Tuesday, 1 April 2008

A Fool's Guide To Branding

Ah... brand... it's such a delicate orchid. If some evil or misguided soul makes unfair, inappropriate or unprofessional use of your brand then it can apparently cause great damage. I can't recollect a good example of this, but I'm assured by various victims of brand police that this is, indeed, the case. It must be so, since otherwise how does one explain the draconian measures that the brand police invoke. And yet, much of such policing must, of necessity, happen behind closed doors. Why? Well... it's a curiously delicious irony that, to be seen to be invoking extreme or excessive brand management, actually reflects badly on your brand, potentially doing more harm than the damage your management sought to limit in the first place.

On the other hand, if you are trying to move from being a private West Coast geek academy to become the public powerhouse behind the next generation of the internet, then you might see a rather late-in-the-day conversion to extreme brand management as proving that you were now grown-up, wore long trousers and could be taken seriously by the big pension funds and other potential investors. Hmmmm... or maybe they might see such excessive zeal as evidence that you're West Coast geeks playing at being business people. Roll the dice.

Like I say... brand is a delicate thing.

The virtual worlds blogosphere has been having a field day with Linden Lab's decision to flip from something akin to a hippy-dippy love'n'peace commune to something resembling a Kafkaesque nightmare of anally-retentive branding thugs. Yet they have failed to heed that, if you try and carry big weapons without proper training, there is a real risk of shooting yourself in the foot.

To ramble off into reverie...

At the time of writing it seems that any mention of the company, its products or its logos must be accompanied by a swarm of ® and ™ symbols, rendering even the simplest text into a digital version of a well-used medieval palimpsest. I may be misreading this slightly, but it seems that any word beginning with, or containing, the letters "sl" are now the sole property of Linden Lab and can only be used if you have a correctly validated, signed certificate of authorisation. The same is true for the pair "ll". And as for using them in upper case - just don't even think about it.

As you might expect, any use of the word "second" or "life" must now be approved by a Star Chamber, whose decision is final. In fact, anything that could be interpreted as a synonym, antonym, exaggeration or diminution of any word ever written by the company, it would be wise to leave out. Sure, your vocabulary might suffer, but at least you can be happy in the knowledge that you are following the brand rules (as they stand at the moment).

And what about the eye in the hand logo? You know... the one that could be loosely based on Herbert Bayer's photomontage Lonely Metropolitan (1932)? That's right out, that is.

Now I will leave it to brainy people, who can write reams and reams of peerless prose, to make the proper case against this insanity.

I will conclude by saying: I admit this post is pointless, childish, a tad petulant and prone to misfire - which is rather like this new branding policy then.

Happy All Fools' Day.

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