Lovemarks, Godmarks…What’s The Dif?

It’s Sunday in Chicago. Good day for a sermon.
“The primary job of an advertiser is not to communicate benefit, but to communicate conviction. Benefit is secondary. Benefit is a product of conviction, not vice versa. Whatever you manufacture, somebody can make it better, faster and cheaper than you. You do not own the molecules. They are stardust. They belong to God. What you do own is your soul. Nobody can take that away from you. And it is your soul that informs the brand. It is your soul, and the purpose and beliefs that embodies, that people will buy into. Ergo, great branding is a spiritual exercise.” -from Hugh MacLeod’s Hughtrain Manifesto
Hugh is copywriter looking for work and meaning. I can identify with that. Where I begin to have trouble is with his double speak. Johnnie Moore, Tom Asaker and Hugh himself are crying out for authenticity in advertising. So what’s this about the product benefit taking a back seat to conviction? Damn, that sounds a lot like Saatchi Kevin’s Lovemarks to me.
For the record, I do not know Hugh, nor do I have anything against him. He’s an outspoken defender of his position, like I am. That character trait gets people fired, fired up and in trouble. I can live with that and my bet is so can Hugh. So this dressing down is not meant to be personal. My interest is in the argument being conducted. Hugh detests branding and Lovemarks, but he builds brands for a living, including his own. Gaping Void, his blog, is a brand. His “Hughtrain Manifesto” is a brand. The guy’s making his mark, or Godmark, as the case may be.
My message is simple. Keep it real. Lovemarks is one prominent ad guy’s new buzzword about branding. Branding is not dead. Kevin Roberts knows it, and I dare say Hugh MacLeod knows it. Hugh has his own spin, as I have mine. In each case, we hope to improve the quality of the communications we make on behalf of paying clients. Call it what you will. But don’t tell me it’s the salvation of the ad industry. Tell me it’s a step in the right direction, then, if you’re so inclined, get back to work on the next step.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am now head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.