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The world is more branded than ever before: Americans encounter anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 ads a day. Increasingly, brands vie for our attention from insidious angles that target our emotional responses (scent, taste, sound, and touch). In an ever-faster, more competitive global landscape fueled both by the rise of cheaper, foreign brands and by so-called house-brand The world is more branded than ever before: Americans encounter anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 ads a day. Increasingly, brands vie for our attention from insidious angles that target our emotional responses (scent, taste, sound, and touch). In an ever-faster, more competitive global landscape fueled both by the rise of cheaper, foreign brands and by so-called house-brands (the eponymous brands of Wal-Mart, Target, and the like), American companies are in a mad dash to keep up. Branding, or identity-making, has begun to replace the research and development of yore. From the fertile crescent of branding (Cincinnati), to the laboratories of sensory specialists (musicologists and "noses"), Lucas Conley takes us on a long-overdue journey through the strange culture that is our own. As hilarious as it is frightening, Conley's investigation into the phenomenon of rampant commercialism (often backed by little substance), offers an illuminating portrait of an age of obsession.


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The world is more branded than ever before: Americans encounter anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 ads a day. Increasingly, brands vie for our attention from insidious angles that target our emotional responses (scent, taste, sound, and touch). In an ever-faster, more competitive global landscape fueled both by the rise of cheaper, foreign brands and by so-called house-brand The world is more branded than ever before: Americans encounter anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 ads a day. Increasingly, brands vie for our attention from insidious angles that target our emotional responses (scent, taste, sound, and touch). In an ever-faster, more competitive global landscape fueled both by the rise of cheaper, foreign brands and by so-called house-brands (the eponymous brands of Wal-Mart, Target, and the like), American companies are in a mad dash to keep up. Branding, or identity-making, has begun to replace the research and development of yore. From the fertile crescent of branding (Cincinnati), to the laboratories of sensory specialists (musicologists and "noses"), Lucas Conley takes us on a long-overdue journey through the strange culture that is our own. As hilarious as it is frightening, Conley's investigation into the phenomenon of rampant commercialism (often backed by little substance), offers an illuminating portrait of an age of obsession.

30 review for OBD: Obsessive Branding Disorder: The Business of Illusion and the Illusion of Business

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    As someone who skirts the branding industry in my own work, this book depressed me to no end. But I find it hard to not be as incredulous as the author in regards to most of the scenarios he talks about. The only salve is that Conley is probably overstating how unsuspecting and naive the general public is when it comes to branding strategies. Does branding really fuel mistrust between people? Do we really, when it comes down to brass tacks, congregate around brands? Or do brands look for these a As someone who skirts the branding industry in my own work, this book depressed me to no end. But I find it hard to not be as incredulous as the author in regards to most of the scenarios he talks about. The only salve is that Conley is probably overstating how unsuspecting and naive the general public is when it comes to branding strategies. Does branding really fuel mistrust between people? Do we really, when it comes down to brass tacks, congregate around brands? Or do brands look for these already established groups in which to market? Conley's criticism, though, is tinged with ambivalence, and those marketing and branding types who condemn him out of self-preservation, or anti-capitalists who hail this book as a rallying call, are missing the point. Conley is simply presenting the facts and asking us to think critically about them. Companies would stop employing these strategies if we didn't keep falling—hell, ASKING—for them.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kaylie

    I'm a marketer. After studying psychology and a variety of disciples in school, the field seemed fitting for my unique understanding of creativity and analytics. I think like a marketer, and perhaps as a brander, too. I know my thoughts on a branding book could be considered branded. Brands have infiltrated nearly every piece of the western world, and author Conley suggests we've grown so brand-obsessed, we don't even know it. He claims reality, from our sense of identity to our physical communi I'm a marketer. After studying psychology and a variety of disciples in school, the field seemed fitting for my unique understanding of creativity and analytics. I think like a marketer, and perhaps as a brander, too. I know my thoughts on a branding book could be considered branded. Brands have infiltrated nearly every piece of the western world, and author Conley suggests we've grown so brand-obsessed, we don't even know it. He claims reality, from our sense of identity to our physical community and our relationships, is now looked at through a branded lens. One of Conley's biggest arguments is the effects of branding on our relationships. He's claimed that we've lost trust in products, and in each other. Is this true? I don't see any specific studies pointing to changes in relationships due to branding. Sorry, Conley, your thoughts against the Avon lady won't suffice. Where's that market research? He then goes on to say that brands use emotions over logic, and thus are expectations are not satisfied, whether we're using the brand by ourselves or with other people. Thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors compose each human's unique personality, so this entire argument feels oversimplified. Conley forgets that branding does have practical applications, too. By promoting specifics and honing in on a brand's unique selling points, hopefully that product or service breaks through the clutter. Attention, beyond the dollar, is an important form of currency, and brands create associations in an attempt to grab us. Things have changed, I get that. Everything is branded now, and the platforms for promoting extend beyond the printed and digital realms. Does the average citizen actually care about branding, or do they simply embrace it? (Or ignore it?). Society changes, and we live in a consumer culture in the western world. As a marketer, it's my job to position my product in chosen mediums, create its packaging and presentation, and (often) choose my audience. Yes, brands and the businesses attached to them should be held accountable for what they say about their product. And friends should let you know when they're not-so-subtely soliciting you. And social media stories need sponsored labeling. When the product is realized to the market, it becomes the public's. Associations, purchases will be made. But do people actually care? This question was never asked by Conley, and its reaffirming answer was assumed. If people do care about branding, there are some big questions to ask. But how does society change? And who is responsible? There aren't many answers in Conley's book, so it feels like mere observances loosely thread together. By cherry-picking anecdotes of companies and individuals, both large and small, Conley somehow still doesn't have a full picture of what society looks like. As a result, the book feels a little outdated. He doesn't provide any treatment either. I am biased. I do think real innovations are missing from today's world, and promoting brands isn't enough. But good branding still sells, whether it's an idea or an item, and that's an important part of consumer culture. Do I have your attention? Do you care? Let me know!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    This book was really good. By now it is a bit outdated, but doesn't make it any less interesting. You can probably guess at where the facts and figures are by now a decade later. The author strongly thinks that branding is a major problem in our society. While I agree with him and his arguments, I wish he could strengthen them with more facts and stats. Overall this book exceeded my expectations.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David

    A powerful look into just how far branding goes in today's marketplace.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nilofar

    The values of symbols and icons are embedded in the American psyche. That's what made them legends. now we have gotten lazy and just spin a new branding story around old goods.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Trey

    A lot of interesting information and stats, but the author's thesis doesn't quite come together. As a whirlwind tour of the insanity that is branding, there's a lot of great facts and anecdotes (the stuff on city and state branding is jaw-dropping in its idiocy even for my cynical ass). But the tour comes at the expense of what could be a more focused argument against branding. He shows that it's dumb, basically, but doesn't quite turn it into the takedown of the branding industry he seems to be A lot of interesting information and stats, but the author's thesis doesn't quite come together. As a whirlwind tour of the insanity that is branding, there's a lot of great facts and anecdotes (the stuff on city and state branding is jaw-dropping in its idiocy even for my cynical ass). But the tour comes at the expense of what could be a more focused argument against branding. He shows that it's dumb, basically, but doesn't quite turn it into the takedown of the branding industry he seems to be aiming for. Here is some of that info though: "The irony of branding is that its impact is often the opposite of its intent. Branding distracts companies and executives from what they ought to be doing. Though companies pay consultants millions to help develop branded mission statements, 77 percent of U.S. employees don't feel that those statements reflect the way their company does business." "Of the five thousand ads the average consumer sees each day, just 1 to 3 percent are remembered without prompting." "Only 16 percent of marketers believe that brands make life more meaningful." -those all fall into the 'duh' category as far as their conclusions, but I liked having some statistic to actually point to. glad somebody tried to do the research. "According to Jerry Kathman, LPK's president and CEO, roughly five thousand people around the world create the look of 90 percent of what Americans buy. Four hundred of those individuals work for him. Whether or not Kathman is exaggerating is difficult to know. [...] The year 2006 marked AT&T's twenty-third branding campaign in twenty-five years. The cost of the 2006 campaign ("Your World. Delivered.") was an estimated $800 million to $1 billion." -five thousand people. That company is in Cincinnati, which is apparently branding capital of the world. Interestingly, many of them live in Wyoming, Ohio, a small town with hardly any branding. Reminds me of Gibson's 'Pattern Recognition' with Kayce Pollard having an allergy to advertising. In fact, if you liked that book, you might enjoy a fair amount of this one. One of the things I liked and wished Conley spent more time on was the counter-argument: companies that spent hardly any money on branding/advertising but but do very well like Zara, Chelsea Milling Company (Jiffy) which dominates with 55 percent market share and no advertising, In-N-Out Burger, whose revenues are way closer to McDonalds that I would have thought -- Conley notes that they might have beat Mickey D's if they were open on Thanksgiving and Christmas. On branded entertainment, I hadn't realized that drugmakers, who are prohibited by federal regulation from advertising without mentioning side effects, can get mentioned on TV shows and in movies (one contraceptive brand showed up 11 times in one half-hour episode of Scrubs) and sidested federal regulations. So as you can see, a lot of interesting tidbits, but they don't quite add up to an effective book in the way I was hoping.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Raina

    OBD is an eye opening look the cost of branding to American corporations, and how corporations spend more money on creating the illusion of image than on bettering their products and services. "Branding" is a business-speak term that is about creating the uniformity of a look and feel attached to a product, the ultimate goal which is to be unique and recognized as well as create an emotional reaction from us the consumers. Conley lists some strange and creepy examples of how these branding exper OBD is an eye opening look the cost of branding to American corporations, and how corporations spend more money on creating the illusion of image than on bettering their products and services. "Branding" is a business-speak term that is about creating the uniformity of a look and feel attached to a product, the ultimate goal which is to be unique and recognized as well as create an emotional reaction from us the consumers. Conley lists some strange and creepy examples of how these branding experts are branding the untapped spheres of consumer experiences, such as smell (mattresses that smell certain cent) or sound (Audiobrain is a company that creates a distinct sounds and crackles for a unified sound for clients such as Xbox and IBM). These sensational examples, which will probably soon be part of our everyday lives, were some of the most interesting parts of the book. The book meanders a little long in listing how much corporations (and cities and countries) spend on branding. In the chapter about destination branding, it's disturbing to know a few countries in Africa spent millions on branding instead of infrastructure. And that Coke spends XX million a year on making sure they are the #1 brand. He says this wouldn't be necessary if people just made better products, which I fully agree with. Conley gives a few examples of successful companies that don't spend a fortune on branding, like fashion retailer Zara and Google (even though I know of this year, Google has opened "branding" offices in London, NY, and SF) and spend most of their on product, and notes that you can succeed if you put product before image. Even though there are only a few examples of not-branding and succeeding, I wish he'd had given more examples of this rather than focus so much on the inflated budgets spend on failed branding campaigns. Also notable is the chapter on what is known as "personal branding," and how people (normal job seekers to Christina Aguilera) are tuning into recreating themselves as a brand. Yes, totally gross! He notes that instead of being a person with a schtick or a slogan, we need to realize that people are dynamic emotional creatures who are multifacets, and that there will be business consequences to to reducing people to a brand. The big wake up I took away from the books is this: if we keep spending more on image than R&D, countries like China and India will soon surpass us in innovation and delivering real, solid goods. Versus really great branding. It would totally suck to be a country all about image and no substance. Anyway, interesting business info. It's not anti-consumerist bible that Naomi Klein's No Logo is, but it's more practical about solutions and what the business world needs to change.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jw van Eck

    A good read for all who think brands are ubiquitous and that there is no life (tm) without brands. Although there is no need for Psychology 101 to see through some of the messaging around brands, this book demonstrates how desperate marketeers aim to connect emotion to the weirdest of products. A free tip: switch of the sound of a tv commercial and talk through what they are really trying to tell you. An interesting and great fun excercise. The illusion of branding makes some firms focus more on A good read for all who think brands are ubiquitous and that there is no life (tm) without brands. Although there is no need for Psychology 101 to see through some of the messaging around brands, this book demonstrates how desperate marketeers aim to connect emotion to the weirdest of products. A free tip: switch of the sound of a tv commercial and talk through what they are really trying to tell you. An interesting and great fun excercise. The illusion of branding makes some firms focus more on branding then on real progress, through innovation. That investment in (branding) agencies would be much better spend on the product itself. Are we talking about artificiality (a brand as some image of wishfull thinking) or authenticity (a brand as a reflection of reality) anyway? A clear message: brands are formed as a result of all ingredients and they not an ingredient themselves. That would be the reverse of the natural order of things. Hard to disagree with that. Read this book as well if you are interested in the rise and demise of Personal branding -you are a brand-, Flogs and astroturfs, Jim and Laura (and Wall Mart), audiobranding, neuro imaging marketing (patent by Harvard prof Zaltman; did not realize you could patent that...).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany Conner

    Meh. Not the best, not the worst. Mr. Conley makes his most salient point very early on, and that is that more often than not branding (as is obvious to anyone with half a brain), for all its popularity, is but a method by which to gloss over difficulty without producing any genuine efforts to tackle root causes of a problem. Case in point, Mr. Conley points to a branding campaign used by a midwestern city to encourage tourism after a summer of race riots. Rather than inquire into the grievances Meh. Not the best, not the worst. Mr. Conley makes his most salient point very early on, and that is that more often than not branding (as is obvious to anyone with half a brain), for all its popularity, is but a method by which to gloss over difficulty without producing any genuine efforts to tackle root causes of a problem. Case in point, Mr. Conley points to a branding campaign used by a midwestern city to encourage tourism after a summer of race riots. Rather than inquire into the grievances expressed by communities, city leaders chose to revamp their image and not stake any claim on rebuilding policy or strengthening community involvement. Branding has moved beyond the corporate board room and into our government, personal lives, and ultimately, our very conscious efforts to analyze day to day realities. Be not confused by the title. This is not a branding how-to, but the analysis could have penetrated much deeper.

  10. 4 out of 5

    E

    You don't have to be an anti-corporate leftist to sympathize with Conley's thesis; i.e., corporations put forth tremendous effort every year to dupe consumers into purchasing their products, and people don't like being duped. It's a natural human instinct to be annoyed at feeling manipulated, and Conley is ready to tell you all the creative ways branding firms are learning and developing and financing how to manipulate you and your decision-making. An excellent book that will make everyone from You don't have to be an anti-corporate leftist to sympathize with Conley's thesis; i.e., corporations put forth tremendous effort every year to dupe consumers into purchasing their products, and people don't like being duped. It's a natural human instinct to be annoyed at feeling manipulated, and Conley is ready to tell you all the creative ways branding firms are learning and developing and financing how to manipulate you and your decision-making. An excellent book that will make everyone from the pro-business to the anti-materialistic question their loyalties to their brands.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    Good --- Good business book about marketing and branding and how it takes over our lives. Sounds, smells, everything is branded using everything from psychological research to intense focus groups and desires to infiltrate our lives using emotion rather than reason to sell products. Emotion is the most powerful way to sell products. We don't buy for need. Branding is everywhere and there is a (good) danger that we will be desensitized to it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chenxiaoyu

    The world is more branded than ever before: Americans encounter anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 ads a day. Increasingly, brands vie for our attention from insidious angles that target our emotional responses (scent, taste, sound, and touch). In an ever-faster, more competitive global landscape fueled both by the autocom cdp pro rise of cheaper, foreign brands and by so-called The world is more branded than ever before: Americans encounter anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 ads a day. Increasingly, brands vie for our attention from insidious angles that target our emotional responses (scent, taste, sound, and touch). In an ever-faster, more competitive global landscape fueled both by the autocom cdp pro rise of cheaper, foreign brands and by so-called

  13. 4 out of 5

    Prince Samuel

    #1.Fact : 94% of Japanese women in their twenties own a product made by the French luxury brand Louis-Vuitton. #2.Fact : LV charges more than 20% more for its products in Japan than in France, some 51 million of Japan's 127 million citizens- 40% of the entire nation-own one of its products.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    The author points out all the different ways brands have tried to "infiltrate" our minds. While he seems opposed to this phenomenon, the book also showcases some ingenious ways marketers have done so. It raised my awareness, but failed to show what life would be like as an alternative.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marti Bledsoe Post

    I felt like this book was written based on my own skepticism over the past 2 years of my marketing career. Lucas brings insight and important questions to the table on whether we should be investing more time, money and energy in brands than in products or people.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Interesting. A look at the ridiculous lengths of branding and advertising in America. I hate advertising, and I liked this book, although I can't really tell if the book is pro- or anti-advertising.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Synthia

    It is a very straight forward book, offering up plenty of examples. In truth, branding is all about the "illusion of business and the business of illusion." It's somewhat disturbing and yet very much our reality.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    The only reason I actually finished this was that it was a very quick, easy read (or should I say "skim"?). Really not well-written, and the only chapter that had anything of value to say was the last one.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Terry Clague

    "The world is cheapened when everyone sees it with a marketers eye."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    @ neither.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Darlage

    Largely obvious in its conclusions, a quick read, with lots of good examples of his points.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    An interesting book that gives you a sense of what is behind "New and Improved" and helps you better understand branding, whether you think of it in a commercial or personal context.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Finley

    The book talks about a great subject, America's obsession with brands. But it speaks from an anti-brand slant, so some of the facts seem skewed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    jmck

    fairly trite, but you can't fault him for trying.

  25. 4 out of 5

    C

    Redundant, and quite boring despite the subject matter. Yes, branding is overrated. Yet it is incredibly compelling for businesses.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Interview with the author

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tim Frick

    Review is at http://www.mightybytes.com/mblog/comm... Review is at http://www.mightybytes.com/mblog/comm...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Winfield Foster

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paul Papadimitriou

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diana

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