I was watching the Colbert Report yesterday (which is a fantastic show) and happened to catch him interviewing a guest named Lucas Conley. Conley was on the show because of a new book he published called OBD, which stands for “obsessive branding disorder.” The book describes in detail what the author believes is a malaise of our commercial society, excessive product branding. Branding, which all of us see every day from corporate tycoons like Coke or Nike and so on, is an extremely powerful tool. People exhibit a psychological trend of brand loyalty and also of being attracted to brand recognition. This might not seem like a particularly big problem, or even desirable, yet if left to run amok, Conley believe is a big problem.
What happens when big tycoons just start branding their name on very different products from their traditional line of goods? Well, it seems like the big worry is that those goods, which are uncharacteristically developed by said branded company, will still yield the psychological phenomenon of brand loyalty. This might not be a big issue if those companies are sincerely interested in expanding their product line and creating a quality product, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case and specifically, Conley thinks is almost never the case. Imagine the possibilities that a company with a large consumer following could produce by simply mass producing a very unrelated item that people want because they love the company or even their other product made by the same company. The market pull that well established companies have can really be astounding and they can sometimes even achieve great monetary success through tagging their name on unrelated products.
If you are wondering what the solution is for this – honestly – I’m not particularly sure. What I do know though, is what Conley believes should happen. Companies should be focusing more on customer service and creating or innovating existing products in order to create a better and better commodity or service. Companies that can specialize in a product or type of product line should be spending their time doing what they do best, not just trying to make a quick buck tagging their name on some “easy sell” merchandise. If more companies spent their time doing this, the theory would be that the consumers could experience higher quality individual goods. Then again, it’s just a theory.