The brand is an elephant and we are all blind men. The designers have one idea of what a brand is. The Jungians another. The marketing managers, b-school professors, advertising creatives, account planners…everyone has a formal model, and a working one.
There is an anthropological view, and Rob Walker captured it most precisely yesterday in the New York Times.
[A brand is] a process of attaching an idea to a product. Decades ago that idea might have been strictly utilitarian: trustworthy, effective, a bargain. Over time, the ideas attached to products have become more elaborate, ambitious and even emotional. This is why, for example, current branding campaigns for beer or fast food often seem to be making some sort of statement about the nature of contemporary manhood. If a product is successfully tied to an idea, branding persuades people — consciously or not — to consume the idea by consuming the product. Even companies like Apple
and Nike, while celebrated for the tangible attributes of their products, work hard to associate themselves with abstract notions of nonconformity or achievement. A potent brand becomes a form of identity in shorthand.
If brands are ideas, then branding is a process of meaning manufacture and management. That’s our job. How to get meanings into brands, that people might extract this meaning for purposes of identity construction.
Walker, Rob. 2006. The Brand Underground. New York Times, July 30, 2006 and here.
I am on vacation this week.