A postmodern take on the brand

Without spending hours trying to pin down what exactly is postmodernism, this short post will draw upon one theorist who, for better or for worse, has become associated with this label. Concentrating on his work on the philosophy of language rather than his later political contributions, I will draw upon Jacques Derrida linguistic theories in order to reflect upon and examine the nature of the brand.

Jacques Derrida

Born in France in 1930, Derrida first became noticed after his groundbreaking work on the philosophy of language. Working to overturn the common-sense assumption that each word has a set meaning which emerges on sighting an object, Derrida argued that this is not the case. Following other linguists before him, instead of finding a clear-cut link between word and object, Derrida states that meaning arises from the relationship between words themselves.

So far so good.

However, it is here that the Frenchman puts forth his radical point. If meaning comes from the relationship between words then meaning can never be captured in its totality. For instance, if one tries to explain what a house is, the answer will result in a list of more words which in turn require more words to explain them! To put it another way, if you were to try to pin down the essence of a word in the dictionary, you would end up needing to look up its associated words as well as having to compare them to dictionaries of different historical eras.

Phew!

So how does this relate to branding?

Straightaway if we swap ‘word’ with ‘brand’ in Derrida’s theory, then a flaw in the brand emerges: if a brand acquires meaning only in relation to other brands then its meaning will always escape the set intention that a company will have in mind.

Take the fizzy orange drink IRN BRU for example and its logo, the athletic man. With his muscular physique and running pose, it is safe to assume that the designers of this drink wanted to aim their product at a male market (even perhaps the sports market!). However many years after its launch, IRN BRU is clearly not the sportsman’s drink of choice and its meaning has gone beyond what the designers had in mind. Nowadays the drink has become associated with unhealthy fizzy drinks with its meaning being located somewhere amongst a matrix of words such as ‘sweet,’ ‘unhealthy,’ ‘Scottish,’ ‘toothache,’ ‘less-expense-than-coke’ and in some cases ‘childhood’ and ‘nostalgia.’

Whilst some products may lose out as a result of this Derridean deferral of meaning, others may in fact benefit from this aspect of language. The lack of brand’s stability of meaning in some cases can encourage gaps and spaces where people can insert their own meaning. For instance, the American Klondike choc-ice has taken advantage of this and set up an advertising campaign aimed at encouraging people to actively invent associations with the brand. ‘What would you do for a Klondike bar?’ The theme of the Klondike advert set about actively engaging the consumer in creating the network of words and situations in which future people would locate Klondike.

Conclusion

Focusing on one of the major philosophers of contemporary times, Derrida’s theory on the inability to capture the totality of a word’s meaning and subsequent lack of stability at the heart of language offers not only new avenues of thought in philosophy departments across the world but can in fact help the commercial world as well. As we have seen, marketeers and branding companies everywhere would do well to take note of Derrida’s linguistic theories as they serve as a fantastic means of analysing the successes (Klondike) and failures (IRN BRU) of brands.

 Fabian Trotman Drake

References:

All images taken from wikipedia

How are the best attractions making sure they get the biggest share of visitors possible in 2017?

2017 is set to be a record year for UK tourism. How are the best attractions making sure they get the biggest share possible?

With inbound visitors set to spend a record £24.1bn in 2017 and total tourism spend reaching £140bn of which over £10bn will be spent in the South West now’s very much the time to make sure your marketing plan for 2017 is going to work hard and bring trade to your attraction.

Five key tips for 2017:

1. Be Superb at Social Snaps

Instagram is famously good for engagement for tourist attractions (1). If you’re not using it consider adding to your Social Media mix. The trouble is that motivation can be low when you start and see that horrible ‘5 followers’ come up. (Three of them are your friends anyway).

So let’s grow that following quickly: hashtags are your hero here

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Let’s assume you can take some nice photos. Be sure to do so regularly – each season change is a prompt but hopefully there’s lots more going on.

So when, for example, uploading a cosy picture of the living room with roaring fire, include hashtags like #realfire #livingroom #cosynightsin But what about really going for it: #escapingthecold #glassofwineinfrontofthefire #gettingawayfromitall, or #theperfectwintersnight

Imagination wins Instagram.

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2. Help Dreamers to dream

Lots of our clients in the sector struggle to know what is good content. The answer is surprisingly broad. Higher Wiscombe, last year’s Winner of Winners in the SW Tourism awards are excellent Social Media users. Alistair and Lorna Handyside are the owners and with a small team manage to make a huge impact online. Even the task of clearing the brambles is filmed and is a chance to explain their commitment to the highest possible stewardship practices. Get ideas here: http://higherwiscombe.com/

Remember: For someone stuck in an office in Birmingham yearning for a holiday, your mundane Monday may well be the stuff of dreams.

3. Get the word out

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Social media is a great place to listen and find out what your visitors and prospective visitors are thinking feeling and doing. If your attraction is great for families, then tune in to Mumsnet, for example. Get involved in discussions about family holidays on there. Your comments will bring you to the attention of other visitors and it’s a chance to work out if you are offering a winning welcome.

Why not invite one or two key bloggers to your attraction? Bloggers can be very influential and will usually be happy to write you up in return for a free visit. For family attractions suitable for young children start here: http://www.mumsnet.com/bloggers/specials

4. Leaflets still work

In this digital world it can be easy to forget the obvious wins. Leaflets are still a huge business driver for tourist attractions of all sizes. Visitors to Devon find themselves in Motorway services and attractions waiting around and will always grab some leaflets for ideas on what to do.

Places to Go leaflets (http://placestogoleaflets.co.uk/) are a great provider in this area and as a client of ours we can state that not only do they run a great business, they’re thoroughly nice folks to deal with!

5. Get Creative

Here at Logo Creative Partners, our passion is making sure that all our clients’ hard work marketing is delivered beautifully in way that marks it out clearly as their brand.

Simply making sure everything works together will add untold power to their brand and drive increased visitor numbers.

It may be as simple as providing a guide so that everyone shares a tone of voice or perhaps creating a ‘stamp’ so that all their photos and videos are branded clearly. At the other end of the scale we’ll create beautiful logo and brochures and even take control of the whole online side of their marketing from SEO to Facebook posts.