If the power of your brand was declining and you could no longer rely on your reputation or your logo to drive marketing and sales, what would you do?
Earlier this year the Twitter sphere went all aflutter after James Surowiecki published a piece in The New Yorker called "Twilight of the Brands" in which he posited that brands are no longer as relevant in a world where consumers have all the product information in the universe at their fingertips. He writes:
"...brands have never been more fragile. The reason is simple: consumers are supremely well informed and far more likely to investigate the real value of products than to rely on logos. Absolute Value, a new book by Itamar Simonson, a marketing professor at Stanford, and Emanuel Rosen, a former software executive, shows that, historically, the rise of brands was a response to an information-poor environment."
If you wanted to know what headphones or hot dogs to buy, it was important to be able trust that a brand would offer you a quality product. And in turn premium brands had great value because they could sell products at higher prices based on their reputation and not necessarily based on a better-quality product. Now, most companies cannot get away with that. Consumers are onto them and the price point of most products must be competitive.
The reaction to this article was universal - the defensive forces lined up to tweet and blog that the piece was wrong or misguided. Brands are alive and well and just as important as ever.
But if you are a brand or you work with brands, why not take the opposite view? Instead of being defensive about the power of brands, why not, at least as an exercise, contemplate the death of the brand.
If you knew the power of your brand was waning and that you could no longer rely on your reputation or your logo to drive marketing and sales, what would you do? And if you knew that the Internet in particular was a place where your products or services were most vulnerable and subject to the cold, hard scrutiny of the crowd, where your brand could offer very little protection, what would you change about the way you go to market?
I think anyone in this industry would be foolish not to take this contemplation seriously. Here's what I'd want to do:
By now you've probably figured out that I clearly don't subscribe to the notion that brands are dead, and that's not the point of the Surowiecki piece. But I do think it's better to keep your eyes open to the changing influences of brands, because although this is a threat, it's also an opportunity to work smarter and to engage customers in a new kind of relationship, where the playing field has been equalized.
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Jonathan is a veteran of the interactive industry who has worked on both the client and agency side. As Group Account Director Jonathan leads the POSSIBLE Energy practice and oversees the Southern California Edison Account. He also oversees an array of accounts that span the spectrum of interactive services - from complex user experience and technical projects, to performance marketing and media consulting. He has worked on major product design and technology projects for such clients as BMW, Motorola, and Cablevision; for high-impact website redesigns for E!, Logitech, Oprah Winfrey, and Twentieth Century Fox, and digital marketing and media services for Mitsubishi Motors and Southern California Edison.
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