OA’s Deeper Brand Problems

OA's visual representations may be inconsistent, but its overall brand equity is perhaps the bigger problem

Earlier this week, Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe and Kalyn Nowlan wrote about inconsistencies in how OA indicators are presented on various publishing platforms. It’s a clever and interesting perspective, with the authors writing:

The data collected provide evidence of internal consistency of open access indicators on a single platform and overall cross-platform inconsistency.

What they were tackling is basically a branding question. Visual representation of a brand is one aspect to examine when evaluating whether a publicly shared value proposition — a brand — is holding water. For a fully functional brand, it takes more than a consistent visual representation for it to work, to convey the intended meaning, and to compete well against other options.  

Their conclusion is that OA is not a well-managed visual brand.

Even if it were, as a brand, OA has deeper problems that no amount of visual consistency can obscure.

There are a lot of ways to evaluate a brand’s power, so I’m going to pull together some of my favorites here.

One launch point to think about a brand that works is to focus on one of the most powerful in the world — the US dollar. With fiat currencies, issuing currency of any kind is essentially a branding exercise. The US dollar as a brand works nearly everywhere, because nearly everyone is aware of the brand, it is clearly demarcated and differentiated (both against other currencies and within itself [$1 vs. $20]), its value and purpose are obvious, the degree of trust is high, it is reliable, and so you want a dollar in your hand.

The US dollar is a great brand that works around the world, and which has held its value even through the past few years of pandemic, political instability, and economic angst, with holders of Euros, Pounds, and other currencies envying its power and reliability.

How does OA stack up as an overall brand? Let’s grade it out.