The Economics of Customer Creativity
The Music of Science

The Branding Controversy

I try not to clip long excerpts, but the comments below are priceless and build so nicely to justified indignation. Christopher Kenton of Marketonomy wants to reclaim the term "brand" for the advertising realm. He's argument is well-thought-out but wrong. It is meaningful to distinguish between 'brand image' and 'brand experience' but in the end, a company has to live more in the derivative world of brand consequences than in the artistic world of brand impressions. Speaking as someone who's worked for many companies where the advertising was at devastating odds with the real experience of customers in the company, I think we stand to gain more as marketers by insisting that 'brand' = the total customer experience based on encounters with the company.

Now I'm going to read the Marketing Management article he mentions and comment on that later. In the meantime, please click on the link and give BusinessWeek a boost for publishing this intelligent claptrap.

Link: What, Exactly, Is a Brand?.

Your brand is your name, your logo, your burning scar on the side of your product. The expectation that consumers begin to attach to your brand is something else. It's an important something else that has value and that you should consider an important asset worthy of investment, but it's something else. In fact, a brand has a few something elses that are important associates of it and create value for your company.

BANKABLE VALUE. There's brand experience –- the sum of all impressions consumers gain from interactions with your company. How does your receptionist answer the phone? How courteous are your truck drivers? Such experiences strongly influence another brand associate, brand image, which is often closely tied to brand reputation. What does your market think of your brand? How does it make your customers feel? Will they use it again? Will they recommend it to friends? If your brand image is hot, and your brand reputation strong, it can improve your "brand equity," or the bankable value your brand has acquired from its ability to attract and retain customers. All of these things are important, but they don't constitute brand. They're derivatives of brand. The more they're confused, the more susceptible businesses become to trendy theories that lead them over the cliff, like the one Heidi Schultz rails against in the American Marketing Assn.'s Marketing Management. The notion that customers "own" your brand.

AN ANCHOR.  It's a seductive thought for companies that value their clients, but a misguided one. Your customers own their impressions, and you can influence those impressions with the quality of your product, and the experiences you foster. But your brand is just the symbol that anchors those impressions to the product you create.