As digital media blunts the impact of advertising, brands are looking for new ways to lure consumers. The latest, buzziest effort has been to publish stories that look and feel journalistic. The key strategy of branded content or “native advertising” is to hide the commercial imperative, and even the brand altogether, so that readers think they’re consuming a familiar newspaper or magazine. This is supposed to make brands seem more reliable, familiar, and indispensable. But it’s a sham—a shortsighted attempt to trick consumers into opening their wallets. What businesses need to do is debrand.
Traditionally, branding is based on the idea of what differentiates a company from competitors. A brand grows by billing itself as different, by isolating itself from others (Apple took that quite literally with “Think different” to great success). But increasingly in the Internet age, consumers are comfortable with the idea that everything is interconnected. So what distinguishes brands is less important than what brings things and people together—whether your iPhone can talk to your Prius, for instance, or whether you can read articles from disparate sources in one place, like on Facebook. The brand that screams the loudest no longer commands the most attention; the one that offers something genuinely useful does.
via Fast Company