As a believer in the power of branding, I was pretty excited when I started reading an article in The Times last week about "The woman behind brand Obama".
The woman in question, Desiree Rogers (she's the one on the left!) was quoted as saying:
‘We have the best brand on Earth: the Obama brand. Our possibilities are endless’
Wow. This article showed just how powerful the concept of "brand" has become. And the idea of having a Global Brand Director of the Obama brand was pretty damn cool. Now, that would be one hell of title for your business card, wouldn't it?
I expected to read about an experienced brand or marketing or at least business person taking on a job to do the following sort of stuff:
i) being the voice of the voter, capturing insights
ii) helping prioritise and sharpens communication messages
iii) continuing the innovation in brand media used by Obama
iv) working on "packaging" = style, tone
v) managing brand associations and link-ups
and, most controversially,
vi) having some input on "product" = policies
But as I read on, my joy turned quickly into pain, and then disbelief.
This Desiree Rogers is, wait for this, THE WHITEHOUSE SOCIAL SECRETARY.
Yup. She organises the parties. And this, for The Times, earns her the title of "brand manager".
In fact, the article is another in a long line of examples of how mis-understood and mis-used the concept of branding really is. We think it should be a central driving force for aligning and engaging the organisation as a whole: "brand-led business". The Times thinks it is about delivering a damn fine knees up. Its possibly the worst ever example of "image wrapper branding" I've seen.
Just how little Desiree really gets about branding is revealed when she tries to draw an analogy between Dove and Obama (no joke, I swear). "Like all brands, the
Obama brand has a 'crown jewel',"
she says, referring to the way Dove started with a cleaning bar and went on to launch a range of products. "And that crown jewel is the White House."
Huh? The core product of brand Obama is the Whitehouse? Isn't it that bloke who leads the country/free world?
God help us.