Transparency and Branding in the Digital Age

I’ve been thinking about the central ideas of this class for a very long time (since 2002), and one of the original inspirations was a manifesto originally published by Jager Di Paola Kemp Design in Burlington, Vermont. The original detailed manifesto is no longer available, but here is a short introduction to their new idea of a Living Brand.

Now read this much discussed article from the Harvard Business Review, Branding in the Digital Age by David C. Edelman.

Then watch this this TED talk, Morgan Spurlock: The greatest TED Talk ever sold.

Discussion Questions
1) Why is transparency such a problem in the field of marketing? In other words, why don’t marketing professionals and companies want people outside the field to know how they work? Why did all the major ad agencies drop out of Morgan Spurlock’s movie? Now a simplistic answer would probably be, “because they are bad and don’t want everyone to know how bad they are.” While that may be part of the answer, it is certainly not that simple. What are other factors or reasons? Please be specific.

2) I believe that since the ’90s there has been a shift underway in the world of marketing from a manipulative, top-down hierarchical approach (typified by the Madison Avenue culture depicted in the show Mad Men) to something that is more transparent, egalitarian, and peer to peer. While I still think we have a long way to go, the Havard Business Review article documents part of this evolution with its description of the consumer decision journey and touch points. Discuss you own experiences as a consumer in the context of this shift. Have you experienced this shift or do you see things differently? In what specific ways have you experienced any of these changes?


About Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor teaches photography, graphic design, and visual art in a wide-variety contexts from Burlington City Arts, to the Frog Hollow Vermont State Craft Center, to Green Mountain College and Castleton State University. In 2005 he was selected as a University of Vermont Teacher of the Year. He has been a working graphic designer since 1993, and a photographer and visual artist since 1995.
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