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Earth Overbranded

In a recent chat with a gifted copywriter and friend, we admitted something rather embarrassing about this profession we love so much. Those of us in marketing know it, and perhaps it’s time we acknowledge the infectious disease we fuel daily and consider the effects of our labors.

If, as marketers, we believe that we can actually persuade audiences, swaying them from brand to brand with clever manipulation that we call “creative concepts,” are we not responsible for the way culture takes shape?

Let’s look at several statistics and the precedent laid down by a few desperate brands clamoring for attention:

• Nielsen reported over $137 billion was spent by brands to spread their messages last year alone (2008).
• According to the Yale Rudd Center, Ronald McDonald is the second most recognized icon in the world. Santa Claus is first.
• “Coca-Cola” is the second most recognized word in the world, next to “OK”.
• Depending on what report you view, Americans are exposed to anywhere between 247 and 3,000 advertising/commercial messages each day.

This is the world that we complain about—growing materialism, ridiculous national debt, corporate greed, dishonesty, lack of loyalty and personal responsibility, and more. Is there not a parallel between societal temptation and our marketing initiatives?

This is no new flag. Advertising has carried with it the stench of oversaturation since it’s inception. But I fear a new era has dawned—one where nothing is sacred, and absolutely everything is an outlet for marketing. Sure, every website, mobile phone, fruit, social network, radio wave, bathroom, public bus, and tangible cultural window has been the target of marketing, but now we’ve moved on to branding people’s foreheads (Toyota), moments in time (Clariton), and even our political leaders.

We brand everything on Earth using clever marketing tactics because it works. The precedent is set, and this full-force locomotive is muscling forward with unstoppable momentum. My recommendation is not to try and derail the sucker, but to hitch a few worthy values aboard so there can be the sprinkling of positive influence into the badly bruised society we’ve created.

– Dave Goldfain