It is a simple point, but one that is well worth remembering given the focus on brands, branding and brand value that is common in marketing these days and as demonstrated in Millward Brown’s top 100 brands report – brands only exist in the minds of consumers.
The advertising industry has spent many years talking up the importance of brands, and therefore the services that they offer to manage all elements of branding from brand design, visual and audio branding, brand positioning, management, and development, brand value measurement etc etc etc…..
Now don’t get me wrong, brands are really important for companies. When properly understood and taken into consideration as a critical part of the success of a business, brands can be of enormous value for companies. And of course there is a lot that a company can do to create brand value by using some of the tools above to mange the constituent parts of the brand like logos, look and feel, product design, marketing messages and tone of voice etc
But I think that with all this talk of managing brands, we have allowed ourselves to believe that they are created and controlled by companies and their agencies alone, and can be micro managed, pushed and pulled, tweaked and revamped at will. Of course this isn’t true. A company can control the various assets that represent the brand, but a company can’t control which of these assets a consumer sees, or what a consumer thinks of them, or how they combine in the consumers mind to create a picture of the brand. Nor can the company control what consumers say to each other about the brand, and this has the biggest impact of all.
So of course brands are fundamentally important (more important than product differentiators, price and all the other rational benefits that apply) because they can create an emotional connection with consumers, and properly managed brands can be incredibly valuable. But I also believe that is worth remembering that really a brand is a figment of consumers’ imagination, and so like a dream or a wish, it is something that consumers own for themselves……