disciplined way to look at how you go about telling the world about your company and the products you sell. As for re-engineering and TQM, leading successful corporations and businesses are using these techniques on a daily basis to position themselves ahead of their competition. These are tools for getting your business to where you want to take it. As for being the be-all and end-all to anything, we would be better served looking at the "so-called" angry people and possibly getting better answers as to why they are angry. It is my experience that many of these angry people spend their time criticizing what they don't understand as a way to vent their personal frustrations. Some even go as far to blame their failures on these "fads." It could be many of these angry people are upset about an increasingly competitive business environment that is stealing their existing customer base away from them. Many are looking to have the government legislate the status quo and prevent their customers from looking elsewhere for innovation and lower prices. They often are stuck on telling the customer what they should buy rather than focusing on finding out what the customer truly wants. Obviously they are not interested in other fads such as database marketing, rapid prototyping or the Internet.