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Is branding more effective when you don’t plan it and you don’t pay for it?

Posted on Jul 6, 2015 in Ideas

flagI’ve been observing (and participating in) the “branding” around the gay marriage movement, and asking a question I don’t yet have clear insight around: does the organization-agnostic branding of a movement help to propel it forward with funding and advocacy? Is it helpful in fighting stigma?

There was a great piece on the history of the rainbow flag in Wired. What is most interesting to me about it is the organic roots versus the conventional turn to the big agency campaign. The flag was created in 1978 by San Francisco artist Gilbert in the attic of the Gay Community Center in San Francisco with the help of volunteers. No marketing strategy, branding platform or consultant in sight.

Like the yellow ribbons that emerged in 1980 used to show support of Americans being held hostage in Iran (N.B. youngsters, the AIDS ribbon and the pink breast cancer ribbon were not new ideas, and also note, the history of the yellow ribbon traces back to the Civil War, and some say even earlier) these ubiquitous symbols stem from very grassroots origin. Similarly, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge is purported to be the brainchild of a Boston College student diagnosed with ALS.

You have everything you need to build something far bigger than yourself. – Seth Godin

So I am curious and I’ve been digging around the interwebs to see if there has been any discussion. I came across this short piece in the New York Times back in 2003 about the resurgence of P.B.R. (Pabst Blue Ribbon) despite the lack of intentional marketing by the beer company.

I’m working on another civil rights issue, mental health and addiction, collaborating with groups and working with The Kennedy Forum to help fight stigma. With one in every four persons affected with mental health challenges and such a deep connection to our collective ability to thrive and be happy, it’s long past time we dropped the fear and supported each other.

But I don’t think throwing a zillon dollars at a marketing campaign is the way to go. What is your perspective? I’d welcome any history and thoughts about this.




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