Branding is Not about Artifice, but Craftsmanship

Many people are attracted to shiny objects: flashy cars, impressive houses, corner offices, dream romances, cathartic emotional experiences, ersatz spiritual revelations. But in today’s highly-technologized environment, development of a strong, enduring brand cannot be based on such ephemeral artifices. Like a well-architected and constructed house, a brand of any substance and value must be based on the quality, integrity, depth and excellence that only a consummate brand craftsperson can provide.

In the brand-building arena, it all starts with an understanding of the environment in which an organization lives. This means charting out the market landscape in terms of competitors, potential partners, industry trajectories and customer trend lines. From there, a brand craftsperson can leverage that understanding to architect a standout communication vehicle that accurately reflects its character, culture, and quality.

It is widely accepted that in order to become an expert at something, 10,000 hours or more of practice is necessary, but it is not only about the amount of time, or reps that make the difference between a craftsperson and a second-rate hack. As brand craftspeople learn early on, they must transcend poppy syntax and cookie-cutter aesthetics.

Brand craftspeople must also overcome the ubiquitous obsession with the idea that “storytelling” should dominate the branding environment in the media. Storytelling is just another form of gratuitous artifice that attempts to describe rather than truly represent what an organization does, and who it is.

An exceptional brand is based on creating an authentic perception of the reality that lies at the heart and soul of an organization. Like an oyster creating a cultured pearl, a brand craftsperson takes a nascent grain of an organization’s essence and molds it into a full-fledged identity of great significance and value. Thus, it is no surprise that so many enterprises refer to their brand as the “crown jewel” of their organization.

illustrations © Meral Dabcovich, all rights reserved, 2018

Unfortunately, the idea of what a brand is and the value it brings to the table has been supplanted by an ever-increasing reliance on data analytics to determine its shape and dimension. Let the customer tell you who you are, the mantra goes. But that is like a teacher asking students to both define the curriculum, then teach it to themselves.

Supplanting any notion of crafting something “good” in and of itself, the net effect of this approach is to drive brand development to a median of mediocrity, which achieves neither quality, depth, nor excellence, but hews to a safe and well-worn middle ground of superficiality and shallowness.

There are, however, and always will be, a body of brand craftspeople who take their primary satisfaction not from outside sources or number-crunching dictates, but from the quality and artistry of what they do and the power of their craft to help organizations achieve their aspirations. Fortunately for the brand marketing profession, individuals of this caliber have no more interest in churning out cheap, copycat organizational identities than a haute couture designer does in creating off the rack knock-offs for big box stores. — by Meral Dabcovich and Christopher Payne-Taylor