Thursday, June 5, 2008

Obsessive Branding Disorder

Dear Readers:

I apologize for failing to post in the last couple of weeks. Life has been incredibly hectic and of course the growing season in Youngstown Ohio has commenced. There is a great deal of work to be done both at the Fairgreen Garden at the corner of Fairgreen and Ohio Avenue on the North Side, and at the Common Ground located at Broadway and Kensington. I won't even mention all of the work that needs to be done in my raised vegetable beds in the back yard. If you're looking to work outside in the fresh air e-mail us at Grow Youngstown or at Treez Please. So enough excuses, I promise I will try to do better. I have, of course, had many ideas for posts and research that I want to write about and I promise sometime this summer I will get there.

For now, however, I want to tell about an important book that has recently been publilshed called Obsessive Branding Disorder. The book is written by a friend of mine named Lucas Conley. Okay,I know that just because he is my friend that doesn't make his book a worthwhile read, but it is, take my word for it.

Luke began his career at the Atlantic Monthly and was a contributing writer for Fast Company. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, The Huffington Post and ESPN: The Magazine. A couple of years ago when I first met Luke he was just starting to write the book and we had some interesting conversations about branding. At the time I had no idea how important the subject of branding would become in my work to revitalize the city of Youngstown.

In recent months there has been quite a bit of conversation in the Y-town blogopshere about whether or not branding is something that we should even consider in Youngstown. I,for one, believe, that as Luke points out, everything is branded and whether or not we like that idea, if we don't chose our brand, then someone else will. In the case of Youngstown we have already been negatively branded as "mob town". It is time for us to change that brand to a more positive one.

In the book Obsessive Branding Disorder, Luke points out that in today's brand saturated culture, everything and everyone is susceptible to OBD (Obsessive Branding Disorder). He points out that even snow, oxygen, water,and dirt are branded,. It seems no matter how ubiquitous the "product", today's marketers will brand it. Essentially everything from celebrities to branding itself comes in various branded flavors. I have learned that there is such a thing as primal branding, passion branding, profit branding, and pirate branding. Who knew?

He explains that at their most elemental, brands serve as mental shortcuts to broader concepts. He points out that originally brands rose from the bottom up, founded on quality of products and services. Now the reverse is true: products and services are subject to top-down branding. And while brands are meant to offer clarity, the intent in today's markets is just the opposite.

In spite of this however, the book points out, that brands and branding are unavoidable byproducts of how we live. It is his Luke's hope that by pointing out the nature of branding in today's culture we may be able to gain a better perspective of brands' natural place in our lives and reclaim some of the order we've lost in the frenzy of branding that surrounds us.

Luke has mentioned that it is ironic that in order to publish the book he had to engage in branding himself. However,in the spirit of building the brand from the ground up, he welcomes questions, comments, and suggestions. So please feel free to contact him via his website: Obsessive Branding Disorder

His point is well taken and in the same spirit I think Youngtown's brand should be built from the bottom up. If you have suggestions please leave a comment on this blog.

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