Branding is Dead, part XCMXLLIV

I was thinking today that one reason branding was so important in the industrial age is that there were so many players in the chain. If you had any hope of having your “message” reach the end-user, you had to line it all up clear as a bell. And industrial organizations were so big, too. The chain was something like: CEO, VP Marketing, [several other VPs, including Sales, Finance, Operations, etc], copywriters, designers, vendors for manufactured parts, graphic design, printers, distributors, warehousers, sales representatives, retail buyers, retail sales clerks, etc.
Rules of the telephone game therefore required that you have one message, one value proposition, one identity. But now, in the age of conversation, and especially on the web, it’s not clear that any of this matters, at least not nearly as much. Sure, you need a logo, and consistency is nice on all fronts. But you might be having “market conversations” with lots of different kinds of people, partners, and customers. The “value proposition” will be different for each one of them. Reducing all the richness down to a single tag line doesn’t seem helpful, to say nothing of being plausible. You may still have to define it, but it may be presented and interpreted differently by each stakeholder.
Doc Searls has probably said all this and more years ago. I’m slow sometimes.