Meaning making in this world is a complex interplay of texts, technology and behaviour richly embedded within a social web of personal-professional contexts. Today, I was given a rich reminder of this in the context of branding a country. A graduate student of mine, Panos Dalton Papakostis, posted a video on my Facebook wall. It was titled, ‘Re-branding Greece’ a video of a speech delivered by Peter Economides at the 11th “Aristotelis” Congress of EEDE in Thessaloniki. Peter is a brand strategist at Felix BNI who has worked with a list of leading consumer brands, from Apple to Heineken. My interest in this video is not the rich list of clients that Peter has worked with, nor the list of country-specific brand campaigns he shows as examples from which Greece can learn. Although these pose for interesting learning. My interest is his position and philosophy on a brand and the process of branding. Something many in organisational communications (or interested in meaning or sense making) can learn from.
The first, the difference between brand and branding. He eloquently alludes to a brand as emergent from conversation, as organic through interactions over time, an image, and it is over time that these interactions shape our image of something – in this case a brand. That brand management is the process by which an emergent brand image is influenced – not controlled, and the role of public, private enterprises in this.
The second, the emergence of brand image. Brands have always been emergent, emergent over time in our minds in how we think, interact with and talk with others about them. However now with growing user-generated social technologies from Facebook to YouTube, Twitter and blogging platforms, a brand is not just emergent in our minds/perceptions or between other of our immediate social circles, but increasingly emergent from a partnership between public-private enterprises and the wider community on a mass scale. A brand is emergent from community conversations, community interactions, a social web of people bought together by their interest and/or action about a brand.
The third, the importance of brand community. This view of a brand emergent from community lends itself much to the the thinking of Albert Muniz and Thomas O’Guinn in their (2001) paper on Brand Community. Wherein a community sharing similar rituals and traditions, history and moral responsibility form a community around a brand, what they term a brand community. A community that regulates and inspires the brands meaning and in this can also harm the brand image.
And lastly, how everything communicates. Everything we do, say, share and cocreate communicates – be it the image of a person, place, organisation, movement, idea or product. These interactions cocreate meaning over time, something not new to social anthropologists interested in media and social research. However, today social and search technologies play an increasing role in their aggregation for search, retrieval and mass sharing.
As everything communicates, and social/search technologies give greater emphasis to the communities of conversations, with this comes new mindsets and digital social literacies. Literacies not just for professionals in organisational communication who attempt to ‘manage’ brand image (and more often than not think they own the brand and thus try to control it), but also the digital social literacies of personal-professional communication across most industries and professions – teachers, artists, politicians, nurses, doctors to name but a few.
In summary, this an interesting example and philosophy of emergent branding through/from community, using the example of Rebranding Greece. Here is the video. Please share.