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Citizen Brand
When the happy go lucky days of enjoying my Oscar Meyer bologna with a Dr. Pepper in hand seem far behind me, I tell myself, “I’ve been jaded by the likes of Enron, Adbusters, 0100101110101101.org, or Michael Moore.”

And then along comes Marc Gobé. His Emotional Branding published in January 2001 touched on how brands must connect to people’s feelings. Coke, Saturn, Apple, and the Body Shop appeal to our pathos and ethos. We identify with them on a personal level. They become something more than economic and utilitarian entities. In Gobé’s 2003 followup Citizen Brand, he elaborates Emotional Branding’s Ten Commandments into ten rich chapters, and demonstrates how brands can transform themselves in our Post-Enron economy. After reading Citizen Brand, you’ll equate a loveable brand to a good friend: they possess admirable qualities (chapter two); they motivate (chapter five); and they stimulate dialog instead of one to one communication (chapter nine). How many friends do you have with despicable qualities and low ambition that are nothing more than chatterboxes? You probably avoid those types of brands too.

Gobé’s book opens with a quote by Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, “We need discussions about whether the rich world is giving back what it should to the developing world.” In a nation where Michael Moore was made famous for critiquing big auto and Achbar, Abbott, and Bakan’s The Corporation took similar jabs at our branded monopolies, people are more skeptical than ever when it comes to big business. Maybe brands really have failed us, or simply tried too hard to win us over. Gobé delivers a recipe for recovery because good brands can make us feel good, connect us to a tribe of fellow consumers, and even lift our spirits during economic and social downturn.

Using a variety of case studies and testimonials, Gobé demonstrates just how good brands can be. In Gobé’s Ten Commandments in ten chapters, he shows how companies can move from mere beings towards something closer to a human being:

Evolve from…
1. consumers to people
2. honesty to trust
3. product to experience
4. quality to preference
5. notoriety to aspiration
6. identity to personality
7. function to feel
8. ubiquity to presence
9. communication to dialogue
10. service to relationship

As you can tell form the list above, having your company look chic through its corporate identity (CI) will only get you so far. Gobé challenges brands to move into an emotional identity (EI) that fosters “people-centric dialogues.” Include people, and invite them into the brand’s evolution. They’ll feel connected, and through that connection resides something greater for the consumer: ownership. Consider an Apple user versus a Microsoft user. Each speaks their own language and as such, belongs to one tribe or the other—some even ride the line between both. But more often than not, I get a kick out of sitting in a Starbucks in Seattle, talking with my friends about the latest and greatest Panther or Tiger upgrades, while overhearing somebody two tables down surfing on their Compaq for a release date of Longhorn. It’s akin to hearing a symphony of languages present in Amsterdam’s airport. The codes and terms we use with our loveable brands will elicit a sense of culture (chapter one).

And what about the product? The thing you buy, use, consume, or share? Moving beyond the product itself requires something special. The brand itself must become an experience. Who would have thought Apple’s own computer outlets would have proven so fruitful? Well, why wouldn’t they? Companies such as Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, and Hershey’s invite visitors into their parks day after day. People can taste any flavor of soda from around the world, see, hear, taste, and touch cereal, or engulf their eyes with 3D chocolate making processes (chapter three). Apple’s latest endeavor works much in the same way. You can play before you pay. You can feel as well as see.

Gobé writes each chapter succinctly and clearly, providing a middle-ranked staff member or C.E.O. with enough information to transform a tired, mired, or worn out brand into something more. And to designers that create the identities, Citizen Brand will make you question how those visualizations can possess feeling as well as a glossy aesthetic.

Book Information
Citizen Brand by Marc Gobé
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Allworth Press
ISBN: 158115240X
Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Aug.25.2004 BY Jason A. Tselentis
Michael H.’s comment is:

Great review Jason. I'm not familiar with Gobé's work, but having just recently gone through a brand change, this really pique's my interest.

On Aug.26.2004 at 10:53 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Michael, dg/a are the ones that did the Travelocity logo. They do a lot of packaging and a lot of it is for fragrances and high-end stuff like that for department stores. It's pretty decent work.

Regarding the book, I haven't read Citizen Brand, I did read Emotional Branding and I don't imagine this one to be anymore different or more insightful. Emotional Branding is good — and I like that he puts it up there with Branding Identity (BI) and Corporate Identity (CI) as a definer — but I think it tries to elevate brands even more, kind of like Saatchi's Lovemarks, except less obnoxious.

It's definitely an interesting read, but nothing to abide by I think.

On Aug.26.2004 at 12:06 PM
Jason T’s comment is:

While I'm as skeptical as the next person about brands, this book refreshed me. And like Armin, I agree that Citizen Brand should not be followed like a recipe. Customize at your own will, I say.

This book--like many others on corporate identity and "branding"--signals a renewed optimism in brands, as well as corporate culture. If we're hoping to see our economy rebound, as well as survive a rocky 2004 Primary Election, the "brands" may be a solid bet. So let's make them better in terms of appearance and operation. Citizen Brand focuses mostly on the operational aspect, but look deeper for aesthetic and visual considerations. You can bridge the two, they're not exclusive. Or are they?

On Aug.26.2004 at 03:27 PM
miles newlyn’s comment is:

"For some time the debate around marketing budgets has been whether companies should take money from their above-the-line spend, such as TV ads, and put it into below-the-line spend, such as direct marketing. In fact i wonder if the debate is now about taking money out of marketing budgets and putting it in to training and operations."

Charles Wright, Wolff Olins

On Aug.27.2004 at 08:34 AM
Nathan’s comment is:

I started reading the book, but never finished it. The best branding book I've read to date is A New Brand World by Scott Bedbury (Starbucks, 'Just Do It' campaign for Nike). I keep meaning to pick up Marc Gobe's book and finish it, but never got around to it.

On Aug.27.2004 at 06:05 PM