Branding is often a completely undemocratic process of selecting what people should think about the object of the brand. The very concept of branding is to limit the outgoing communication to those things considered positive by a committee. It’s about turning the pretty side to the public but not showing the ugly parts. It often includes lying.
These trendy city/country brands that are often full of meaningless corporate buzzwords. The new Oulu brand is just the same. It’s just a plot scheme for a cell phone commercial. It’s an embarrassing dream of a juvenile capitalism hobbyist. And most of it isn’t true. There’s this ”Oulu, creativity and courage” thing that’s in the brand manual. I can’t think of many places that are as communality and cowardly unsupportive towards the local popular music subculture than our beloved home town. This ”spirit of doing, let’s make it happen” is happening only if there’s fast money promised. It’s not just the corporatists. Even the artists get shy of true creativity and project their energy to those ‘Bon Jovi cover band’ style projects. Oulu isn’t ever going to be a cultural metropolis but we could try.
The real problem about branding is that it doesn’t work. Branding cannot work if it’s a glued on sticker that has nothing to do with the ingredients. It’s based on an idea that reputation is a mental phenomenon and can be separated from the reality. Separation is further enhanced by the fact that brands are often designed by an external ad agency. Brand is about an oldish idea that psychology is important and that you can brainwash people with pretty images. I think that what is actually happening around us and in the society is important. Trying to create a controlled image of a democratic community of thousands or millions of free people is just impossible and stupid.
The reputation goes much further than a pretty product and a facebook page. Nokia has a strong brand management and it still sucks. If product isn’t up to the task it cannot be helped by lying. On the other side there’s the good strong companies that are based on a working product. Neumann comes to mind. It’s a German microphone company whose one of the most used product even today the u47 was introduced in 1950’s. Every recordist swears by Neumann forever. It cannot be touched because it always works and that’s rare.
“True Finns” (the party) think the public image of Finland should be based on that design by a committee in 1890. Branding isn’t a new thing. It’s just a new word for propaganda. Hitler was a master brander. We don’t need prejudice. We need to be able to read through the simplistic and populist bullshit and build and portray our own conception based on reality freely.
It’s just too easy to put money to a complicated thing that promises results that cannot be measured. I don’t want to know how much money was put to build that ”I face-palm Oulu” thing. The money should go to the people who are making things happen. Like us the musicians 🙂