Branding Delusions.

You don’t brand anything, you earn your brand.

Has there ever been a topic less well understood than Brands and Branding? I read about Brands all the time and am always amazed just how badly. The only term less understood is marketing – which is not the same as advertising by the way.

A brand is a simple concept. It is nothing more or less than a product, service, company, or person’s reputation, invariably it is linked to a device (logo) which becomes a mnemonic for the values the consumer associates with it.

The process of brand management is making sure that the associations people have with the brand are consistent with that reputation. So like you would manage your reputation by not getting into a position of getting arrested in a brothel, you manage your brand by making sure it is consistent. Its the same process.

You need to understand that;

Brands are not the possessions of companies, they are the possessions of consumers.

In the article Branding Desperately Needs to Rebrand Itself the authors refer to the fact that branding is fast becoming a dirty word in the boardrooms of Europe. Branding has not delivered. In itself its not really surprising as marketers have attempted to do the impossible, and they said that they could, Some still believe that they can.

Branding lost its way when the marketing profession decided that they could manage perceptions. Its a delusion that you can do so to any great extent for any extended period. As Abraham Lincoln said “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.” In the end the brand is formed, like any reputation, by the performance of the product or service.

AND

Now in the connected age customers have all the bull dust filters they need and can easily access the opinions of experts and others through online networks and blogs. Now you can fool even less of the people much less of the time.

Future marketers and brand experts need to understand that as they lost control of the flow of information and that control moved into the hands of connected customers so too they lost any hope of building brands except by consistently delivering value.

It’s a huge threat to the old ways and a massive boost to customers and good marketers.

Do you agree?

Posted on December 16, 2008 at 9:31 pm by Walter Pike · Permalink
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , ,
  • http://www.melissaattree.co.za Melissa Attree

    Very nicely put Walter…it’s something I talk about often and to be honest only 100% realised when I was out of my corporate marketing role and the blinkers came off.

    There’s huge pressure on branding professionals to conform to preset branding guidelines and ‘bibles’. But at the same time most need to be able to tailor things to a local market, that usually their international bosses (the case with most big brands in SA) don’t understand or appreciate.

    I believe that what happens then is that your core local consumer ends up being an add-on, an afterthought, which then takes the whole idea out of branding. The consumer is your brand. They live it, believe in it and sell it. Listen to that brand-love, recognise it drives your brand and harness it.

    Branding is a skill like any other, I think that’s something that some companies have lost sight of and in some cases marketing / branding / advertising has suffered and as a result as there’s a lack of passion, skill, community and longevity.

    Anyway…that’s my lengthy 2 cents worth. I’ve known I wanted to be in some form of branding since I was in primary school so I have a lot to say on the matter, and as is the norm – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s rubbish :)

  • http://www.worldwidecreative.co.za Fred Roed

    I have to disagree : )

    This is an old debate, and one which probably won’t get settled in your comment box – but I believe you’re presenting contradicting points in this post. This is the ‘reactive’ vs. ‘proactive’ polarities of brand theory.

    1. Reactive: “You don’t brand anything, you earn your brand” and “Brands are not the possessions of companies, they are the possessions of consumers.”

    2. Proactive: “In the end the brand is formed, like any reputation, by the performance of the product or service” and “consistently delivering value”

    I personally believe the proactive approach to be correct, but not the reactive approach. The first approach is demoting brand strategy to a New Age, wishy washy methodology, and I reckon it’s the propogation of this line of thinking is largely the reason why many marketers are getting it wrong.

    You say, in unison with many brand theorists nowadays, that as a company ‘you earn a brand’.

    I don’t think so. The brand is merely a vehicle for a company’s message, containing a promise of some sort.

    When a consumer starts decides to interact with a product, it is basically the End Result of good brand building. In contrast to your post, it is still the company that owns the brand. Joe Customer doesn’t truly own the brand, he merely acts as ambassador, embracing and passing on the *message* behind the brand.

    Effective brand building is the proactive process of:
    a) choosing a relevant, meaningful message
    b) being consistent and true to that message
    c) being pervasive with that message (iow, ‘be where your customers are’)

    Regardless of the Information Age or how connected customers are, I believe this simple approach will result in your brand being adopted by the target audience. It’s far less complicated than trying to unravel the ebb and flow of customer opinion.

    Customers do not own your brand, they merely borrow it while they choose to interact with your offering.

    Basically, if your sales rise, you’re doing a good job of communicating a compelling message to the right audience – THAT is good brand building.

    Phew… I feel a blog post coming on.

  • walterpike

    Thanks for your contribution.

    The point I dont make clearly in this post, is the core of what is happening. To illustrate I quote Rupert Murdoch

    “To find something comparable, you have to go back 500 years to the printing press, the birth of mass media – which, incidentally, is what really destroyed the old world of kings and aristocracies. Technology is shifting power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment, the media elite. Now it’s the people who are taking control.”

    It’s this fundamental shift in power (in the same way power has moved to customer) that has changed the game.

  • http://talyagoldberg@gmail.com Talya Goldberg

    I think that marketing and ‘building brands’ has moved away from being a marketer’s job. If you truly want to become a household brand you have to “..In the end the brand is formed, like any reputation, by the performance of the product or service” and “consistently delivering value” and that is the job of managers who should be demanding and expecting the best from their staff.

    The reason I go to Vida is not because I think they have the best coffee in Cape Town but because the service is brilliant, they interact with the clients, they deliver a quality product each time & they know what I’m going to order before I’ve even reached the counter! Yes they had marketing/ strategy team behind that but at the end of the day it falls on the shoulder of the day-to-day manager of a business to implement it. That’s why I think we have so few great brands in South Africa, because our service delivery is shocking, and that’s why when any company that has a shred of integrity comes along we love it because it’s almost foreign to us…

    If businesses rather focussed on delivering consistence and quality product/service they could save so much money on expensive advertising campaigns which no one listens/ pays attention to anymore, because
    1) We don’t trust them
    2) We are too busy
    3) We’d rather listen to our peers (who land up doing the brand building or demolishing for us!)

  • http://talyagoldberg.wordpress.com Talya Goldberg

    Sorry wasnt thinking :)in the last one put my email address in the website block by mistake whoops!

    I think that marketing and ‘building brands’ has moved away from being a marketer’s job. If you truly want to become a household brand you have to “..In the end the brand is formed, like any reputation, by the performance of the product or service” and “consistently delivering value” and that is the job of managers who should be demanding and expecting the best from their staff.

    The reason I go to Vida is not because I think they have the best coffee in Cape Town but because the service is brilliant, they interact with the clients, they deliver a quality product each time & they know what I’m going to order before I’ve even reached the counter! Yes they had marketing/ strategy team behind that but at the end of the day it falls on the shoulder of the day-to-day manager of a business to implement it. That’s why I think we have so few great brands in South Africa, because our service delivery is shocking, and that’s why when any company that has a shred of integrity comes along we love it because it’s almost foreign to us…

    If businesses rather focussed on delivering consistence and quality product/service they could save so much money on expensive advertising campaigns which no one listens/ pays attention to anymore, because
    1) We don’t trust them
    2) We are too busy
    3) We’d rather listen to our peers (who land up doing the brand building or demolishing for us!)