I get very excited every time I see an argument that supports the idea of this short-film I’m working on.
Without mentioning what it is about, I want to start making sense of it by throwing here some posts found elsewhere to equip forthcoming debates.
Here is why branding is an artifact of the past, by Brian Millar. In this post, he compares branding to “flat-earth theory” 🙂
Some important quotes (the bolding was up to me):
In Mary Poppins, we learn about Mr. Banks, the children’s father, and what he does for a living.
“He sat on a large chair in front of a large desk and made money. All day long he worked, cutting out pennies and shillings and half-crowns and threepenny-bits. And he brought them home with him in his little black bag.”
It’s a charming way to describe something that only a small child, and possibly Robert Mugabe, could ever believe: That you can make money by literally making money.
Yet many people seem happy to apply this Mary Poppins logic to branding: Brands are valuable, so you need to go to work to make brands. There’s a category mistake at work here. Money isn’t valuable because the paper it’s made of is valuable. It’s valuable because we all agree it’s valuable. Society creates that value, not the printing presses or the mints or the chaps in storybooks who cut pound notes out with scissors.
So we go to work to make things and do stuff that people value, and are willing to pay money for. Similarly, to build a brand your organization needs to do and say things that people find valuable.
But it’s consumers who create the value intrinsic in brands: We all judge companies by the things they say, the things they do, and how those two things match up.
But the more we understand about the way that consumers make choices, the less brand thinking and traditional brand-tracking research make sense. Brand tracking often makes artificial distinctions for consumers that really don’t model the way we make a buying decision. They ask things like: Does A wash whites better than B? Which performs best on coloured clothes? They rarely give consumers an option that says, Meh. I just don’t care.
So the classic simplified branding model, where you make a promise, deliver on the promise, and then repeat the process, actually worked pretty well. Now the situation is a lot more complicated. Consumers don’t just form opinions in their own minds any more. Instead, we have conversations. And one vociferous consumer who, say, writes a song about your airline can earn a louder voice than the biggest brand can buy. So brands are even less of a property than they used to be.
It seems branding is overrated these days. Keep it somewhere you won’t forget 🙂