Monday, July 10, 2017

Book Review: 'Brand Shift: The Future of Brands and Marketing' by David Houle

Brand marketing is changing. Just when marketers thought they had figured it all out, along comes the future and everything is up for grabs again. What the future will bring is the subject of this fast read.

Of course, there is no “normal”. There has only ever been change. Brands only really blossomed in the last century. That society will look different tomorrow had better not be a shock to any marketer. Along the trip through change, the authors tease us with interesting concepts: planned obsolescence will be replaced by instant obsolescence. But nothing to demonstrate that. 

They make much of social marketing taking the power out of marketers’ hands. But of course individuals are not actually running anything. They are pawns and drones, doing as the brandmastrers command, signing up for news, promotions, contests and giveaways, dragging their contacts into the morass for the chance to obtain some product for “free”, and sharing their “relationships” with brands among their contacts. But there is no hair pulling by the marketing department; they are in complete control of the so-called individual, who spreads their message far deeper than simple tv and print ads ever could. No charge.

There is also an inherent, unresolved, nay, undiscussed conflict in Brand Shift, that of Big Data vs. Social Media. On the one hand the authors extol the virtues of overwhelming data to give critical, unprecedented and mammoth backup to marketers, and woe betide the CMO who is not expert in manipulating it for better return on investment. It is mandatory to keep ahead. At the same time, they decry to anarchy of the web, where trolls lurk, false testimony is rampant, consumers publicly resent the manipulation, defamatory videos go viral and marketers have no “control” of the content. So which is it then? Are marketers gaining, or losing?

A lot of what the authors see coming is the Neurosphere, a sort of splinter on the road to The Singularity. In this concept, people congregate virtually to share expertise and don’t have to remember or master every little thing themselves. The Neurosphere will guide them, and validate their brand choices. Something along those lines will almost certainly evolve, but so might any number of other scenarios. For example, there might (finally) be an actual backlash against international brands for all their abuse of private information, poisoning our bodies and our ecosphere, and lying to us and about us. This might benefit local brands, or nonbrands. The Aldi chain offers completely unknown brands (basically store brands) you never heard of and which are never marketed, at stunningly low prices, and is rapidly succeeding all over the western world. Organic unbranded local farms suddenly account for 8% of production, up from a rounding error a decade ago. The future of international brands might still be secure, but it will be different and maybe shockingly so.

There are plenty of other possible scenarios to consider, but not for elucidation here, over a book 121 pages long, that admits to being a very high level survey. Suffice it to say the Neurosphere is an interesting scenario, and that marketers need to employ big data to its fullest potential.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.