Branding has long been hijacked by the very worst forms of traditional marketing. Branding has often become visual design propaganda inventing a fiction that rarely has anything to do with the actual customer experience.

I recently dealt with an organization who was losing market share because their products were old, jaded and highly complicated. However, their ‘branding’ was modern, progressive and cool. Their ‘branding’ gave the impression that their products were easy-to-use, but the opposite was true.

Propaganda is as old as the oldest profession. If the fiction is compelling enough we will believe it more than the truth. Because, much of the time, we’re not looking for the truth, no matter how much we might protest that we are. 

What we do want is confirmation, affirmation. We want to belong. We want to believe that our addictions are good for us. Propagandists know this — that we are deeply emotional and irrational. And they incessantly exploit us, getting us to do things that are not good for us, yet feel good, and give an immediate kick and sense of satisfaction.

However, that is changing. We are living during a period of massive negative reaction to the establishment, to the brand, to the centers of power, to the sources of propaganda. Essentially, the establishment and society in general is failing millions upon millions of people. A fraction of one percent of the population are becoming rich beyond imagining, while most of the rest of society stagnates, with many moving backwards.

The new highly educated generations coming through are the first in a great many years who cannot expect that they will have a better standard of living than their parents did. Decent paying middle class jobs are disappearing at a frightening rate.

The system, the establishment and the propaganda machines that have supported them, have failed. People are beginning to question the advertising, to question everything. Marketing is becoming like antibiotics — we are increasingly becoming immune to it. 

We are tired of the old lies. Of course, some just want new lies, new illusory promises, but many are questioning the very legitimacy of 'the man.'

Many of the big brands are turning their attentions to the poorest neighborhoods, to emerging countries and to children, because they know that the propaganda techniques still work there.

Those brands that need to reach the more educated parts of society are finding themselves being increasingly challenged and questioned. Brands should be about the use and purpose of the product or service. Do you think if Google didn’t deliver us fast and accurate answers, we would keep using it just because we love its logo? If your friends leave Facebook are you going to stay because you’re so in love with ‘the brand’?

Sure, visual design is important and for propaganda-dependent brands such as Coca Cola or Pepsi, it is critical. But for brands that are supposed to be useful, they must be useful. Marketing doesn’t have to be a carousel of beautiful lies. Management must stop looking to marketing and communication to invent a never-never land reality for its products and services.

It’s time to reclaim the brand, to make it something that has depth, not just surface. Great digital brands are useful. They simplify and empower our lives. They put us in control.