January 5, 2009

Branding Fatigue

I noticed this response to an article on National Public Radio. It’s understandable that a media organization would make well-intended efforts to editorially chunk a diverse and every-growing body of content—especially one that’s on so many minds today. It just makes sense. But the approach can also be excessive, which is the opinion of listener “Juan Ensalada.” What’s more, it proves the point that taxonomies can be taxing.

Since establishing this blog, I’ve been hooked on, and perhaps even zealous about, branding pieces according to what I envision as foreseeable series, such as Connecting Bits, Nifty Idea and Design Portfolio Spotting. I try to consistently stick to the topical arc for each editorial umbrella, but Juan’s comment comes as a reminder: Don’t go overboard with batch-labeling, lest you find yourself with an over-engineered collection of content. Not to mention an audience that grows confused by, if not downright skeptical of, your brand-trigger happy tactics. This echoes an aspect of graphic designer Adrian Shaughnessy’s essay on the Obsessive Branding Disorder a book by business writer Lucas Conley. Shaughnessy observes that the book’s author “nails the problem: ‘ … branding, when it’s consistent, provides us with clarity and simplicity in a progressively hectic world. But branding has become unhinged from its initial principles, and its aims have become increasingly exaggerated and warped.’”

Branding fatigue may be a close relative to trade/service-mark fatigue. Striving for honesty, helped by consistency, should curb the perceptual wormhole-effect that branding may induce.