On Brands

Tonight I was just going over a story about the renaissance of an offline fashion brand. It doesn’t matter which one, it just struck me that the value of a brand and a name with traditions and connotations attached to it is something rarely seen in internet ventures.

Within the past few years, this fashion house like so many other fashion houses before it has made a swift turn away from its dusty hausfrau-and-gentleman-concept and into the essence of cool and stylish. It has experienced a complete renewal on every level including attaching new meaning to its traditional image. People seem to care, and I care, if not for the clothes then for the story behind the transformation.

Companies do this, and people do it as well. They surround themselves with a mythology that can be altered and managed, just like styling your hair in the morning. They accentuate different things to convey a special message. To a lot of people (and to some companies, especially fashion houses), this may be the single most important aspect of being.

The opposite? Functionality. There could be several reasons why a lot of people don’t pay much attention to the effects of ‘Net brands and imagery, but one of them is definitely that in the first place it was built to function, not to show. We want it to work, and we want it to serve us what we need. Other reasons include the possibility that we’re so fed up with being the target of hype, we use the ‘Net as a refuge, or that internet ventures simply lack traditions and messages to convey. For obvious reasons, they haven’t been in business for very long.

Still, there has to be something at the foundation. So, web people, forget about the awful word brand. And forgive me once more for using the metaphor, but why not try to apply your thoughts professionally, like an offline company, and try to secure a platform you can reach the world from? Of course, we’ve short attention spans, we forget names, faces, and URLs. Nobody will blame you for trying to skip what you’re doing and try something new, for dying your hair, for changing your business strategy or for redesigning your logo. Yeah, there’s nothing to lose, because you only have a handful customers/visitors anyway and you’ve only spent your lunchbreak promoting yourself and your company’s website. But don’t do it just now. Don’t fail to understand what you communicate, and if you must go back to zero remember to stick with some of the important stuff. Here’s one silver lined fact to remember when you’re thinking of starting over: A fashion house can pull it off after 30 years, at best. Stick to your principles and your best ideas, or you’ll end up peddling schwag. So the man says.

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