Branding Is Important for Science

Razer computer accessory company logo of 3 stylized intertwined green snakes

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog that explained the concept of quiet quitting. That day I had the most single-day website hits in the 4-year history of the site, and within days it became one of the most read blogs I’ve posted. I have written about a wide range of topics relevant to IO psychology, management, and research methods, so why did this one get so much attention? The reason is that it was on a topic that was trending in the media because it was using a catchy name that grabbed people’s attention. This illustrates how branding is important for science.

What Is Branding?

As explained by Renderforest, branding has to do with creating an image for a product, often by associating it with a memorable name or concept. This is why companies pay a lot of attention to their names and create logos that are displayed prominently on their products. As I look around my desk, I see logos for Asus (my monitor), Blue (my microphone), Epson (my scanner), and Logitech (my speakers and webcam). Razer (my keyboard and mouse) even included stickers with their logo (see cover image) in hopes that I will display them on my rig for others to see.

Companies invest in branding because it captures attention of potential customers and helps drive sales. Selling products and services is not enough. Resources are set aside specifically for branding efforts.

Branding Is Important for Science

As a scientist, my “product” is the research that I produce and the academic papers that I write. Most of us in research-oriented universities invest most of our time in the production end of our enterprise, conducting studies and writing papers. This is our core task, but in today’s competitive world of ideas, it is not enough. We need to pay attention to how we brand and market our product. Most academics focus those efforts entirely on trying to publish their work in the top-tier elite journals assuming it will maximize impact. Certainly, the outlet matters, so it is important that work appear in rigorously peer-reviewed and well-respected outlets. But there is more to it than just publishing in the right place.

Branding is an important activity at many stages of the research process if you want that work to be noticed and taken seriously. It begins with how you talk about the research–what you call your constructs and your methods. It is reflected in the title. And after publication, how you promote and talk about the work adds to the brand. Branding efforts are not about mis-characterizing the work or over-interpreting results. Branding is using communication tools to best feature your work so that others will notice.

Some tips for branding include.

  • What You Call Things Matters. In the late 1990s Suzy Fox and I were lamenting how our work on organizational aggression (behaviors by employees that harmed organizations and people in them) was being overlooked. We decided we needed to rebrand. We wanted a three-word term so we would have a three-letter acronym, so we started using the term counterproductive work behavior and CWB. The strategy worked as suddenly our work began to be noticed.
  • Titles Matter. A catchy title can be helpful because people remember it, especially when they are looking for things to cite. The first one I recall seeing was a 1998 paper about how deviant behaviors runs in work groups called “Monkey See, Monkey Do“. I can’t recall a lot of 25-year-old papers off the top of my head, but I remember this one.
  • Memes Can Help. Quiet quitting began as a catchy phrase but it has become a meme. After I wrote the quiet quitting blog, I came across quiet firing. In the past two weeks I was at parties where people asked me about quiet quitting. They then spontaneously started generating other quiet whatever terms. Both groups came up with quiet promoting (giving someone higher-level tasks without the promotion) and quiet hiring (unpaid intern), as well as other possibilities.
  • Write for a General Audience. One way to focus attention on the important bottom line of your research is to write a blog or other short piece for a nontechnical audience. It adds to the brand when your work can be packaged in an understandable way that makes it memorable. Not only is the current paper more likely to be noticed, but your personal brand of someone whose work is both accessible and important can draw more attention.

Science is not just about conducting research. Communicating results to other scientists, policy makers, and the general public is just as important. This is why branding is important for science.

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