The Persistence Of Brands

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“Nobody wants to be branded anymore,” said Aaron Levine, head designer for Abercrombie & Fitch.

Well, if that line from the Wall Street Journal‘s article, Crocodiles (and Polo Ponies) Go Missing as Scalpel-Wielding Consumers Revolt, doesn’t make your marketing brain stand up and take notice, who knows what will? There’s nothing (really) new in this article. It’s a meme that rises to the mass media every few years. There’s this thought that human beings are becoming less and less concerned, interested and caring about brands. People want quality, and they no longer feel the need (at the same time) to be advertising for some business by flaunting their corporate animal in the upper quadrant of their polo shirt. Brands have (somehow) become less important, and individuals are more interested in buying clothes that are (somewhat) personalized, or that speak to them by allowing their own personalized style to flaunt.

Slow down there, just a second.

People confuse the power of a brand with the value of a brand. They are not the same thing. Brands are more important than ever. Brands are also a lot bigger than the fashion labels. The other week, I was complaining about my new Apple MacBook Pro. I was/still am in dongle and power cable hell. Everything that I had accumulated over the years became obsolete in one swoop. Many quipped (on Facebook, of course) that I could have purchased a much better equipped and speedier computer, had I just switched over to PC. I know. For decades, I was a hardcore PC user before switching over to Apple, about five years ago. Why pay a premium? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but it’s not hard to admit that Apple is a premium brand. Period. Full stop. I like the Apple brand. Almost everything about it. If human beings were simply pragmatic, and only bought for functionality and longevity, there would be no automative industry, no computer industry, no fashion industry… in fact, there would probably not be that many products or services in the market. We would only buy the things we – as human beings – absolutely needed. We would only buy those things, if they were the lowest price possible with the best quality available. 

Brands are an important part of our world.

Most people see brands as a nuisance. “Grab that scalpel and scrape off that crocodile from my shirt!” I don’t. Most people don’t. You probably don’t, either. The Wall Street Journal (a brand unto itself), fails to deconstruct the immense value that brands bring to our culture, to our economy, and to our world. Who do you trust? Brands have (and will continue) to provide a level of trust, emotion and experience to consumers. Brands don’t do this on the sole basis of creating a healthy environment for competition. Brands don’t do this solely to differentiate themselves from one another. Brands don’t do this just to charge a premium to consumers. Brands do this because there is a massive market demand. It’s not perfect. There are many brands that are perceived to be luxurious, that are not of high quality. There are many brands that are perceived to be cheap, that provide an experience that is over-and-above their competition. There are brands that – sadly – lie and manipulate the public to simply increase revenues. Maybe the logo is obnoxious, but there’s something about the brand. So, don’t confuse people getting tired of a logo on a shirt for the brand’s end of days 

Still, brands matter.

In fact, I would argue that whatever happens in the economy, one of the main key performance indicators we can look towards, is the health, growth and adoption of brands (new and old) to see how our world is doing. Yes, brands make people do stupid things (like trample one another for a better price on Black Friday). Yes, brands keep more people employed than you can imagine (every company is a brand). Brands matter. 

If there is a persistence of time, count on the persistence of brands.